May 17, 2010 Leave a comment
in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
June 21, 1921 (1921-06-21) (age 89)
Bemidji, Minnesota, U.S.
John Calvin Peoples
Jane Russell (born June 21, 1921) is an American film actress and was one of Hollywood‘s leading sex symbols in the 1940s and 1950s.
Born Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell in Bemidji, Minnesota, she was eldest child and only daughter of the five children of Roy William Russell (January 5, 1890 – July 18, 1937) and Geraldine Jacobi (January 2, 1891 – December 26, 1986).Her parents were both born in North Dakota. Three of her grandparents were born in Canada, while her paternal grandmother was born in Germany. Her parents married in 1917. Her father was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and her mother was a former actress with a road troupe. Her parents spent the early years of their marriage in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. For her birth her mother temporarily moved back to the U.S. to ensure she was born a U.S. citizen.[original research?] Later the family moved to the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. They lived in Burbank in 1930 and her father worked as an office manager at a soap manufacturing plant.Russell’s mother arranged for her to take piano lessons. In addition to music, she was interested in drama and participated in stage productions at Van Nuys High School. Her early ambition was to be a designer of some kind, until the death of her father at forty-six, when she decided to work as a receptionist after graduation. She also modeled for photographers and, at the urging of her mother, studied drama and acting with Max Reinhardt’s Theatrical Workshop and with famed Russian actress Maria Ouspenskaya.
Jane Russell with Bob Hope in 1944.
In 1940, Russell was signed to a seven-year contract by film mogul Howard Hughes and made her motion picture debut in The Outlaw (1943), a story about Billy the Kid that went to great lengths to showcase her voluptuous figure. Although the movie was completed in 1941, it was released for a limited showing two years later. There were problems with the censorship of the production code over the way her ample cleavage was displayed. When the movie was finally passed, it had a general release in 1946. During that time, she was kept busy doing publicity and became known nationally. Contrary to countless incorrect reports in the media since the release of The Outlaw, Russell did not wear the specially designed underwire bra (the first of its kind) that Howard Hughes constructed for the film. According to Jane’s 1988 autobiography, she was given the bra, decided it had a mediocre fit, and wore her own bra on the film set with the straps pulled down.Together with Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth, Russell personified the sensuously contoured sweater girl look, though her measurements of 38D-24-36 and height of 5′ 7″ were more statuesque than her contemporaries. Besides the thousands of quips from radio comedians, including Bob Hope, who once introducing her as “the two and only Jane Russell” and “Culture is the ability to describe Jane Russell without moving your hands”, the photo of her on a haystack was a popular pin-up with servicemen during World War II. She was not in another movie until 1946, when she played Joan Kenwood in Young Widow for RKO.In 1947, Russell attempted to launch a musical career. She sang with the Kay Kyser Orchestra on radio and recorded two singles with his band, “As Long As I Live” and “Boin-n-n-ng!” She also cut a 78 rpm album that year for Columbia Records, Let’s Put Out the Lights, which included eight torch ballads and cover art that included a diaphanous gown that for once put the focus more on her legs than on her breasts. In a 2009 interview for the liner notes to another CD, Fine and Dandy, Russell denounced the Columbia album as “horrible and boring to listen to.” It was reissued on CD in 2002, in a package that also included the Kyser singles and two songs she recorded for Columbia in 1949 that went unreleased at the time. In 1950, she recorded a single, “Kisses and Tears,” with Frank Sinatra and The Modernaires for Columbia.Meanwhile she performed in an assortment of movie roles, which included Calamity Jane, opposite Bob Hope in The Paleface (1948) on loan out to Paramount, and Mike “the Torch” Delroy opposite Hope in another western comedy, Son of Paleface (1952), again at Paramount.
