Louise Randall Pierson wrote a memoir in her early 50s which was published as Roughly Speaking in 1944. A feisty go-getter and keen observer, the housewife was able to put into words the life of a family in those tumultuous first years of the 20th century.
Warner Brothers made a film based on the book in 1945 with Louise working on the screenplay with Catherine Turney (The Man I Love). Michael Curtiz directed his second of two pictures with leading lady Rosalind Russell (Four's a Crowd), and his second of that year's releases with leading man Jack Carson (Mildred Pierce). Roughly Speaking is the only film on which Curtiz worked with cinematographer Joseph Walker. Walker was a favourite of Ms. Russell's having filmed her in ten movies altogether, including those produced specifically for her (The Velvet Touch).
Rosalind Russell, Eily Malyon
Louise's father passes when she is a 12-year-old girl, leaving the family in straitened circumstances. Nonetheless, her father's love and teachings have made Louise a confident and determined young woman. Graduating from secretarial college, she plans to conquer the business world and be somebody who looks from the inside out, not the outside in. However, romance intrudes with its contrary notions.
Rosalind Russell, Donald Woods
Donald Woods plays Rodney Crane, the young banker who has fallen for the headstrong Louise and he is determined that his wife will not work outside the home. After all, this is 1912 and such notions must be set aside. However, with no career to occupy her prodigious energy, Louise puts all of her ambition into her husband and children, which number four in almost no time. She decides where they will live, and their lifestyle. She drags the kids into her efforts to do her bit when WWI comes along. When infantile paralysis (polio) strikes the family, Louise buries her fear and determines to help her young daughter learn to walk again.
The unthinkable happens when Louise tries to put a brave face on her husband losing his job. Cracks in their relationship broaden due to their differing personalities and Rodney plans to marry someone else. Again, with all flags flying Louise takes on the challenge of single parenthood.
Rosalind Russell, Jack Carson
The unthinkable again happens when, through old friends, she meets Harold Pierson played by Jack Carson. He's the black sheep of his family and Louise's focused personality is the opposite of Harold's easy-going approach to life. It is a "crazy idea" that this mother of four should try marriage again, but they are both "crazy" and wedding bells ring once more. The ensuing years for the Piersons, like the years for most of us, are fraught with their ups and downs in business and in family life, but their closeness sustains them through it all.
Rosalind Russel, Ann Doran with unidentified party-goer
Many familiar faces are sprinkled throughout the cast from Ray Collins to Alan Hale. There's a lovely role for Ann Doran as Louise's chum, and see if you can spot Craig Stevens.
Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson are a joy to watch as Louise and Harold. I wouldn't have minded if the movie were longer or if a sequel had been made. It is a shame they didn't work together again. By necessity, the story is rather episodic yet the time spent on each incident is enough to give us the full emotion of the characters and capture the essence of the times. There is much humour to leaven the tears and a lot of heart with no schmaltz in the story of this family. It is one that will stay with you like the fond memory of an old friend.
Louise Randall Pierson and daughter publicize the release of Roughly Speaking.
Roughly Speaking kicks off the TCM Mother's Day salute on Sunday, May 12th. If you are being treated to breakfast in bed, be sure to record this movie.
Frank Pierson (1925-2012), Oscar-winning screenwriter of Dog Day Afternoon, and nominee for Cat Ballou and Cool Hand Luke was Louise Randall Pierson's youngest son.
Rosalind Russell as Louise deals with her children being stricken with infantile paralysis. The following year, Roz would be Oscar-nominated for Sister Kenny, as the Australian nurse whose pioneering work did so much to help in the fight against polio.