Who considered portraying singer Russ Columbo in a biopic movie? Try George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Perry Como, for starters…

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo).51gcwn4yjsl

Who wanted to portray Russ Columbo either in a movie or in a television musical? George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Tony Curtis, Perry Como for starters… Some of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars and singers considered taking on the challenge of portraying the well-liked, handsome singer, violin virtuoso and gifted songwriter, who had been engaged to marry film actress Carole Lombard.

Russ Columbo left a big imprint on Hollywood upon his death in 1934, with his handsome good-looks, velvety smooth baritone voice, and wonderful romantic songs, which he had made famous on stage, radio, and in the movies. Upon his death, Russ Columbo left behind thousands of fans, including some emerging Italian-American and Latin singers/actors who looked at him as a role-model to follow.

In 1945 Paramount Pictures considered casting Andy Rusell as Russ Columbo for a bio-picture about him. Andy Russell was born in Mexico as Andres Rabago. He received his stage name from orchestra leader Gus Arnheim, who had worked with Russ Columbo at the Cocoanut Grove. Arnheim was Andres Rabago’s  legal guardian, as he was underage when he started working in the orchestra. The young Andres Rabago performed as a drummer and solo vocalist. Arnheim suggested Rabago change his name in order to draw a bigger audience and to avoid discrimination as a Latin. Arnheim told him,  “I used to have a singer, a famous singer fella that  took Bing Crosby’s place years ago. His name was Russell Columbo, one of the famous singers of the era. I’m gonna call you Russell–Andy Russell.” (Wikipedia) And so, Rabago’s name was changed to Andy Rusell. He, unfortunately, was not chosen for the star role in the movie.


Andy Russell

Singer Perry Como had met Russ Columbo in Chicago at the Golden Pheasant Club in 1933, while Russ Columbo was performing there promoting songs for the motion pictures he was in. The experience of meeting his idol left a big impression on the young Perry Como and it was well-known that being a first generation Italian-American himself, Como styled himself to be like Columbo.

In 1946 Perry Como’s recording of Prisoner of Love, which Russ Columbo had co-written and made famous, went #1 on the Billboard Charts. Perry Como tried to take on the role of a Columbo in a bio-picture, but it did not come off.


Perry Como


1950’s Heartthrob Johnny Desmond (born: Giovanni Alfredo De Simone),  the singer who had made a “White Suit Coat and a Pink Carnation”  popular, had also recorded one of  Columbo’s biggest hits, “Guilty”, on his record label. Johnny Desmond, it was reported, had planned to make a musical out of The Russ Columbo Story and wanted to perform it on Broadway first, and then turn it into a movie with a Hollywood production company. His plans fell apart when he disputed with NBC who claimed the rights and were planning a TV series based on Russ Columbo’s life. Desmond as late as 1975 still planned to do a musical motion picture about Russ Columbo.  He was interviewed by The Chicago Tribune at the Playboy Club’s living room and told the reporter, “I think the movie is going to be done. I had always planned to play Columbo, but now I think I should play his brother Fury. (He meant Fiore, Russ Columbo’s older brother). I’d like to do the voice over for Columbo (singing).” To my knowledge he never did. He passed away in 1985, not having achieved his goal to portray Russ Columbo’s life.

Don Cornell had a smooth baritone voice like Russ’s and was born into a large Italian-American family in Bronx, NY, as Luigi Valaro. Cornell changed his name during World War II, Americanizing it. He made himself more acceptable to audiences in order not be booed-off the stage due to anti- Mussollini sentiment when they said his name, an event which had previously occurred during one of his performances. He had several billboard hits that went to the top of the charts in the 1950’s  and also was rumored to have been considered for The Russ Columbo Story.


Singer and actor Tony Martin, the husband of famous actress Cyd Cherisse, had his own television show during the 1950’s and a long musical film career to back his ambitions. One of them was to portray Russ Columbo in a biopic movie musical. Martin went so far as to approach one of Russ Columbo’s sisters about the possibility of obtaining the rights to Columbo’s life story, but once again the production of another Russ Columbo Story fell through.