Jane Russell as Dorothy Shaw in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).Russell was Dorothy Shaw in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) opposite Marilyn Monroe for 20th Century Fox, which was well received and showed her as a talented actress.She appeared in two movies opposite Robert Mitchum, His Kind of Woman (1951) and Macao (1952). Other co-stars include Frank Sinatra and Groucho Marx in the comedy Double Dynamite (1951); Victor Mature, Vincent Price and Hoagy Carmichael in The Las Vegas Story (1952); Jeff Chandler in Foxfire (1955); and Clark Gable and Robert Ryan in The Tall Men (1955).In Howard Hughes’ RKO production The French Line (1954), the movie’s penultimate moment showed Russell in a form-fitting one-piece bathing suit with strategic cut outs, performing a then-provocative musical number titled “Lookin’ for Trouble”. In her autobiography, Russell said that the revealing outfit was an alternative to Hughes’ original suggestion of a bikini, a very racy choice for a movie costume in 1954. Russell said that she initially wore the bikini in front of her “horrified” movie crew while “feeling very naked.”Russell and her first husband, former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield, formed Russ-Field Productions in 1955. They produced Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955), The King and Four Queens (1956) starring Clark Gable and Eleanor Parker, Run for the Sun (1956) and The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957).
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell putting signatures, hand and foot prints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, 1953She starred in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, opposite Jeanne Crain, and in the drama The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956). After making The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957), which failed at the box-office, she did not appear on the silver screen again for seven years.On the musical front, Russell formed a gospel group with Connie Haines, former vocalist in the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey orchestras, and Beryl Davis, a British emigrant who had moved to the U.S. after success entertaining American troops stationed in England during World War II. With Della Russell as a fourth voice and backed by an orchestra conducted by Lyn Murray, their Coral single “Do Lord” reached number 27 on the Billboard singles chart in May 1954. Russell, Haines and Davis followed up with an LP for Capitol Records, The Magic of Believing. According to the liner notes on this album, the group started when the women met at a church social. Later, another Hollywood bombshell, Rhonda Fleming, joined them for more gospel recordings. A collection of some of Russell’s gospel and secular recordings was issued on CD in England in 2005, and the Capitol LP was issued on CD in 2008, in a package that also included more secular recordings, including Russell’s spoken word performances of Hollywood Riding Hood and Hollywood Cinderella backed by a jazz group that featured Terry Gibbs and Tony Scott.In October 1957, she debuted in a successful solo nightclub act at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. She also fulfilled later engagements in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America and Europe. A self-titled solo LP was issued on MGM Records in 1959. It was reissued on CD in 2009 under the title Fine and Dandy, and the CD included some demo and soundtrack recordings as well. “I finally got to make a record the way I wanted to make it,” she said of the MGM album in the liner notes to the CD reissue.In the summer of 1961, she debuted with a tour of Janus in New England. In the fall of 1961, she performed in Skylark at the Drury Lane Theatre, Chicago. In November 1962, she performed in Bells Are Ringing at the Westchester Town House in Yonkers, New York.Her next movie appearance came in Fate Is the Hunter (1964), in which she was seen as herself performing for the USO in a flashback sequence. She made only four more movies after that, playing character parts in the final two.In 1971, she starred in the musical drama Company on Broadway, replacing Elaine Stritch. Russell performed the role of Joanne in the play for six months. Also in the 1970s, she started appearing in television commercials as a spokeswoman for Playtex “cross your heart bras for us full-figured gals”, featuring the “18-hour bra”.She wrote an autobiography in 1985, Jane Russell: My Path and My Detours. In 1989, she received the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award.Jane Russell’s hand and foot prints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6850 Hollywood Boulevard.Jane Russell was voted one of the 40 Most Iconic Movie Goddesses of all time in 2009 by Glamour (UK edition).
Russell was portrayed by Renee Henderson in the 2001 CBS mini-series Blonde, based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates and portrayed leaving her imprints at Grauman’s along with Marilyn Monroe in the HBO film Norma Jean & Marilyn starring Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino.
