Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
“They held up The Outlaw (1943) for five years. And Howard Hughes had me doing publicity for it every day, five days a week for five years.” Jane Russell
Voluptuous sex symbol and star of Hollywood movies, TV, and nightclubs, Jane Russell won a starring role in her first film, The Outlaw (1943), mainly because of a large bust. The Howard Hughes-directed created a storm of controversy and was a success at the box office. Russell gained much publicity from the hullabaloo. She later was able to flee from her mindless “bombshell” image and continued to perform with versatility in numerous movies during the next three decades, most notably as Calamity Jane on The Paleface (1948), Son of Paleface (1952), Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955) and The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956). However, Russell is probably best known for portraying Dorothy Shaw on the blockbuster hit Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), opposite Marilyn Monroe. After making her last film, Darker Than Amber (1970), Russell starred on her first Broadway play, “Company.” Prior to that performance, she had acted in several plays, including “Janus,” “Skylark” and “Bells Are Ringing.”
Russell has been inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution in the cinematic industry. Additionally, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement from the 2001 Marco Island Film Festival and a 1991 Berlinale Camera at the Berlin International Film Festival.
“People should never, ever have an abortion. Don’t talk to me about it being a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. The choice is between life and death.” Jane Russell
Russell is now a campaigner for kids. In 1955, the adoptive mother of three, Russell, founded World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), an organization to place children with adoptive families that initiated adoptions from overseas countries by Americans. She also has actively fought against abortion. On her autobiography, she disclosed that she had in fact got pregnant when she was 19, and had undergone a back alley abortion that caused her nearly died.
As for her married life, Russell has been married three times. She married first husband Robert Bob Waterfield from 1943 to 1967 and adopted three kids with him. She next married second husband Roger Barrett in 1968, but he unexpectedly died a few months later. In 1974, she tied the knot with John Calvin Peoples and remained with him until his death in 1999.
Childhood and Family:
Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell, who would alter be popular as Jane Russell, was born on June 21, 1921, in Bemidji, Minnesota, to Roy William Russell, a US Army lieutenant, and Geraldine Jacobi, an actress with a traveling troupe. When her father retired, young Jane and her family resided in Canada, but later moved back to the United States and settled in Burbank in 1930, after her father found employment as an office manager at a soap manufacturing plant. She has four younger brothers: Thomas Ferris Russell (born on April 16, 1924), Kenneth Steven Russell (born on September 2, 1925), James Hyatt Russell (born on February 9, 1927) and Wallace Jay Russell (born on January 31, 1929).
The only girl of five, Jane was a tomboy as a young girl. She took piano lessons and later acted in stage production at Van Nuys High School. An aspiring designer, she was forced to damp her dream following the death of her father and then found herself working as a receptionist to support her family. She also modeled and, at the advice of her mother, studied drama and acting at Max Reinhardt’s Theatrical Workshop in Los Angeles. She also trained with famous Russian actress Maria Ouspenskaya.
Jane married Pro Football Hall of Fame member Robert Bob Waterfield on April 24, 1943 until February 2, 1967. The couple adopted three children, Tracy, Thomas and Robert John. Next, she tied the knot with actor Roger Barrett on August 25, 1968 and stayed with him until his death, three months later. Jane was married to her third husband, real-estate broker John Calvin Peoples, on January 30, 1974. He passed away in April 1999 with Jane was by his side.
My Path and My Detours
A receptionist, Jane Russell modeled on the side to support her family after the death of her father. Thanks to her figure, she was very much preferred, and in 1940, finally scored a 7-year contract with millionaire Howard Hughes. Shortly thereafter, Russell worked on the director’s production, The Outlaw (1943), a western about Billy the Kid (played by Jack Buetel). The movie was completed in 1941, but it was not released until two years later and then only on a limited showing because of its way of exploiting Russell’s assets. The film ultimately could pass the censorship board and received general release in 1946. The Outlaw was a blockbuster hit. Meanwhile, photos of Russell lolling in a haystack made the sexy girl a popular pin-up especially among Service men during World War II.
Russell did not make another movie until 1946’s Young Widow, where she was cast in the starring role of Joan Kenwood. A trained musician, she tried to branch out when her movie career floundered. She received good reviews for her singing performances at the Latin Quarter Club in Miami Beach and on Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Fun and Knowledge musical program. The next year, she even recorded the single “As Long As I Live” with the Kay Kyser Orchestra. In 1948, Russell rebounded and proved she was more than a pretty face with her role as the culprit Calamity Jane on Paramount’s The Paleface, opposite Bob Hope.
However, Russell’s subsequent films, His Kind of Woman (1951) and The Las Vegas Story (1952), did nothing to further display her true acting talents. In 1952, she rejoined Bop Hope for the comedy Son of Paleface, where she also performed the Academy Award winner “Buttons and Bows.” Russell’s biggest victory arrived in the following year when she was handed a starring role opposite Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), for director Howard Hawks. As Dorothy Shaw, she demonstrated her comedic side very well and received excellent reviews for her effort. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was well received and regarded as Russell’s biggest box office success.
Next, Russell could be seen in such movies as Howard Hughes’ RKO production The French Line (1954), Foxfire (1955) with Jeff Chandler, and the western The Tall Men (1955) opposite Clark Gable and Robert Ryan. She offered fine acting opposite Jeanne Crain in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955) and in the drama The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956), as Mamie Stover. It was in the mid-1950s that Russell and her first husband, Bob Waterfield, formed a production company called Russ-Field Productions. The studio’s productions include The King and Four Queens (1956), Run for the Sun (1956) and The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957), an unsuccessful comedy that starred Russell as Laurel Stevens.
After The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, Russell took long-term hiatus from film acting and returned to nightclub performing. Led by her triumphant solo nightclub act at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, she was invited to perform in Canada, South America, Europe and Mexico, among others. She also acted in summer stock and regional theater in such plays as “Janus” (1961) in New England, “Skylark” (1961) at the Drury Lane Theatre in Chicago, and “Bells Are Ringing” (1962) in Yonkers, New York at the Westchester Town House.
Russell resurfaced on the silver screen in 1964 with a role as herself in Fate is the Hunter. She followed it up with performances in Johnny Reno (1966), Waco (1966) and The Born Losers (1967). She made her last film performance to date as Alabama Tigress in 1970’s Darker Than Amber, an indie-mystery helmed by Robert Clouse. The following year saw her debut on Broadway with a leading role in the musical drama “Company,” replacing Elaine Stritch. She played the role of Joanne in the play for six months. Still in the 1970s, she also could be found starting appearing in television commercials as a spokeswoman for the Playtex “Cross Your Heart” bra. Later, in the early to mid-1980s, she portrayed Rose Hollister on three episodes of the primetime TV drama “The Yellow Rose” (1983-1984) and Ava Fontaine on an episode of “Hunter” (1986).
Currently, Russell is known as an advocate for children. She is active in WAIF, the charity she co-founded in 1955 for placement of homeless kids. She has published an autobiography in 1985 titled “Jane Russell: My Path and My Detours.”
“These days I am a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist.” Jane Russell
- Marco Island Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement, 2001
- Berlin International Film Festival: Berlinale Camera, 1991
- Golden Boot: 1984
- Golden Apple: Most Cooperative Actress, 1955