Monday, February 28, 2011

Actress, Pin-Up Jane Russell Passes Away

Jane Russell, the statuesque brunette who starred in films along with Marylin Monroe, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, passed away in her Santa Maria, CA home from a respiratory illness at the age of 89 on Monday.
Russell was born in Bemidji, MN in 1921 before her family moved to Southern California in the 1930s. Her breakthrough role came in 1943 in the Howard Hughes-directed The Outlaw in which she's involved in a love triangle between Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday. The Motion Picture Production Code, however, took exception to the lengths in which the film highlighted Russell's cleavage and aside from a limited release in 1943, The Outlaw wouldn't see the light of day until 1946.

However, promotional photos for the yet-to-be-released film featuring a buxom Russell on a haystack garnered her popularity as a pin-up with servicemen during WWII. Bob Hope even introduced her as 'The two and only, Jane Russell" on one of his radio broadcasts.
With the release of The Outlaw being delayed by the MPPC, the movie-going public was actually introduced to Russell in March 1946 after the release of the drama Young Widow in which she played a young journalist who's husband was killed in WWII.

Russell's best-known role was co-starring with Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the latter portion of the movie features Russell impersonating her platinum blonde co-star [h/t Althouse].
The Howard Hawks directed film was a huge critical and box office success at the time. Russell famously appeared with Monroe at Hollywood's Mann Chinese Theater where both of their handprints are still encased in cement on the sidewalk in front of the theater's entrance.
After 1957, Russell only appeared in five more motion pictures before retiring to the central California coast. She was a practicing Christian who hosted bible studies and was active with the Republican party in the 1950s, attending Dwight D Eisenhower's inauguration. Adopting three children of her own, Russell founded the World Adoption International Fund in 1955.

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