Russell in 2008Russell had three husbands: Bob Waterfield, a UCLA All American, Cleveland Rams & Los Angeles Rams Quarterback, the Los Angeles Rams Head Coach, and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, (married on April 24, 1943, then divorced in July 1968); the actor Roger Barrett (married on August 25, 1968 through his death on November 18, 1968); and the real-estate broker John Calvin Peoples (married January 31, 1974 through his death on April 9, 1999). Russell and Mr. Peoples lived in Sedona, Arizona, for a few years but they spent the majority of their married life residing in Montecito, California.In February 1952, she and Waterfield adopted a baby girl, Tracy. In December 1952, they adopted a fifteen-month-old boy, Thomas, and in 1956 she and Waterfield adopted a nine-month-old boy, Robert John. Russell herself was unable to have children and, in 1955, she founded World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), an organization to place children with adoptive families that pioneered adoptions from foreign countries by Americans.At the height of her career, Russell started the “Hollywood Christian Group,” a weekly Bible study at her home which was arranged for Christians in the film industry. Russell appeared occasionally on the Praise The Lord program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian television channel based in Costa Mesa, California.Russell was at times a prominent Republican Party member who attended Dwight Eisenhower‘s inauguration along with the notables from Hollywood, Lou Costello, Dick Powell, June Allyson, Anita Louise, and Louella Parsons.For the past several years, Russell has resided in the Santa Maria Valley along the
Central Coast of California.
Taglines used for advertising on posters or in the media for Russell’s films often made reference to her well endowed bust.
- “How’d you like to tussle with Russell?” – The Outlaw – 1943
- “Jane Russell and Frank Sinatra…What a pair!” – Double Dynamite – 1951
- “They were two of a kind!” – His Kind of Woman – 1951
- “Warm Lips…Hot Lead!” – Montana Belle – 1952
- “The Two M-M-Marvels Of Our Age In The Wonder Musical Of The World!” – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – 1953
- “J.R. in 3-D. It’ll Knock both your eyes out!” – The French Line – 1954
- “Skin Diver Action…Aqua-lung Thrills!” – Underwater! – 1955
- “They Don’t come ANY BIGGER” – The Tall Men – 1955
- “SEE ‘EM SIZZLE IN THE BIG, BUXOM, BEAUTIFUL MUSICAL!” – Gentlemen Marry Brunettes – 1955
- “Jane Russell shakes her tambourines and drives Cornel Wilde!” – Hot Blood – 1956
- “The hottest bundle ever hijacked!” The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown – 1957
- Jane Russell (1988). Jane Russell: My Path and Detours. New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 978-0517672082.
- Thomas, Bob. Jane Russell was ideal of World War II beauty, Associated Press, February 17, 2000
- Jane Russell Biography, Biography Channel UK
- Jane Russell In The Outlaw (1946)
- Jane Russell
- Moira J. Maguire. Foreign adoptions and the evolution of Irish adoption policy, 1945–52, Journal of Social History, Winter 2002
- Ryon, Ruth. Her Kind of House, Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1999
- Jane Russell: image and illusion, CBC Digital Archives, (Audio)m March 15, 1966
- Lynch, Donal. Whatever happened to Jane’s baby?, Independent.i.e., June 14, 2009.
- Bacon, James. Actress Devotes Full Time to Orphans, Associated Press, Reading Eagle, January 10, 1960
- Board of Advisors, Vanguard.org
- Chattaway, Peter T. Sex Symbol and Christ Follower, Christianity Today, March 3, 2009.
- Leigh, Wendy. Jane Russell: My friend Marilyn did not kill herself, Daily Mail, March 3, 2007
- Sheridan, Peter. The Superstar Singing for Her Supper, The Express UK, March 30, 2006
- Farrow, Ross. Hollywood legend Jane Russell to speak at women’s conference, Lodi News-Sentinel, June 25, 2004.
- Jane Russell at the Internet Movie Database
- Jane Russell at Allmovie
- Jane Russell at the TCM Movie Database
- Wood, Bret.Profile, Jane Russell, Turner Classic Movies
, TCM.com. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
- Jane Russell, A Dedicated Champion for Children, Women’s International Center, WIC.com, Retrieved March 27, 2010.
- Jane Russell (1921–), Virtual Film History, Retrieved March 27, 2010.