Roth, Lillian Biography

biography of Roth, Lillian

Rutstein, Lillian
13 December 1910, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
12 May 1980, New York City, New York, USA (stroke)
5' 3"
Tragic songstress Lillian Roth (nee Lillian Rutstein), born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 13, 1910, was given her first name in honor of singer 'Lillian Russell' (qv). She was the daughter of daunting stage parents who groomed her and younger sister Anne for stardom at an early age. The girls did not disappoint. In 1916, Lillian moved with her family to New York City where the youngsters found work as extras in films. Lillian's precocious talent was picked up on quickly and at age six made her Broadway debut in "The Inner Man." All the while the girls trained at the Professional Children's School. They became billed as "Broadway's Youngest Stars" after putting together a successful vaudeville tour billed as "The Roth Kids." In this act Lillian did serious dramatic impersonations of famous stars of the day with Anna delivering amusing satires of Lillian's readings. Lillian's vocal talents also impressed and she was cast in the show "Artists and Models" at age 15. Shy by nature, the ever-increasing thrust into the limelight caused Lillian to develop severe nervous disorders, but somehow she persevered. At age 17, 'Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.' (qv) signed her up as an ingénue headliner in his new show "Midnight Frolics." This attention led to impresario 'Ernst Lubitsch' (qv)'s invitation to Hollywood for his glossy musical _The Love Parade (1929)_ (qv) with 'Maurice Chevalier (I)' (qv) and 'Jeanette MacDonald' (qv). Lillian was a hit in her second lead role. She also impressed as Huguette in _The Vagabond King (1930)_ (qv), a rather dated early musical talkie. Paramount cast her in _Honey (1930)_ (qv), in which she debuted her signature standard "Sing You Sinners." Other roles included 'Cecil B. DeMille' (qv)'s _Madam Satan (1930)_ (qv) and the Marx Brothers' vehicle _Animal Crackers (1930)_ (qv) which countered her vocal stylings with the boys' zany antics. The sudden death of her fiancé in the early 30s drove Lillian over the brink. She found liquor to be a calming sensation, which led to a full-scale addiction. Marriages, one to renown Municipal Court Justice Benjamin Shalleck, came and went at a steady pace. There would be eight in all. Her career self-destructed as she spiraled further and further into alcoholic oblivion and delirium. Decades would be spent in and out of mental institutions until she met and married T. Burt McGuire, Jr., a former alcoholic in the late 40s. With his support, Lillian slowly revived her career with club work. She became a singing sensation again and toured throughout the world, receiving ecstatic reviews wherever she went. Lillian's daring autobiography, "I'll Cry Tomorrow" was published in 1954 and topped The New York Times Best Sellers List. She left out few details of her sordid past and battle with substance abuse. She would become the first celebrity to associate her name with Alcoholics Anonymous, putting a well-known face on the disease (as Rock Hudson would later do for AIDS, albeit less willingly) while doing her part in helping to remove the social stigma. A bold, no-holds-barred film adaptation of Lillian's book followed. 'Susan Hayward (I)' (qv)'s gutsy portrayal of Lillian won her a fourth Oscar nomination. Lillian herself would return to films in her twilight years but only in small roles and to minor fanfare. A beautiful and touching vocalist and actress, she put her own wonderful spin on such vintage songs as "When the Red, Red Robin," "I Wish I Had My Old Gal Back Again" and "Eadie Was a Lady." Lillian overcame unimaginable odds and somehow lived to tell about it. She passed away in 1980 at 69 of a stroke.
Gary Brumburgh /

-   'Thomas Burt McGuire' (January 1947 - September 1963) (divorced)

-   'Mark Harris' (? - ?) (divorced)

-   'Eugene Weiner' (September 1940 - March 1941) (divorced)

-   'Edward Goldman' (March 1942 - August 1945) (divorced)

-   'Benjamin Shalleck' (29 January 1933 - July 1939) (divorced)

-   'William C. Scott' (April 1931 - May 1932) (divorced)

-   Was portrayed by 'Susan Hayward (I)' (qv) in the film _I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955)_ (qv). The film was made after her autobiography of the same title was published, in which she wrote about her experiences with alcoholism.

