Russell found her big hollywood break in the 1940s after she appeared in Howard Hughes' 1943 western, The Outlaw, a story about Billy the Kid in which she played alongside Walter Huston and Mimi Aguglia. But Russell's fame and fortune would be launched into the stratosphere when she later appeared in 1953's hit film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Marilyn Monroe.
The notion of Russell as a pin-up model was brought about when Hughes distributed sexy publicity photos of her in conjunction with the release of The Outlaw. This not only led to delays in the release of the film while censors tried to figure out how to deal with the massive amounts of cleavage Russell displayed in the film, but it also helped the good guys win World War II as the photo of the scantily-clad Russell leaning against a haystack adorned the foot-locker of nearly every G.I. during the war. And no, the rumors about Russell wearing the specially-made cantilevered under-wire bra (the first of its kind) that Howard Hughes designed to expose more of her for the film are not true. According to her 1988 biography, Russell says she was given the bra, decided it had just a "so-so fit" and wore her own instead, with the straps hanging down. Regarding censorship of the film, Russell said in a 2010 interview that the Catholic Church was telling its flock they'd be kicked out of the church if they went to see that naughty picture.
Russell would continue to make movies throughout the '50s, including the musical, The French Line which was shot in 3D. Wow, Jane Russell in 3D. Need we say more? The movie's "money-shot" was Russell wearing a form-fitting one-piece bathing suit with strategically placed cut-outs while performing a then-considered-sexy number called Lookin' for Trouble (see video below). She made the sequel to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (without Marilyn Monroe) in 1955, and then two westerns, The Tall Men and FoxFire in 1955. Russell would go on to eventually make four more films in the '60s and even made a film, Darker Than Amber, in 1970. She would star in 25 films in all.
During her successful career in Hollywood, Russell would marry NFL quarterback Bob Waterfield who later became the Los Angeles Rams head coach and a member of the NFL Hall-of-Fame. Their 24-year marriage ended in divorce however in 1968. Russell then wed actor Roger Barrett who died a few months later, and then married real estate-broke John Calvin Peoples who died in 1999.
Little known Jane Russell fact: Due to a botched back-alley abortion, Russell was unable to have children. But that didn't stop her from "having" children however, as she and first husband Bob Waterfield adopted a baby girl, Tracy in February of 1952. In December of that same year, they adopted a fifteen-month-old boy, Thomas, and again in 1956, she and Waterfield would adopt a nine-month-old boy, Robert John. Russell would later go on to found World Adoption International Fund (WAIF) which connected childless parents with adoptable children. The organization also pioneered adoptions from foreign countries by Americans.
Despite her huge Hollywood success in the '40s and '50s, the 5'7" 38D Russell may well be best remembered by a generation of baby-boomers as the large-busted spokesperson for Playtex "Cross-Your-Heart" bras where she would show TV audiences how the undergarment would "lift and separate," giving full-figured gals both comfort and beauty. Most young boys at the time didn't pay much attention to the "comfort" part of the commercial's message, however.
Following the death of her third husband, Jane Russell devoted the remainder of her life to her church and community. She always proclaimed she'd die "in the saddle." "I'm not going to sit at home and become an old woman," Russell's daughter-in-law Etta Waterfield told The Associated Press. And from the sounds of it, that's exactly what she did.
Jane Russell died in her Malibu area home yesterday, February 28, 2011. She is survived by her children, Thomas K. Waterfield, Tracy Foundas and Robert "Buck" Waterfield, six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Until her health began to take a turn for the worse a few weeks ago, Russell was active in singing at night clubs and '40s-style revues and promotion of various causes. She quietly passed in her home in Santa Maria, California (507 Boscoe Ct. - see pic below). She was 89 years old. A service will be held to honor Russell at Pacific Christian Church in Santa Maria on March 23.
God Bless You, Jane. We'll miss you.
|Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe signing their names in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater.
And here's the smoking hot video of Jane Russell brandishing her controversial outfit in The French Line performing "Lookin' For Trouble." Such old-school glamour, Wow!
|The home where Jane Russell died, at 507 Boscoe Court, Santa Maria, CA. Thanks to Morbidly Hollywood friend John C. for sending it in.|
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