Friday, January 21, 2011

Rosalind Russell in Mrs. Pollifax, Spy 1971

This is the last in my series of obscure cold war films, simply because I can't think of any more. Any suggestions?

Mrs. Pollifax has become a much beloved character since the first book (The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax) was written by Dorothy Gilman in 1966. At the time of this film, however, the full arc of the series had yet to be revealed. So Rosalind Russel took on the role in her last film with a great deal of gusto. Not only did she play the part, she also wrote the script under the pen name C. A. McKnight. Widow Emily Pollifax is bored with her life. Her children are grown and except for the garden club and her volunteer work at the hospital she doesn't have much to do. So she decides to do something she's always wanted to and applies for work as a spy at the CIA. The astonished man she presents herself to puts her in a waiting room, where she's seen by Mr. Carstairs, who thinks she's just perfect for a small courier job in Mexico - innocent tourist type, simple mission. Of course when all hell breaks loose and she ends up in a notoriously inescapable prison in Albania with a weathered professional agent they give her up for dead. But don't count out Mrs. Pollifax! She has some tricks up her sleeve.

Fans of the book series don't like this film very much. Part of the problem is that the series took shape in the years after this film was conceived. Consequently there are conclusions drawn and plot points that are changed that don't jive with the character as readers think of her. If you can put that aside or if you haven't read the books the film has some charming moments, and Rosalind Russel is spry and delightful in her last film. The theme music is by Lalo Schifrin and is very stylish. Darrin McGavin plays the agent she meets in Albania and look for Harold Gould as an Albanian guard. There was another film made with the Mrs. Pollifax character in the 90's with Angela Lansbury that I've never seen. If anyone knows it or better yet, has it please get in touch.

This film can now be seen on Netflix Instant: The short above was produced to promote the film and has been uploaded to YouTube by jleepoxprod. There is no DVD or VHS of it available commercially. It has been available on in the past, but isn't there at the moment. If you're interested in it, post a request there and someone will probably answer it. If you can wait, it's occasionally aired on TCM. The poster above is available at

Obscurity factor: 9 (hard to find, no DVD, rarely screened on TV)


  1. This one is also viewable on Netflix instant streaming. I love Roz Russell and might check it out! Her 1955 musical "The Girl Rush" is also on there.

  2. Well that's news, indeed! Thank you Matt.