-   Butterfingers was a childhood nickname because she used to drop everything!

-   Resembled a dark haired version of 'Cybill Shepherd' (qv)

-   In 1953 'Ralph Edwards (I)' (qv) aired Lillian's tragic story on a special telecast of his _"This Is Your Life" (1952)_ (qv) series. It drew the largest amount of mail in the show's history.

-   Following the Broadway opening of the musical "I Can Get It For You Wholesale" in 1962, producer David Merrick raised her name to sole star billing over the title (above Barbara Streisand, Elliott Gould and Sheree North).

-   Was cast to play one of the aunts in the original Broadway production of Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Ave.", but was replaced during rehearsal.

-   Upon her death, her remains were interred at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Hawthorne, Westchester County, New York. The location plot is Section 26, Grave 039.

-   (1918- 1971). Active on Broadway in the following productions:

-   (1918). Stage Play. Penrod. Written by Edward E. Rose from the stories by 'Booth Tarkington' (qv). Directed by 'Dudley Digges' (qv) and 'Edward E. Rose' (qv). Globe Theatre (moved to Punch and Judy Theatre on 7 Oct 1918 to close): 2 Sep 1918- Nov 1918 (closing date unknown/48 performances). Cast: Bevor Alverez, William F. Canfield, 'Helen Chandler (I)' (qv), Jack Ellis, May Ellis, Katherine Emmett, Thomas Ford, Ben F. Grauer, 'Maud Hosford' (qv), Flo Irwin, 'Paul Kelly (I)' (qv), Thomas McCann, Henry Quinn, Richard Ross, 'Lillian Roth' (qv) [Broadway debut], Robert Vaughn, Charles Whitfield. Produced by George C. Tyler and Klaw & Erlanger.

-   (1918). Stage Play. The Betrothal. Written by 'Maurice Maeterlinck' (qv). Translated by Alexander Teixeira De Mattos. Directed by 'Winthrop Ames' (qv). Shubert Theatre, (moved to The Century Theatre from 1 Feb 1919- circa Mar 1919): 28 Nov 1918- Mar 1919 (closing date unknown/120 performances). Cast: H.J. Carvill (as "The Great Peasant"), 'Claude Cooper (I)' (qv) (as "Drunken Ancestor"), Georges Du Bois (as "Murderer Ancestor"), Augustin Duncan (as "The Great Ancestor"), Elwyn Eaton (as "The Great Mendicant"), 'Sylvia Field' (qv) (as "Joy"), 'Gladys George' (qv) (as "Jalline") [Broadway debut], 'Winifred Lenihan' (qv) (as "Belline") [Broadway debut], Barry Macollum (as "The Sick Ancestor"), Mrs. Jacques Martin (as "The Fairy Berylune"), 'Lillian Roth' (qv) (as "Tyltyl's Grandchild"), Reggie Sheffield (as "Tyltyl"), Allen Thomas (as "The Rich Ancestor"), 'Henry Travers (I)' (qv) (as "Daddy Tyl"), 'June Walker (I)' (qv) (as "Roselle") [Broadway debut], George Wolcott (as "Tyltyl's Last Born"), "Boots" Wooster (as "Milette"). Produced by Winthrop Ames.

-   (1920). Stage Play. Shavings. Comedy.

