Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gail Russell


Thanks to Peter Winkler for this link:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2007/07/gail-russell.html

Ed here:  
There is an excellent Foster Hirsch interview with the late (and blacklisted) director Joseph Losey. Gail Russell's story has always struck me as particularly sad and obviously Losey had the same impression of her. Here's Losey on working with Russell.

"Gail Russell, who didn’t want to be an actress, was 
picked up by a talent scout when she was a clerk in a 
department store in Beverly Hills, came from a lower 
middle-class family. She died of alcoholism because she 
was so deathly frightened of acting, but she had in her the 
makings of a great star. I had a tragic time with her. I think 
she had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, the most 
moving eyes. And she was immensely sensitive. 
She didn’t know anything. Paramount had her under 
contract—like a horse. She got a big salary then, and I had 
absolute instructions from them not to let her have a drink. 
The very first time I shot with her I had a long night-track- 
ing shot. It was a half-night, we finished at twelve. 
She couldn’t 
remember a single line 
and it was three or four 
pages of important dia- 
logue. I wasn’t trained 
enough then to say “Well, 
we’ll shoot it another 
way,” and I kept trying to 
get it by coaching her in 
her lines, and finally I 
said “What’s the matter?” 
And she grabbed 
me, her hands were icy 
cold, she was absolutely 
rigid, and she said “Look, 
I don’t want to be an actress. I’m not an actress. I can’t act. 
I never had a director who gave me a scene this long 
before. I can’t do it.” 
And I said “Oh yes you can. I’m sure you can, and 
you are an actress.” 
“No, I’m not, I’ve never kidded myself. I’m not an 
actress. I hate it, I’m frightened of it. Get me a drink and 
I’ll be alright.” 
So I said, “You know, I’ve been told not to get you a 
drink?” She said. “Get me a drink!” 
I got her a drink and she did the scene. 
By this point Macdonald Carey couldn’t remember his 
lines. She had absolutely destroyed him. It was a very bad 
start for me on that quick picture, to spend the whole night 
on one set-up. And I just barely got it..…This started her 
drinking and she was drunk throughout the rest of the pic- 
ture. That isn’t to say she was bad. I think she was very 
good often, but sometimes I had to shoot scenes in 
ways to disguise the fact she was drunk. "


Peter L. Winkler said...


Mathew Paust said...

Fascinating story. I don't remember her, but she did indeed have beautiful eyes.

Yvette said...

So terribly sad. I remember her from one of my favorite films, THE UNINVITED, with Ray Milland.

One other is the western she did with John Wayne. Can't quite remember the title though.

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