Lewis Russell

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Lewis Russell
Lewis Lord Russell.jpg
Born George Lewis Lord
(1889-09-10)September 10, 1889
Farmington, Illinois, U.S.
Died November 12, 1961(1961-11-12) (aged 72)
Reseda, California, U.S.
Occupation Vaudeville, Broadway, and film actor
Years active 1945-1956

Lewis Lord Russell (September 10, 1889 – November 12, 1961) was an American actor of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s who starred in a number of vaudeville shows, Broadway dramas and Hollywood films, including the Academy Award winning The Lost Weekend (1945) and the Marx Brothers film, A Night in Casablanca (1946).

Early life and work[edit]

Born "George Lewis Lord" in Farmington, Illinois, to British immigrants Samuel and Martha Jane (Wood) Lord, he was the only child of nine born in the United States and, curiously, the only one who developed an English accent.[1] His father was an Illinois coal miner. After running away from home as a teenager, he began his life in the restaurant business, becoming an avid cook and eventually owning two restaurants.[2] He also designed rugs and tapestries[2] and worked as a tailor in New York, creating elaborate costumes for the stage.[1]

Career[edit]

As a vaudeville actor, Russell toured the U.S. and played at the Palace Theater in Peoria, Illinois, at a time when the phrase "Will it play in Peoria?" was well-known to vaudevillians who tested out their routines and sketches in front of the demanding and often difficult-to-please Peoria crowds.

Billing himself as an actor from London,[3] Russell broke into the Broadway scene in the mid 1930s and starred as "The Squire" in the Broadway revival production of Emlyn Williams's The Corn is Green (1943) with leading lady Ethel Barrymore at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York.[3] He also toured with actress Glenda Farrell for several years in the New Rochelle Circuit.[2] According to legend, he declined the starring role in The Man who Came to Dinner (1942) with Bette Davis, and created the role of the janitor in My Sister Eileen (1942/1955).[2] He played Pancho Villa and had several starring roles in silent pictures, acting at least once opposite Pola Negri.[2] He also played Jane Wyman’s concerned father, Charles St. James, in The Lost Weekend, Ray Milland’s most popular film.

The playbill for the opening night of Bright Rebel (1938), a drama about the British Romantic-Era poet Lord Byron, features the following biographical note, which not only confirms Russell's adoption of an English identity but also suggests that he starred in many more plays than currently on record: "LEWIS L. RUSSELL (Lord Melbourne) is both an Englishman and an actor by birth. He was born in Leeds, England, shortly after his mother, a well-known English actress, gave one of those 'the show must go on' performances. With as dramatic a beginning as that he could hardly help getting back on the stage and there has been for some fifty years. A few scattered plays among the innumerable he has appeared in are 'The Rosary,' 'Lombardy, Ltd.,' 'The Bad Man,' 'Within the Law,' 'Madame X,' 'Accent on Youth,' and 'Yes My Darling Daughter.'"[4]

Later life[edit]

He designed his own home in Pasadena, California, where he kept house, Ernest Hemingway-style, with his two-dozen cats. He died in Reseda, California at the age of 72.[2]

Roles[edit]

Broadway[edit]

  • The Corn Is Green (May 3, 1943 – June 19, 1943) as The Squire
  • Cuckoos on the Hearth (September 16, 1941 – January 3, 1942) as Zadoc Grimes
  • Return Engagement (November 1, 1940 – November 7, 1940) as Baldy Bemis
  • Bright Rebel (December 27, 1938 – January 1939) as Lord Melbourne
  • Abe Lincoln in Illinois (October 15, 1938 – December 1939) as Judge Bowling Green
  • London Assurance (February 18, 1937 – February 1937) as Max Harkaway
  • Dead End (October 28, 1935 – June 12, 1937) as Medical Examiner

Film[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Interview with Mrs. Frances Lord Robinson, niece. January 18, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lord, James L. The Lord Family History. St. Louis: unpublished, 1976. Private Collection.
  3. ^ a b Lewis Lord Russell at the Internet Broadway Database. Accessed January 31, 2009.
  4. ^ Lewis L. Russell at the Playbill Vault. Accessed September 1, 2014.

External links[edit]