Lillian Russell was one the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was known for her beauty, style, voice, and stage presence. She was the female ideal of her generation and was known for both her beauty and voice.
A native of Clinton, Iowa, Russell was raised in Chicago. When she was 18, her parents separated, and she moved to New York with her mother. In 1879, she started performing professionally and won a role in a comic opera for Tony Pastor. The New York company of H.M.S. Pinafore featured her as part of the chorus. The following year, 1882, she became the star of the season at Pastor’s New York Casino Theatre under the direction of composer Edward Solomon.
Music and Stage Career
Russell continued to act in comic opera and other musical theatre productions. During 1886-1889, she toured with the J.C. Duff Opera Company between other engagements. She appeared in ‘Gasparone’ by Karl Millöcker in New York City in 1887 at the Standard Theatre, alongside Eugène Oudin and J.H. Ryley. Russell dominated the U.S. operetta scene for many years. She was extremely popular with audiences due to her voice, stage presence, and beauty. Russell’s voice was transmitted over the first long-distance telephone line on May 8, 1890.
From 1899 to 1904, Russell performed in burlesques and other shows at the Weber and Fields Music Hall. Her first production there was Fiddle-dee-dee in 1899. She next played the title role of Lady Teazle at the Casino Theatre in 1904 and then began to perform in vaudeville. Despite vocal difficulties after 1904, Russell did not retire from the stage. Instead, she toured non-musical comedies from 1906 to 1908 under the management of James Brooks. Her commercial success rose again after reuniting with Weber and Fields, following a bitter feud, in 1912.
Activism and political career
Russell advocated women’s equality and donated money to causes dear to her heart. She began writing a newspaper column in 1912 and became active in the women’s suffrage movement. She lectured widely on personal relationships and health, advocating an optimistic self-help philosophy, drawing large crowds. As the United States entered World War I, Russell volunteered his time and money to sell war bonds. Her recruitment rallies attracted thousands of young men who were encouraged to enlist. She was appointed an honorary sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Russell campaigned for Warren G. Harding in 1920, and after Harding’s election, he appointed her a commissioner for immigration studies.
Lillian Russell was married four times in her life. Russell had a romantic relationship with Walter Sinn, whose father owned the Brooklyn Park Theatre. Walter’s mother helped Russell get a chorus job with Edward E. The couple married in 1879, and her first child, Harry, was born in June 1880.
Russell met Edward Solomon in a musical show, and she was unaware of his first marriage. He made her his mistress, and they sailed to London together. Russell and Solomon were married in 1885 and had a daughter, Dorothy Lillian Russell. Solomon had poor finances, and their last show, The Maid and the Moonshiner (1886) was a flop. Solomon had not dissolved his previous marriage when he was arrested for bigamy in 1886. Russell got divorced from Solomon in 1893.
Russell married tenor John Haley Augustin Chatterton in 1894. However, the marriage lasted only for four years, and the couple divorced in 1898.
Russell married her fourth husband, Alexander Pollock Moore, owner of the Pittsburgh Leader. The wedding took place at the grand Schenley Hotel in Pittsburgh. They remained married until Russel’s death.
Lillian Russel’s death
While returning from Europe, Russell suffered an injury that seemed to be relatively minor. The injuries caused several complications. Following ten days of illness, she died at home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Many actors and politicians attended her military funeral and thousands of others; President Harding sent a wreath to be placed on her casket.
Here below are some glamorous photos of beautiful Lillian Russel from her career and life.