Emoting, authentically, across smoky nightclub aisles and golden Broadway stages, legendary chanteuse Lillian Roth often lived an existence as stormy as the torch songs that she was best known for performing. So potent were her misfortunes that her autobiography, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, was made into a popular movie starring Susan Hayward, one of the grand dames of stormy melodrama.
Roth, incidentally, had a heathy filmography in her own right. Genre enthusiasts, in fact, have much to cheer about over her celluloid glories. Besides co-starring with The Marx Brothers in the Pre-Code comic adventure Animal Crackers, she also portrayed Barbara Stanwyck’s aggressive yet full hearted cellmate in 1933’s jail yard drama, Ladies They Talk About (photos below). Decades later, she authoritatively essayed a pathologist in Alfred Sole’s Alice, Sweet, Alice, a film that has, rightfully, gone onto be one of the most impressive examples of subversive ‘70s horror.
On that set, Sole recalled Roth talking about her various ups and downs. She claimed then that one of her lowest points was when she had to take a job waiting tables where the tunes she had immortalized were often played on the juke box. Mercifully, the clientele had no idea who she was.
But, thankfully, due to the multiple glories of YouTube and film festivals, new generations are now able to appreciate her artistry. Indeed, this trailblazer, the epitome of the glamorization of the golden age of song, deserves to be focused on and fondly remembered.
For the curious, more details on Roth’s life are laid out at Lillian Roth | Jewish Women’s Archive (jwa.org)
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!