Michener Art Museum

Anna Russell

Photograph by Jack Rosen, 1970s, James A. Michener Art Museum archives
BORN: December 27, 1911, London, Ontario, Canada
DIED: October 23, 2006

Anna Russell was a world-famous comedienne, singer and writer. Born in Ontario, Canada, she made New Hope her home in the 1950s and early 60s. Her acting debut came in 1957 at the Bucks County Playhouse in the world premiere of Half in Earnest, a musical comedy by Vivian Ellis, based on Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. She returned to the Playhouse several times during her varied career which included writing a non-fiction work called The Power of Being a Positive Stinker; performing in a variety of television programs; and starring in several one-woman shows on Broadway. On Broadway she co-starred with Molly Picon in One Way Pendulum (1961) and alongside Liza Minnelli in Flora, the Red Menace (1965). Russell was also an accomplished cellist, pianist, and singer, who received her musical training at the Royal College of Music in England. Her album, Anna Russell Sings, lasted eight weeks on the best-seller lists, and she performed for Queen Elizabeth at the Toronto Symphony with the New York City Opera Company. She was a composer as well, writing an opera libretta, L'Astutzie Feminili. Russell was also known for her musical parodies and spoofs on operas, musical history and elite-ism in culture.