-   (1927). Stage Play. Padlocks of 1927. Musical revue. Music by Lee David, Jesse Greer and 'Henry H. Tobias' (qv). Book by 'Paul Girard Smith' (qv) and Ballard MacDonald. Lyrics by 'Billy Rose (I)' (qv). Musical Director: Carlton Kelsey. Music arranged by Joseph Nussbaum. Featuring songs with lyrics by 'Ballard MacDonald' (qv) and 'Jack Yellen' (qv). Featuring songs by Billy Rose and 'Milton Ager' (qv). Costume Design by Robert Stevenson, Mahieu and 'Orry-Kelly' (qv). Choreographed by John Boyle. Directed by W.J. Wilson. Shubert Theatre: 5 Jul 1927- 24 Sep 1927 (95 performances). Cast: Drina Beach, Vera Berg, Billie Blake, Edna Burford, Mae Burke, Walter Burke, 'A.S. 'Pop' Byron' (qv), Vivian Carmody, Vee Carroll, Betty Clark, Nora Cliff, Jackie Corrtez, Peggy Daubert, Doris Dellairs, Irene Faery, Don Fiser, 'Jay C. Flippen' (qv), Carl D. Francis, Edna French, Laurette Gilman, Gloria Glennon, Ruth Grady, Dolores Grant, 'Texas Guinan' (qv), Florence Healy, Harry Jans, Carol Kingsbury, Helenya Koski, Hedwig Langer, Val Lester, Edna Locke, Dave Mallen, Raymond Marlowe, Marcelle Miller, Jola Moreno, Ojeda and Inbert, Sugar O'Neill, Alice Outlaw, 'George Raft' (qv), Wilma Roeloff, The Romancers Quartet, 'Lillian Roth' (qv), Catherine Ryder, Rosemary Ryder, 'Helen Shipman' (qv), Eleanor Smith, Virginia Smith, Snowball, The Four Diamonds, The Little Tappers, Mary Titus, The Phelps Twins, Eileen Wenzel, Harold Whalen, Laura Wilkinson, Rosalie Williams. Produced by Duo Art Productions Inc.

-   (1928). Stage Play. Earl Carroll's Vanities. Musical revue. Lyrics by Grace Henry. Music by Morris Hamilton. Based on material by 'W.C. Fields' (qv), 'Paul Girard Smith' (qv), Joe Frisco, Robert T. Tarrant and Herman Meyer. Additional music by George Bagby, G. Romilli, Michael H. Cleary, George Whiting, Louis Alter, Mario Savino, 'Jesse Greer' (qv), Ernie Golden and Abner Silver. Musical Direction by Ray Kavanaugh. Additional lyrics by Paul Jones, Ned Washington, Joe Burke, Raymond Klages, Ernie Golden, Jack LeSoir and Roy Doll. Choreographed by 'Busby Berkeley' (qv). Staged by 'Edgar J. MacGregor' (qv). Machinery Ballet created and staged by the Marmein Sisters. Assembled and Directed by 'Earl Carroll (I)' (qv). Earl Carroll Theatre: 6 Aug 1928- 2 Feb 1929 (200 performances). Cast: Fay Adler, Peggy Andre, Violet Arnold, Faith Bacon, Hazel Bailey, Barto & Mann, Bonnie Blackwood, Peggy Blake, Richard Bold, 'Lilian Bond' (qv), Ted Bradford, Dorothy Britton, 'Louise Brooks (I)' (qv), Marian Carew, Ernest Charles, Catherine Clark, Elsie Connor, Frances Delacy, Gordon Dooley, Ray Dooley, W.C. Fields, Dorothea Frank, Joe Frisco, Edward Graham, Beryl Halley, Edyth Hansen, Marion Harke, Angeline Hassel, Rita Jason, Alyce Johnson, Naomi Johnson, Frances Joyce, Ruth Kent, Nelda Kincaid, 'Dorothy Knapp' (qv), Maurice Lapue, 'Vincent Lopez (I)' (qv) Band, Polly Luce, Dorothy Lull, Brian MacDonald, Dana Merrill, Martha Morton, Jean Murray, Marion O'Day, Ruth Patterson, Peggy Purcell, Joey Ray, 'Lillian Roth' (qv), Blanche Satchell, Wanda Stevenson, Bobby Storey, Elizabeth Surran, Jean Tennyson, Katherine Vercelle, Louise Vercelle, Beryl Wallace, Florence Ward, Eileen Wenzel, Rose Wenzel, Diana White, Vivian Wilson. Produced by Earl Carroll.

-   (1929). Stage Play. Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic.