In the 1950’s finding the perfect singer/actor to portray Russ Columbo was a bit like a casting call of 1950’s Italian-American singers Hall of Fame. This included young teen-idol, the dreamboat Alan Dale. He had made a hit of the songs  “Oh, Marie”, “Gentle and Sweet” (#10 Billboard) and “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”.  The teen was considered to be extremely talented and went by the moniker Prince of The Baritones. He had his own TV show with Dumont and CBS  P51tnhutpsyl-_sy300_ictures in 1948,  when he was still underage.  Alan Dale recorded the hit song “Heart of My Heart” with fellow Russ Columbo wannabes Don Cornell and Johnny Desmond. The song was on the Billboard Chart at #10 in 1953.  Alan Dale was well qualified to portray Columbo. He too came from an Italian-American family (bn: Alando Sigismondi) and was born in New York. His father had been a theater comedian and Alan Dale started performing onstage when he was nine years old.  It was reported in a couple of sources that in 1955 he was approached by film producers who intended on making a motion picture of Russ Columbo’s life. It seemed like the singer was a “sure in” for the role, but for an unknown reason (most likely the copyrights) the motion picture was never made.

Movie actor Tony Curtis also had set his sights in the 1950’s on making a musical about Russ Columbo  for NBC, which was to be aired for a one hour program on television. The planned production went as far as rehearsals, but for various reasons, including a dispute with Johnny Desmond about the rights,  the show fell apart and was not aired.


Tony Curtis


In the early 1990’s  Tom Cruise and Michelle Pfeiffer are at the top of their movie careers. Michelle Pfeiffer’s ethereal beauty and comedic timing is being compared in the newspaper movie reviews to that of legendary 1930’s comedian Carole Lombard.  Michelle Pfeiffer and Tom Cruise both won Golden Globe Awards for their outstanding performances  as actors in film at the same time. There begins a rumor that they should be paired together as a movie couple up on the screen. Michelle Pfeiffer  as Carole Lombard, and Tom Cruise as her singing love interest Russ Columbo. It would have made a great motion picture, however a biopic does not develop and the idea is dropped.

Golden Globe Awards Pfeiffer Cruise 1990

Michelle Pfeiffer and Tom Cruise



George Clooney, the famously handsome actor/director who owns a villa in Italy, had also considered making a movie about Russ Columbo based on the book Crooner Mystique by Dennis Penna.


Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby

George Clooney’s favorite aunt was the well-known singer Rosemary Clooney. She  had once lived in the same house Russ Columbo had rented on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills at the time of his death. The house had been built by actor Monte Blue in the 1920’s and had been lived-in by the song composer George Gershwin. Rosemary  Clooney lived there with Jose Ferrer, raising her children and doing radio shows. It was said Bing Crosby came one day there to do a  show with Rosemary. Crosby, wrongly thinking that Russ had died in the house, refused to step a foot into the den. He shouldn’t have worried. Russ Columbo had  been shot and killed by his friend Lansing Brown in Brown’s parents’ home, not there.

Rosemary Clooney’s children, a bit frightened by the idea that someone had died in their house, used to call out as they went downstairs at night. “Hello Russ, we’re coming down!” Sadly in 2005 the house was torn down and George Clooney had by then moved on to other projects. The other house, the Outpost Drive house, which Russ Columbo owned and lived in with his parents, still remains in existence.

The only singer to complete a project  and sing with the title: The Russ Columbo Story, was singer Paul Bruno, who released an album in 1960, where according to Billboard Chart, Bruno “warbled tunes associated with Russ Columbo,” and  the album cover featured several pictures of  Russ Columbo. For more information about Russ Columbo read my free blog:So how famous was Russ Columbo?



How Russ Columbo became The Valentino of The Radio

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Russ Columbo and Carole Lombard)

Russ Columbo’s connection to Rudolph Valentino was a genuine one. He worked when he was a young man for Pola Negri (Valentino’s last lover). He was a recognized violin virtuoso who played both classical, as well as contemporary music. This ability brought him to the attention of silent movie star Pola Negri, who was looking for a violinist.


Russ Columbo.

Russ Columbo was performing one evening in the ballroom where the Mayfair Ball is held at the Biltmore Hotel when Pola Negri walked in and saw him. The resemblance between her lover Valentino and Russ Columbo was striking. She hired him on the spot, asking him to report to her set the following day to play background mood music. This was the era of silent film and live music was played during filming to help set the mood for the actors.

