Hunk du Jour

Gary Cooper

[ Editor's Note: This is Steve's column from last week, which was unfortunately delayed by my absence. Please accept my apologies, and look for another TOQ post very soon! ]

Roddy McDowell - Hunk du Jour

Pictured: Roddy McDowell

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Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame - Hunk du Jour

Pictured: Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame

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Rosalind Russell has always had a special place in the hearts of gay movie fans. She starred in two of the greatest gay cult films, The Women (1939) and the legendary Auntie Mame (1958). It was in The Women that she first displayed her amazing comedic abilities. Director George Cukor hadn't considered using Russell, since she'd usually played second banana in big films and serious leads in "B" pictures. However, the ever-ambitious Russell challenged Cukor to give her a shot at comedy and campaigned vigorously for the part of the gossipy overbearing Sylvia Fowler. She prepared six different interpretations of the part and the last, being the most over the top and outrageous, was the one he chose.  Russell had misgivings about using this particular interpretation, fearing that her co-stars, Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer would murder her, never the less, this is what the director wanted and this is what he got. Her overwhelming success in the role led to her next main stream comedy, the classic His Girl Friday (1940) with Cary Grant, directed by Howard Hawks. Their comedy styles and timing blended perfectly and Russell was typecast as the "know-it-all-screwball for the next ten years, putting out a series of comedies where she usually dominated her leading man until the last reel, when she succumbed to his charms and agreed to "act like a woman, instead of a female." By the early 50's she was in her mid-40's and roles were hard to come by. The ever resourceful Roz, packed her bags and headed for Broadway, where she made a spectacular debut in Wonderful Town, the musical version of a movie she'd gotten an Oscar nomination for called; My Sister Eileen. She then gave a strong performance in a character part in the movie version of Picnic, before heading back to the Great White Way, where a play version of the popular novel Auntie Mame had been tailored specifically for her. It was a smash and was eventually sold as a package deal along with Russell to Warner Brothers. The movie version proved to be the biggest moneymaker of 1958 and snagged Roz her final Oscar nomination.

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