Lillian Russell is the sanitized musical biopic of the legendary (and much-married) 19th century musical comedy star. Discovered in 1880 by bandleader Tony Pastor (Leo Carrillo), Lillian Russell (Alice Faye) wastes no time rising to fame and fortune on the Broadway stage. Along the way, she curries the favor of such eligible bachelors as newspaperman Alexander Moore (Henry Fonda), composer Edward Solomon (Don Ameche), and railroad tycoon Diamond Jim Brady (Edward Arnold). She marries the first two, and has a high old time (albeit chastely) with the third. The story ends with Russell's retirement in 1912, and her reunion with the one true love of her life. The film's hands-down highlight is a timeworn but classic routine involving those two Broadway comedy giants Joe Weber and Lew Fields, both of whom had appeared on-stage with the real Lillian Russell.
by Hal Erickson synopsis