Most of what we know about Lillian Roth we know from Susan Hayward’s robust but depressing portrait of her in ‘I’ll Cry Tomorrow’, the screen bio of Roth’s tragic life based on her memoir. One of the first searingly honest portraits of an alcoholic’s descent, Roth’s book completely overshadowed Roth’s work as an entertainer. While the actual Lillian may have been the neurotic, melodramatic, alcoholic child of ‘stage parents’ (and we know how well that usually works out for kids) the young Lillian was one of the most delightful ingenues of her day and–unlike most others of her ilk–her charms still hold up. Witness the above-posted delightful Bert Kalmer-Harry Ruby song ‘Why Am I So Romantic?’ from the Marx’s 1930 film of their Broadway hit ‘Animal Crackers’. Roth’s performance is a charming send-up of typical cute ingenue delivery and yet…she’s a damn cute ingenue with lovely, typical ingenue delivery. There’s some lore out there that Roth, who was poised for leading lady status but whose drinking and all around lousy attitude poisoned her relationships with studio executives, was sent from Hollywood back east to be in a Marx Brothers movie as punishment. And that, upon hearing of her fate, she broke down in tears. If she did truly shed a tear over this assignment, I would have thought it was due to playing opposite the colorless, personality-free Hal Thomspon, a man who couldn’t possibly have made her feel romantic every time she got near him. All this focus on Marx brothers ephemera this week can be safely blamed on ‘The Marx Brothers Council Podcast’, which I came across for the first time last week and which I’ve been–God how I hate this word–bingeing happily ever since. This morning episode was about ‘Animal Crackers’. Tonight’s evening entertainment will be a screening of the movie itself on a double-bill with ‘I’ll Cry Tomorrow’. NOT.


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