-   (1931). Stage Play. Earl Carroll's Vanities. Musical revue. Music by 'Burton Lane' (qv). Book by 'Ralph Spence (I)' (qv) and Eddie Welch. Lyrics by 'Harold Adamson' (qv). Musical Director: 'Ray Cavanaugh' (qv). Music orchestrated by Domenico Savino. Additional music by 'Cliff Friend' (qv), 'Raymond Klages' (qv), 'Jack Meskill' (qv), Vincent Rose, 'Maurice Ravel' (qv) and Hyman Grossman. Featuring songs with lyrics by Cliff Friend, Raymond Klages, Jack Meskill, Vincent Rose, Nathaniel Lief and Max Lief. Featuring songs by Larry Besson. Staged by 'Edgar J. MacGregor' (qv). Choreographed by 'George Hale (I)' (qv). Ballets by Gluck Sandor. Conceived and assembled by Earl Carroll. Scenic Design by 'Vincente Minnelli' (qv) and Hugh Willoughby. Costume Design by Vincente Minnelli and Charles Le Maire. Special Effects by Professor Tax Teuber. Directed by 'Earl Carroll (I)' (qv). Earl Carroll Theatre (moved to The 44th Street Theatre from 29 Feb 1932 to close): 27 Aug 1931- 9 Apr 1932 (300 performances). Cast: Lucille Adair, Irene Ahlberg, Louise Allen, Doris Andress, Helen Arlen, Audrey Arlington, Violet Arnold, George Bailey, Arthur Barry, William Barton, Charles Benjamin, Brooks Berkwich, Renee Bonnie, Ernest Brown, Samuel Brown, Fred Byer, Marian Carew, Claire Carter, Irving Carter, Dan Carthe, Peter Clark, Julius Corsack, Betty Dell, 'William Demarest' (qv), Mickey Devine, Jack Durant, William Dyas, Marcelle Edwards, Herbert Ellis, Maryjo Engers, Collette Francis, Genie Fursa, Howard Garvin, John George, Dolores Grant, Harriet Hagman, Marion Harcke, Albert Harris, William Hart, John Hilliman, Agatha Hoff, Edgar Hughes, Vivian Keefer, Alice Kerwin, Sunny Kest, Nelda Kincaid, Glenfield Knight, Dorothy Knowlton, Anderson Lewis, Helen Lynd, Martha Mackay, Will Mahoney, Irving Mangott, Lois Maye, Charles V. Maynard, Ferne McAllister, Theresa Meredith, Ida Michaels, Frank Miller, Woods Miller, Villi Milli, Frank Mitchell, Julia Mooney, Jane Moxon, Rosemary Murphy, Al Norman, Helen Oakes, Olive Olsen, Gay Orlova, Lucille Page, Edythe Paige, Shirley Parshall, Irma Philbin, Paul H. Phillips, Louise Porach, Lydia Resh, Lorna Rodionoff, The Rooney Ensemble, 'Lillian Roth' (qv), Norman C. Rucker, Enrique do los Ruelos, Frank Schegar, Betty Schleindl, Alie Sellier, The Slate Brothers, Betty Sundmark, Jacqueline Swift, James Tamm, The Thermein Ensemble, Jasper Thomas, Phil Thomas, George Turner, 'Beryl Wallace' (qv), Florence Ward, Milton Watson, Eileen Wenzel, Raymond Young. Produced by Earl Carroll.

-   (1962). Stage Play. I Can Get It for You Wholesale. Musical comedy.

-   (1970). Stage Play. 70, Girls, 70. Musical. Book by 'Fred Ebb' (qv) and Norman L. Martin. Music by 'John Kander' (qv). Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Book adapted by 'Joe Masteroff' (qv). Based on the play "Breath of Spring" by Peter Coke. Musical Director: Oscar Kosarin. Vocal arrangements by Oscar Kosarin. Music orchestrated by 'Don Walker (I)' (qv). Dance arrangements by Dorothea Freitag. Associate Musical Dir.: Karen Gustafson. Choreographed by 'Onna White' (qv). Associate Choreographer: Martin Allen. Production Supervised by 'Stanley Prager' (qv). Directed by Paul Aaron. Broadhurst Theatre: 15 Apr 1971- 15 May 1971 (35 performances + 9 previews that began on 7 Apr 1971). Cast: 'Hans Conried' (qv) (as "Harry"), 'Mildred Natwick' (qv) (as "Ida Dodd"), 'Lillian Roth' (qv) (as "Gert") [final Broadway role], Joey Faye (as "Detective Callahan"), Dorothea Freitag (as "Lorraine"), Lillian Hayman (as "Melba"), Henrietta Jacobson (as "Grandmother"), Gil Lamb (as "Walter"), Lucie Lancaster (as "Eunice"), Goldye Shaw (as "Fritzi") [Broadway debut], Coley Worth (as "Officer Kowalski"), Thomas Anderson (as "Ensemble Player"), Tommy Breslin (as "Eddie"), Robert G. Dare (as "Ensemble Player"), Sally De May (as "Ensemble Player"), Ruth Gillette (as "Ensemble Player"), Lloyd Harris Ensemble Player"), Marjorie Leach (as "Ensemble Player"), Abby Lewis (as "Ensemble Player"), Steve Mills (as "Ensemble Player"), Naomi Price (as "Ensemble Player"), 'Beau Tilden' (qv) (as "Ensemble Player"), Bobbi Tremain (as "Ensemble Player"), Jay Velie (as "Ensemble Player"). Produced by Arthur Whitelaw. Produced in association with Seth Harrison.

