Set As Your Home Page

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The siren with the TWO greatest assets in Tinseltown: Behind the sex-goddess image of Jane Russell was a very different woman

Cinemimi[Thursday, March 03, 2011]
The first sight moviegoers had of the devastating Jane Russell was the most celebrated cinematic roll in the hay of all time.
Russell, who died on Monday at the age of 89, was lying on a pile of straw, one hand up against her cloud of raven hair, her low-cut dress pulled off one shoulder so that it was stretched tight across her voluptuous breasts. Her other hand held a pistol.
‘Mean! Moody! Magnificent!’ screamed the publicity for her long-delayed and heavily-censored Hollywood debut in The Outlaw. ‘How’d you like to tussle with Russell?’ teased another of the ads.

Making of an icon: The first sight moviegoers had of the devastating Jane Russell was the most celebrated cinematic roll in the hay of all time in The Outlaw

This was the image that pursued her throughout her film career, aided and abetted by those daunting 38-inch vital assets, which were immortalised when her favourite co-star Bob Hope, his brown eyes twinkling wickedly, once introduced her as ‘the two and only Miss Russell’.
Hope later cracked: ‘Culture is the ability to describe Jane Russell without moving your hands.’
And her Svengali, Howard Hughes, said: ‘There are two good reasons why men go to see her. Those are enough.’
In reality, there was nothing mean or moody about her. In private, she was caustic about her movie image and publicity, but accepted it with a good-natured shrug.

‘Publicity,’ she observed, ‘can be terrible. But only if you don’t have any.’
The irony was that her public image as a sassy sex symbol was belied in real life by Right-wing Christian beliefs and staunch affiliation to the Republican Party.
The statuesque broad who sashayed across the screen, with a warmly inviting smile on her lips, displaying her long legs in the most daringly abbreviated costumes, had a rather tragic private life.
A botched backstreet abortion in her youth prevented her from having children of her own, a matter of lifelong regret.
Surprise hit: In 1953 Russell paired with Marilyn Monroe in her biggest hit, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She and Monroe teamed up to sing Two Little Girls From Little Rock and seek romance in Paris


Two of her three marriages ended in divorce. Her second husband died three months after their wedding.
For years she fought a desperate battle against alcoholism, and finally went to jail for drink-driving.
Yet the legend created on screen in her sultry Forties heyday prevails.
A great actress she was not, though she was far more talented than critics allowed.
None of her 24 films has become a major classic. But in 2009, she was voted one of the 40 most iconic movie goddesses of all time, and for most people she is up there with Jean Harlow, Mae West, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe as one of the six top sex symbols in cinema history.
Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell was born on June 21, 1921, in Bemidji, Minnesota, the daughter of a U.S. Army lieutenant and his wife, a small-part touring actress.
Jane began her working life as a chiropodist’s assistant, and did occasional modelling.

Problems: At the start of her career, she found herself pregnant at 18 by her high school sweetheart, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield, who later became her first husband in 1943


In 1940, at the age of 19, she enrolled in Max Reinhardt’s Theatrical Workshop and then studied with the great Russian actress Maria Ouspenskaya.
Meanwhile, the eccentric aircraft billionaire Howard Hughes, who had a well-known fetish for women’s breasts, had seen Russell’s modelling photos and wanted her for a Western about Billy the Kid he was producing and directing.
Filming began in 1941, and took nine months with numerous retakes.
The publicity, masterminded by Hughes, concentrated on Russell’s mammary attractions.
‘Howard invented a bra for me,’ said Russell. ‘Or he tried to. It was like one of the seamless ones they have now. But I never wore it in The Outlaw, and he never knew. He wasn’t going to take my clothes off to check if I had it on. I just told him I did.’

