Invited to address the National Federation of Businesswomen, Rosalind Russell betrayed her sassy screen persona by being intimidated.
“They were all college deans and women judges and politicians with the Ph.D.s falling off them,” she recalled in Life Is a Banquet.
“I finally decided to stick to what I knew, and explained to my sister executives how superior the on-screen life of a career woman was as compared to the real life of a career woman. ‘How many phones do you have on your desks?’ I asked them. ‘Two? Three? Four? Well, I have at least 12.’
“ ‘When I play a newspaper editor, I tear up the front page twice every edition. When I play a lawyer, I win every case. Every picture I’m in begins with eight or 10 men sitting around me, begging me to speak, to tell them what to do, how to think. And there’s always one with a hat down over his eyes, and he says, ‘Verry interesting, M.J., verry interesting,’ and I say, “Who are you?’ Have you been sitting here during this entire meeting?’ and he saunters out, still murmuring, ‘Verry interesting.’’
“ ‘I give more orders in one morning than you girls give in a month. Then I go to lunch with my hat on and my sables over my arm. After lunch I usually have a fitting, and then it’s the weekend I go to my country place. If my country place is in the mountains, I need snow boots, but if it’s on Long Island, a skirt and a sweater will do. Sometimes the studio fools me and puts me on a boat and I go to Europe. But I never go back to the office after lunch.’
“The businesswomen had a good time, and so did I, once I’d heard the first laughs. I told them I could order the clothes for my pictures in my sleep. I’d say to Jean Louis, Adrian, Irene or Travis Banton, ‘Make me a plaid suit, a striped suit, a grey flannel and a negligee for the scene in the bedroom when I cry.’ I even did the dialogue from a typical love scene for them. The guy was saying to me, ‘Underneath it all, you’re very feminine,’ and my saying to him, ‘Please, Richard, I must go on with my work, so many depend on me.’
“ ‘But don’t envy me,’ I told the businesswomen, ‘because in the end I always give the whole thing up, marry the guy with the hat down over his eyes, move to New Jersey and live in a mosquito-ridden cottage with a picket fence and a baby carriage outside. Why, I’ll never know. Except that they pay me well.’”