b. Lillian Rutstein, 13 December 1910, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, d. 12 May 1980, New York City, New York, USA. Entering showbusiness while still a tiny child, Roth appeared on the stage and also in films. Billed as ‘Broadway’s Youngest Star’, she sang and danced in shows staged by leading showmen such as Earl Carroll and Florenz Ziegfeld. She made silent films as early as 1918 but was invited to Hollywood when Paramount boss Jesse L. Lasky heard her sing the blues during a New York show designed to introduce Maurice Chevalier to American audiences before his film debut. She appeared with the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers (1930), Paramount On Parade (1930) and Ladies They Talk About (1933), a feature for Barbara Stanwyck. Unfortunately, Roth’s private life was in turmoil through failed relationships and drink, and by the end of the 30s she had succumbed to alcoholism and was soon a forgotten figure. Then, in 1953, she was featured on television’s This Is Your Life. The show, together with the publication of Roth’s autobiography, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, convinced Hollywood that here was a story worth telling. The similarly titled film, released in 1955 and starring Susan Hayward as Lillian, was a rare example of a Hollywood biopic that told a tragic tale without unnecessary sensationalism. Roth was able to fashion a new career out of this appraisal of her life and she worked regularly in clubs and on television for the rest of her life. In 1977, half a lifetime after her last film, she appeared in a minor role in the Brooke Shields debut feature film Communion (Holy Terror/Alice, Sweet Alice). Roth’s singing of the blues was for the time a rarity for a white woman and she contrived to deliver this material with a fair degree of authenticity.
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