JANE RUSSELL Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Jane Russell                                                                         
Birth name: Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell                                               
Born: 21 June 1921 Bemidji, Minnesota                                                       
Jane Russell (born June 21, 1921) is an American actress and sex symbol.                   
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.                                                                               
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.