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In the preface, Rosalind Russell's husband, Freddie Brisson, writes how he first met his wife and some other things that he thought we ought to know, things she didn't dwell on in her book, such as her breakdown after the deaths of her sister and brother, her rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, which she skimmed over, and immediately the reader will be struck by his deep love for his wife after 35 years of marriage. It's a prelude to a wonderful book, where Rosalind Russell's voice comes through loud and clear, her breezy, funny humour, her straightforwardness and her contentment in her marriage and in her son, Lance. Without any cattiness or telling tales out of school, she manages to give us a comprehensive share of her life and her friends. We learn of Frank Sinatra's affection and generosity in giving the Brissons an extraordinary celebration for their silver wedding, where silver engraved cigarette cases were given to everyone and 25 silver dollars in silver bags for the ladies (the venue was Las Vegas). We learn of Cary Grant teaching the actress his Cockney songs, of Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) admiring the star's silver helmet after a Royal Command Performance ("Excuse me, but what is that wonderful thing you have on your head?" p.175), of being worn out from dancing with a much older George Abbott during an ocean voyage, and overall what comes through is a portrayal of a friendly, warm Hollywood where people worked hard but had fun. There is no doubt that Miss Russell was loved, although she was no shrinking violet when it came to sticking up for herself, and she and her beloved Freddie seemed to enjoy every minute.
Why are some biographies more enjoyable than others? Probably because the trivia has been sifted through leaving the truth and all the important bones of a particular life. This is one of those biographies and the reader might be inclined to slow down so the end doesn't come too soon. It helps that the subject written about was 'quite a gal'!
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