Roughly Speaking (1945): Michael Curtiz Directs Rosalind Russell Star Vehicle

One of the prolific and diverse Michael Curtiz’s less well-known and less popular films, Roughly Speaking was made at the same year as his superb noir melodrama, Mildred Pierce, starring Joan Crawford in Oscar winning performance.

Warner purchased for $35,000 the film rights to the 1943 memoir, also titled Roughly Speaking, based on the life of Louise Randall Pierson (aka as the mother of Frank Pearson, the Oscar winning scribe of Lumet’s 1975 masterpiece, Dog Day Afternoon.

Rosalind Russell is well cast as Louise Randall Pierson, a strong-willed  mother, who tries to keep her family together through the rough times of WWI and the Great Depression.

As teenager, Louise witnessed the death of her beloved father, who left her and her family in difficult financial circumstances.  However, she remains undaunted, putting herself through college, acquiring secretarial skills (typing, shorthand). On her first temp job, she experiences the prejudice of her new sexist boss, Lew Morton (Alan Hale Sr.)

She then marries conservative man Rodney Crane (Donald Woods), who goes works in the banking industry. Four children are born, one victim of infantile paralysis.

After a decade, Rodney divorces her to marry a younger, more traditional girl about “woman’s place.” For her art, Louise meets Harold C. Pierson (Jack Carson), who is less driven. He asks her to marry him just hours after meeting and she accepts. Louise inspires Harold to venture into his family’s business and take out a loan to build greenhouses for roses. They clear their debts just when the market collapses and are forced to sell off their possessions and hit the road.

Svend Olsen (John Qualen), an aircraft builder in need of financing, needs and gets help from Harold, despite her objections. The aircraft prototype is shown to potential backers, but the stock market crashes, and the family is again uprooted.

Two sons go to Yale, and one of the daughters gets married. The rest of the family  gets by with various jobs, including parking cars at the 1939 N.Y. World’s Fair.

On Louise’s birthday, Germany starts WWII, and soon all three sons are enlisted; the youngest, only 17, also joins the Army Reserve.

Louise laments her failure to provide their children with stable, prosperous life, nut her hubby reminds her of her indomitable spirit, undaunted by failures, rallying her to begin again by buying a farm.

After reviews, the overly lengthy movie (initially running 150-minutes) was cut down to 117 minutes, with Russell narrating the heavy-duty plot, which still drags on while spanning half a century.

Russell and Jack Carson reprised their roles in the movie for Lux Radio Theatre broadcast, October 8, 1945.


I am grateful to TCM for showing the film on January 29, 2018.