Russ Columbo was a young eighteen years old and had been looking for a way to work in motion pictures. He worked for Pola Negri playing violin music and occasionally she found him work as an extra, performing as an unnamed actor. For two years Columbo worked for Negri and played his violin. During this time she was involved with Rudolph Valentino with whom she performed in movies.


Rudolph Valentino and Pola Negri

In August of 1926, news was brought to the movie set that Rudolph Valentino had died in New York from complications due to an appendicitis surgery. Valentino was only 31 years old. Columbo was in the middle of performing Dvorak’s Humoresque while a love scene was in the process of being filmed. A messenger whispered to Columbo, “Valentino has collapsed into a comma and died.”

Stunned by the news, he suddenly ceased playing.


Rudolph Valentino and Pola Negri

Noticing that he had stopped and now wore a bereaved expression on his face, Negri asked, “What is the matter with you? Why did you stop playing right in the middle of a scene?”

“Rudolph Valentino is dead,” he responded.


Pola Negri at Valentino’s funeral

The movie star fainted, and Columbo later vouched for the fact that it was not an act, but from genuine shock. For days Negri was inconsolable over the loss of her lover.

Russ Columbo went on with his career and worked with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra playing the violin and singing. It was at The Cocoanut Grove that he was discovered during a performance by the songwriter Con Conrad who became his manager and brought him to New York City where he found stardom on the radio and stage. He won the hearts of thousands of young girls and listeners who heard his velvety baritone voice on the radio. The songs he composed such as,  You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love, Prisoner of Love, and Too Beautiful For Words, became  billboard charted hits.

Years later Russ Columbo returned to Hollywood, after breaking up with his manager. Universal Pictures considered having him star in a biopic about Rudolph Valentino, but it did not come to fruition.


Rudolph Valentino in The Son of The Sheik.


Russ Columbo


Dressing Carole Lombard, her clothing designers and my book.

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Russ Columbo and Carole Lombard). Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo by Beverly Adam

Dressing Carole Lombard for my book Two Lovers is one of the enjoyable tasks I had as an author. Carole was a stunningly beautiful movie star in the 1930’s and one of the most photographed women in Hollywood, having posed for photographers over 42,000 times by 1938.



Travis Banton with Carole Lombard




Gown by Travis Banton


Travis Banton was the head costume designer at Paramount Pictures, the studio where Carole was under contract during the 1930’s. Carole paid him as well to create street clothes for her, mostly pencil skirts with matching tailored jackets. She had to look polished on and off the set.

A young emerging star, Carole Lombard was twenty-five years old  in 1933, and had been gradually working her way up the entertainment ladder and that required looking glamorous. Travis Banton liked her and had a very friendly working relationship with Carole Lombard. He once was having such a good time chatting with her during a fitting that he arrived almost an hour late to a dinner party that he was supposed to be hosting.


Italian designer Elsa Schiaperelli  had arrived in California in the 1920’s. The daring designer was a noted rival of Coco Chanel


Elsa Schiaparelli

and her surrealistic elements transformed Hollywood style, with her cloche hats, broad double breasted jackets and artistic notes of whimsy. Paramount took note and copied her style.



Carole wearing Juliet cap. Drawing by Charles Sheldon.

Irene Maud Lentz was a twice nominated costume designer who freelanced at several studios in Hollywood, working at one point for Paramount in the 1930’s

Irene Gibbons

Irene Maud Lentz

and early 1940’s. She designed clothes for Carole Lombard for the films Mr and Mrs Smith and To Be Or Not To Be. Irene Lentz was known to have originated the dressmaker suit and her clothing  was popular at Bullocks. The actor Gary Cooper was reported to have been Irene’s lover and many believe she committed suicide when he died.

Carole Lombard wore on a date with her own lover, Russ  Columbo, one of Irene Lentz’s designs.


Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo




“We would have married,” said Carole Lombard about her romance with Russ Columbo.

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo).

“We would have married,” said Carole Lombard during her interview with magazine writer Sonia Lee for Move Screen Magazine in 1934. Russ Columbo had been killed and Lombard revealed that she had been planning to marry the famous singer whose movie and radio career she had been guiding.

Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo were young, the same age (twenty-five years old), and very much in love. She helped run his career and was guiding him to film stardom. If any couple could be called soulmates they were. They were known to have premonitions about each other before they actually occurred.


Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo









Carole Lombard’s and Russ Columbo’s Death Connection



Hollywood Magazine


by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo)

Carole Lombard’s unexpected death, as in life, was connected in the press to Russ Columbo’s.

“To account for her son’s prolonged absence, Mrs. Columbo was told he was in London, making movie pictures with Carole. In the course of her romance with Russ, Carole naturally had grown close to Mrs. Columbo. Thus, to keep the heartbreaking news from her, Carole wrote weekly letters full of gay chit-chat and news of their activities, which were supposedly postmarked London and read to the blind mother.” Hollywood Magazine.

 8829304249b63e3b4c319d7878989accBoth Russ Columbo and Carole Lombard died young. It is a sad twist of fate that they both had premonitions  that they would do so. Yesterday, January 14th, was Russ’s birthday.

When she sang the National Anthem on January 15th she must have thought of him. If Russ were alive how proud he would have been of her standing there singing her heart out, leading the audience. He had been the one, after all, who gave her voice lessons early on in their romance. And she in turn had encouraged him to consider a career singing  opera.

Carole Lombard knew she would die young. When she told her friend Alice Marble, the tennis-pro replied, “Did the fortune-tellers tell you that?”

“Yes, they did, but it’s more than that. It’s a feeling I have,” Lombard said. Original source:  Courting Danger by Alice Marble.

Russ Columbo had had a premonition that he too would die young. When he did his family decided he would be placed in the vault opposite his brother Fiore’s, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. When Carole Lombard  made her last will and testament, the first instruction she wrote down was her desire to be interred in a modest crypt at the same cemetery, not in Hollywood, dressed wearing her favorite white gown.

The flowers that were laid on her burial casket were identical to the ones she had laid on Russ Columbo’s and the large heart shaped wreath display she had sent to the funeral she had arranged signed with his pet name for her, Angel.

Bing Crosby and Carole Lombard’s brother, Fred Peters,  were pallbearers at Russ Columbo’s funeral.


The last song Russ Columbo ever sang and recorded was Two Lovers by Allie Wrubel and Mort Dixon:27fab803b23bbdce0de3cd10eb669463

I see two lovers on the moonlit sand,
Standing face to face,
And as he takes her little trembling hand,
They slowly embrace.

I see two lovers in a world apart,
Heart to heart, what bliss!
And in my loneliness, I see them start
One heavenly kiss.


Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo by Beverly Adam

Kindle Preview of Two Lovers.click here for first chapter e-book preview.

Two Lovers is the true love story between legendary Hollywood film actress Carole Lombard, and the famous singer known as The Valentino of The Radio, Russ Columbo.

Recently divorced from her first husband, William Powell (The Thin Man), Carole attends a performance to hear popular radio star Russ Columbo, sing at The Cocoanut Grove, beginning an unforgettable romance.

“Beverly Adam’s fascinating account of Russ and Carole’s star-crossed love story is a must read.” Damon Leigh, President of the Russ Columbo Society.

Comments from my Amazon editor about the new book “Two Lovers”: 
“I think you’ve done a great job in your portrayal of Carole Lombard, 
who comes across as someone who had an excellent sense of humor in the face of adversity and personal tragedy. I also found the descriptions of Hollywood life in the 1930s to be extremely well done and full of rich detail… This was a very enjoyable book to work on”: Editor, Bill (Amazon).


“I started reading it last night and found it hard to put down. Technically it is a work of
fiction, but Adam did a ton of research for the book and based what was going on with the couple’s lives and careers at this time on true facts. I especially enjoy having a chance to get inside Carole’s head, and learning what her life was like before Gable and when she was first on the verge of major stardom.” Bess Korey, Songwriter, DJ, Book Reviewer: Member of Carole Lombard FB.
“Their story is beautifully and accurately told. I love seeing life through Carole’s eyes, knowing the depths of her heart. She was such a fiery brilliant woman, so full of life, a true shining star. The love Russ and Carole shared was epic, rare, and wonderful to read. ” Publisher Leslie D. Stuart (Destiny Rose Editorials and Destiny Whispers Publishing). ” (not the publisher)

You can read the first chapter for free at the following:

To order on Amazon click here large print

To order :KindleSmashwordsBarnes and Noble,