5 thoughts on “TBT: Lillian Russell (1940)

  1. Sacrificed on the altar of the Hays Code…
    And Russell’s curvy 1890s glamour seems far closer to Mae West!

    1. I was thinking the same thing re: Mae West! I wonder if any of her plays/films (Diamond Lil, Belle of the Nineties) are at all inspired by Russell?

      1. I’d say “Diamond Lil” was almost certainly based on Lillian Russell– who was West’s mother’s favorite performer.

        West didn’t have the figure for what was the prevailing style in the ’20s, so she took her look back to the Nineties, and the play paid off for her handsomely and got her a movie contract.

        And this:

        “Before the production is finished, Mr. Willys DeMond, talented hosiery creator, will present his bill for nearly $3,000. The stockings he is turning out for Alice Faye are identical copies of those worn by Lillian, right down to the hand embroidered butterflies and lace insets. Though DeMond is hitting Fox for $100 a pair, his fee will look like bargain day against the prices paid by the actress who would never have offended her legs by clothing them in anything less costly than $400 a pair.”

        What was with Alice Faye and blinged-out stockings?

        According to publicity, she had a “$2,500” pair of “jewel-studded” hose and an “$1,100” pair of “14K gold mesh” hose for her previous movie, IN OLD CHICAGO (1938).

        I’m not sure if those were Willys DeMond creations as well.

        1. I’m not sure where Faye got her love for elaborate hosiery from, but fancy, embroidered silk stockings were VERY popular in the 1890’s and 1900’s, especially as hemlines began to creep up and women began to wear pumps and similar shoes more often than boots (particularly for evening outfits).

  2. I’ve read a couple of biographies of “Diamond Jim” Brady, a very interesting character in his own right, and their verdict on his relationship with Lillian Russell is that it was PROBABLY “platonic”, though emotionally quite deep; their favorite pursuit was eating huge meals together, though Russell, who was something of a fitness fanatic by the standards of that day (she did top the scales at 200 pounds when she became a superstar in the early 1890’s but slimmed down more than a little thereafter), introduced him to bicycling; Diamond Jim brought her one of the fanciest bikes ever, a gold-plated affair which she’d ride down Fifth Avenue with her rotund admirer – which must have been quite the sight to behold. For her to have been his mistress for 40 years, also, she’d have had to start VERY young because at the time she came to New York circa 1878, Brady was still in the early stages of his career. It appears they didn’t meet until the 1880’s, and were close friends for some 30 years. He predeceased Russell by 5 years, dying in 1917, by which time she was married to her last husband, Alexander Moore, a Pittsburgh newspaper publisher.

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