The film opened but closed abruptly after the censors withdrew its seal of approval, claiming that the concentration on Russell’s cleavage breached public morality.
Prolonged litigation followed, with one judge observing that Russell’s bosom ‘hung over the picture like a thunderstorm over a landscape’.
It was not until 1946 that it was shown again, but by that time the publicity had established Russell in the public consciousness.
Her second film, The Young Widow, confirmed the view among cynics that she couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag, but this was reversed by her performance in the spoof Western, The Paleface, in which Russell proved to be an excellent foil to her co-star Bob Hope, and revealed an assured talent as a wisecracking comedienne.
She also worked well with Robert Mitchum in His Kind Of Woman, and opposite Frank Sinatra in Double Dynamite.
In 1953, when she appeared with the young and rapidly-rising Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Russell hit the peak of her career and received rave reviews.
Not only did she photograph sensationally well, with legs that seemed to go on for ever, but her singing voice proved a revelation.
Her salary for Blondes was $400,000, as against Monroe’s $15,000.

Russell got first billing and also the best dressing-room, but she was sympathetic to Monroe, whom she recognised as a girl with problems.
‘I felt sorry for her,’ she said later. ‘The trouble was that she’d been everyone’s girlfriend at some point, so she was accorded no real respect by Twentieth Century Fox.’
Russell had problems of her own to face. At the start of her career, she found herself pregnant at 18 by her high school sweetheart, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield, who later became her first husband in 1943.

Fate: Jane began her working life as a chiropodist’s assistant, and did occasional modelling


As she was not married, Russell went to a back-street quack. ‘I had a botched abortion and it was terrible. Afterwards my own doctor said: “What butcher did this to you?” I had to be taken to hospital. I was so ill I nearly died.’
The abortion left her unable to bear children. During her 25-year marriage to Waterfield, which she described as ‘tempestuous’, the couple adopted a baby girl, Tracy, and a British boy and then another boy.
In 1955, Russell helped to found the World Adoption International Fund, an organisation to place children with adoptive families and which pioneered adoptions from foreign countries by Americans.
For the rest of her life, she held to the belief that abortion was wrong in any circumstances — including even rape or incest.
A born-again Christian, long before that term was in general use, she formed the Hollywood Christian Group for weekly Bible study at her home, attended by many of the leading names in the film industry.
She also joined a singing group to record gospel songs, one of which made it into the charts.
Her marriage to Waterfield ended in divorce in 1968, and in that same year she married the minor stage actor Roger Barrett, but he died three months after the wedding.

Behind the scenes: Jane was been battling alcoholism for a number of years, and in 1978, there were worldwide headlines when she was arrested for drink-driving and jailed for 96 hours
Her third husband, to whom she was married for 25 years, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, died in 1999.
Russell had her last major screen role in Darker Than Amber in 1970, when she was pushing 50.
Always searingly honest about herself - one of her most endearing qualities - she said when asked why she no longer made movies: ‘Because I got too old.’

In 1971, she made her Broadway stage debut in the Stephen Sondheim musical Company, and later in the decade appeared in TV commercials for Playtex Cross-Your-Heart Bras, with the catchphrase, ‘For us full-figured gals’.
Behind the scenes, however, she had been battling alcoholism for a number of years, and in 1978, there were worldwide headlines when she was arrested for drink-driving and jailed for 96 hours.
After that, she swore off alcohol, describing herself as ‘a teetotal mean-spirited Right-wing conservative Christian bigot’.
Asked what she thought of Hollywood liberals such as George Clooney, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, she replied: ‘I think they’re not well.’

Friendly: Jane said she felt sorry for Marilyn, who she claims wasn't treated with respect by the film companies

After the death of her third husband, she moved to Santa Maria, California, to be close to her younger son.
She was visited there in 2004 by Leonardo DiCaprio, who was filming The Aviator and wanted her to tell him what his character, Howard Hughes, was really like.
In 2006, at the age of 84, though suffering from macular degeneration of the eyes and with hearing aids in both ears, Russell put together a musical show, The Swinging Forties, which played twice a month at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria.
It featured herself and about a dozen of the town’s residents, including a choir director and a retired police officer.
Asked why she did it, Russell said: ‘Out of boredom, and because there was nothing much going on in town for the older folks to do.’
A star in Jane Russell’s honour is part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
But it isn’t necessary to look at it to remember the spirit of the gutsy, classy woman who was one of Tinsel Town’s last-surviving diamond-bright dames.

0 comments:

Feature Posts

 
Photography Templates | Slideshow Software