-   (1965) National tour of the musical "Funny Girl" as "Mrs. Brice" opposite Marilyn Michaels.

-   Lillian Roth, with Mike Connolly and Gerold Frank. _I'll Cry Tomorrow (autobiography)._ New York: Frederick Fell, Inc., 1954.

-   My life was never my own. It was charted before I was born.

-   _I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955)_ (qv)

-   "Variety" (USA), 14 May 1980, "Lillian Roth"

-   "New York Times" (USA), 13 May 1980, pg. 20:1, "Lillian Roth, Actress and Singer, Dies"

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Acting in movies

  1. Boardwalk (1979)
  2. Night-Flowers (1979)
  3. Communion (1976)
  4. "The Irv Kupcinet Show" (1953) {(1971-08-07)}
  5. "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962) {(1971-04-22)}
  6. The Sound of Laughter (1963)
  7. "Tonight Starring Jack Paar" (1957) {(1961-08-21)}
  8. "The Mike Wallace Interview" (1957) {(1958-04-05)}
  9. "Toast of the Town" (1948) {(#11.32)}
  10. "Playhouse 90" (1956) {Child of Trouble (#1.31)}
  11. "Frankie Laine Time" (1955) {(#2.3)}
  12. "Hollywood Preview" (1955) {(1956-04-13)}
  13. "Matinee Theatre" (1955) {Man in Seven League Boots (#2.30)}
  14. "This Is Show Business" (1956) {(1956-06-19)}
  15. "This Is Your Life" (1952) {Milton Berle}
  16. "Toast of the Town" (1948) {(#9.23)}
  17. "The United States Steel Hour" (1953) {Outcast (#3.10)}
  18. "Toast of the Town" (1948) {(#8.26)}
  19. "Toast of the Town" (1948) {(#9.11)}
  20. "The Red Skelton Show" (1951) {(#4.11)}
  21. "Toast of the Town" (1948) {(#7.33)}
  22. "This Is Your Life" (1952) {Lillian Roth (#2.8)}
  23. "Toast of the Town" (1948) {(#3.18)}
  24. "The Milton Berle Show" (1948) {(#1.51)}
  25. Arcade Varieties (1939)
  26. Snow Follies (1939)
  27. Masks and Memories (1934)
  28. Story Conference (1934)
  29. Ain't She Sweet (1933)
  30. Ladies They Talk About (1933)
  31. Million Dollar Melody (1933)
  32. Take a Chance (1933)
  33. Down Among the Sugar Cane (1932)
  34. Animal Crackers (1930)
  35. Galas de la Paramount (1930)
  36. Honey (1930)
  37. Madam Satan (1930)
  38. Meet the Boyfriend (1930)
  39. Naughty-Cal (1930)
  40. Paramount on Parade (1930)
  41. Sea Legs (1930)
  42. The Vagabond King (1930)
  43. Illusion (1929)
  44. Lillian Roth and Band (1929)
  45. Lillian Roth and Her Piano Boys (1929)
  46. Lillian Roth and the Foster Girls (1929)
  47. Raising the Roof (1929)
  48. The Love Parade (1929)
  49. Pershing's Crusaders (1918)


  1. I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955) (book "I'll Cry Tomorrow") <2,1,1>