Actress Jane Russell Dies

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    default Actress Jane Russell Dies

    Post by Tony Marino on Tue Mar 01, 2011 10:29 am

    LOS ANGELES — Jane Russell, the busty brunette who
    shot to fame as the sexy star of Howard Hughes’ 1941 Western “The
    Outlaw,” died Monday of respiratory failure, her family said. She was

    Although Ms. Russell made only a handful of films
    after the 1960s, she had remained active in her church, with charitable
    organizations and with a local singing group until her health began to
    decline just a couple of weeks ago, said her daughter-in-law Etta
    Waterfield. She died at her home in Santa Maria.

    “She always said I’m going to die in the saddle,
    I’m not going to sit at home and become an old woman,” Waterfield said.
    “And that’s exactly what she did, she died in the saddle.”

    Hughes, the eccentric billionaire, put her onto the
    path to stardom when he cast her in “The Outlaw,” a film he fought with
    censors for nearly a decade to get into wide release.

    With her sultry look and glowing sexuality, Ms.
    Russell became a star before she was ever seen by a wide movie audience.
    The Hughes publicity mill ground out photos of the beauty in low-cut
    costumes and swimsuits, and she became famous, especially as a pinup for
    World War II GIs.

    For many years she served as TV spokeswoman for Playtex bras.

    During the postwar years she became a box-office star by starring with Bob Hope in the 1948 hit comedy-Western “The Paleface.”

    Although her look and her hourglass figure made her
    the subject of nightclub jokes, unlike Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth
    and other pinup queens, Ms. Russell was untouched by scandal in her
    personal life. During her Hollywood career she was married to star UCLA
    and pro football quarterback Bob Waterfield.

    “The Outlaw,” although it established her
    reputation, was beset with trouble. Director Howard Hawks rankled under
    producer Hughes’ suggestions and finally walked out.

    Hughes bought the ailing RKO studio in 1948, and
    he devoted special care to his No. 1 star, using his engineering skills
    to design Ms. Russell a special brassiere (she said she never wore it.)
    That year she made her most successful film, a loanout to Paramount for
    “The Paleface.”

    But at RKO she was cast in a series of potboilers
    such as “His Kind of Woman,” “Double Dynamite,” “The Las Vegas Story”
    and “Macao.”

    Hughes had rewarded her with a 20-year contract
    paying $1,000 a week, then sold RKO and quit making movies. Ms. Russell
    never made another film for Hughes.

    Her only other notable film was “Gentlemen Prefer
    Blondes,” a 1953 musical. She and Monroe teamed up to sing “Two Little
    Girls From Little Rock” and seek romance in Paris.

    She followed that up with the 1954 musical “The
    French Line,” which was shot in 3-D, and the promotional campaign for it
    proclaimed “J.R. in 3D. Need we say more?”

    In 1955, she made the sequel “Gentlemen Marry
    Brunettes” and starred in the Westerns “The Tall Men” and “Foxfire.” But
    by the 1960s, her film career had faded.

    She continued to appear in nightclubs, television
    and musical theater, including a stint on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim’s
    “Company.” She formed a singing group with Connie Haines and Beryl
    Davis, and they made records of gospel songs.

    She was born Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell on
    June 21, 1921, in Bemidji, Minn., and the family moved to the Los
    Angeles area.

    Despite her mother’s Christian preachings, young
    Jane had a wild side. She wrote in her 1985 autobiography, My Paths and
    Detours, that during high school she had a back-alley abortion, which
    may have rendered her unable to bear children.

    While working as a receptionist, she was spotted
    by a movie agent who submitted her photos to Hughes, and she was
    summoned for a test with Hawks, who was to direct “The Outlaw.”

    Hughes was famous for dating his discoveries and
    Hollywood actresses, but his contract with Russell remained strictly
    business. Her engagement and 1943 marriage to Waterfield assured that.

    After experiencing problems in adopting her three
    children, she founded World Adoption International Agency, which has
    helped facilitate adoptions of more than 50,000 children from overseas.

    Russell’s life was marked by heartache. Her
    24-year marriage to Waterfield ended in bitter divorce in 1968. That
    year she married actor Roger Barrett; three months later he died of a
    heart attack. In 1978 she married developer John Peoples, and they lived
    in Sedona, Ariz., and later, Santa Barbara. He died in 1999 of heart

    Over the years Russell was also beset by alcoholism.

    “Without faith, I never would have made it,” she commented a few months after her third husband’s death.

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