Jane Russell

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Jane Russell
Jane Russell in a promotional photo for The Outlaw.
Birth name Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell
Born Jun 21, 1921
Bemidji, Minnesota
Spouse(s) Bob Waterfield (1943-1967)
Roger Barrett (1968-1968)
John Calvin Peoples (1974-1999)
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Jane Russell (born June 21, 1921, died 28 Feb 2011) is an American actress and sex symbol.

Early life

Born Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell in Bemidji, Minnesota, she was the only daughter of Roy William Russell (January 5, 1890 – July 18, 1937) and Geraldine Jacobi (January 2, 1891 – December 26, 1986). Her four younger brothers are Thomas Ferris Russell (born April 16, 1924), Kenneth Steven Russell (born September 2, 1925), James Hyatt Russell (born February 9, 1927) and Wallace Jay Russell (born January 31, 1929).

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 former commissioned First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and her mother was a former actress with a road troupe. When Jane was a child they moved temporarily to Canada, then 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.

Jane'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.

In 1940, Russell was signed to a seven year contract by millionaire 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, Russell was kept busy doing publicity and became famous. Contrary to countless incorrect reports in the media since the release of The Outlaw, Jane 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 Jane Russell's 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 once introducing her as "the two and only Jane Russell," the photo of her on a haystack glowering with sulking beauty and youthful sensuality as her breasts push forcefully against her bodice was a popular pin-up with Service men during World War II.

Though The Outlaw was not a spectacular Western, it did well at the box-office. It appeared that Hughes was only interested in her being cast in movies that showcased her sensational figure, however, reportedly refusing an offer from Darryl Zanuck for her to play Doña Sol in Blood and Sand. She was not in another movie until 1946, when she played Joan Kenwood in Young Widow for RKO. Though her early movies did little to show her true acting abilities, they helped parlay her into a career portraying smart, often cynical, tough "broads," with a wisecracking attitude.

In 1947, Russell attempted to launch a musical career, recording a single with the Kay Kyser Orchestra, "As Long As I Live".

She went on to perform with proficiency in an assortment of roles, which includes playing Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in The Paleface (1948) on loan out to Paramount; and Mike Delroy opposite Hope in Son of Paleface (1952), again at Paramount.

In the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).Russell was at the height of her wry comedic talents with her performance as Dorothy Shaw in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) opposite Marilyn Monroe at 20th Century Fox, which is one of her most memorable roles. The film 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).

Her performances in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, opposite Jeanne Crain, and in the drama The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956) displayed her fine acting ability. But 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.

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.

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. And in November 1962, she performed in Bells Are Ringing at the Westchester Town House in Yonkers, New York.

Her next movie appearance was in Fate Is the Hunter (1964), in which she was Jane Russell performing for the USO in a flashback sequence. Unfortunately, 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."

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 in Hollywood.

Russell was portrayed by Renee Henderson in the 2001 CBS mini-series Blonde, based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates.

Personal life

Russell had three husbands, Pro Football Hall of Fame member, Robert Bob Waterfield (married April 24, 1943-divorced July 1968), actor Roger Barrett (married August 25, 1968-his death November 18, 1968) and real-estate broker John Calvin Peoples (married January 31, 1974-his death April 9, 1999). She and Peoples lived in Sedona, Arizona.

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. In her 1985 autobiography Russell revealed that she had in fact got pregnant at age 19, and had had a back alley abortion that was so badly botched she almost died. Upon inspecting her in the emergency room her doctor exclaimed "What butcher did this to you!" After that Russell was unable to conceive. Since then Jane has taken a staunch pro-life stance against abortion.

Though her screen image was that of a sex goddess, her private life lacked the sensation and scandal that followed other actresses of the time, such as Lana Turner. Although in her autobiography Jane admitted that she had survived two attempted rapes un-harmed, that her first marriage had been speckled with adultery (on both sides) and violence, and that she had been an alcoholic since she was a teenager. She also revealed that in addition to this, however, she was also born-again Christian, which was one of the things that had helped her cope.

At the height of her career, Russell started the "Hollywood Christian Group," a weekly Bible study at her home for Christians in the movie business that was attended by some of the biggest names. Russell was a prominent Republican who attended the Eisenhower inauguration, along with Lou Costello, Dick Powell, June Allyson, Anita Louise, Louella Parsons, and other conservatives.

She has appeared occasionally on the Praise The Lord program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian television network based in Costa Mesa, California.


Jane Russell, the Hollywood actress and star of 'Gentleman Prefer Blondes' has died, aged 89.

Jane Russell, the American actress who was discovered by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, has passed away at her home in California, reports BBC News. Russell was cast by Hughes in his 1943 western movie 'The Outlaw' and she went on to star alongside BOB HOPE in the 1948 movie 'The Paleface' and then with Marilyn Monroe in the acclaimed 'Gentleman Prefer Blondes'. Her daughter-in-law confirmed that she passed away at her home yesterday (28th February 2011) from a respiratory-related illness. She paid tribute to the stalwart actress, saying, "She always said I'm going to die in the saddle, I'm not going to sit at home and become an old woman. And that's exactly what she did, she died in the saddle". Despite becoming one of Hollywood's biggest stars in the 1940s and 1950s, Russell's career faded in the 1960s but she did appear in the Broadway musical 'Company' in 1971 as well as in numerous television commercials later in her career.

Jane Russell was married three times and adopted three children. After finding the process of adoption problematic, she founded the World Adoption International Agency and helped to organise the safe adoption of tens of thousands of children from overseas.

Pin-up Gallery


  • The Outlaw (1943)
  • Young Widow (1946)
  • The Paleface (1948)
  • His Kind of Woman (1951)
  • Double Dynamite (1951)
  • The Las Vegas Story (1952)
  • Macao (1952)
  • Son of Paleface (1952)
  • Montana Belle (1952)
  • Road to Bali (1952) (Cameo)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
  • The French Line (1954)
  • Underwater! (1955)
  • Foxfire (1955)
  • The Tall Men (1955)
  • Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955)
  • Hot Blood (1956)
  • The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)
  • The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)
  • Fate Is the Hunter (1964)
  • Johnny Reno (1966)
  • Waco (1966)
  • The Born Losers (1967)
  • Darker Than Amber (1970)
  • Hollywood on Fire (2007) (documentary)


External links


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