Russell who’s 38-inch bust became the bedrock on which her career was built will always be remembered for her first film, directed by Howard Hughes titled The Outlaw, made in 1941, and which was briefly shown in 1943 but caused such controversy that it was rapidly withdrawn and not widely released until 1950.
Press attention to her physical attractions meant that Russell’s acting ability never received its due. She could not play drama but she had a good sense of humour. Wiser producers than Hughes realised that fun could be had from her formidable sex appeal. In The Paleface (1948), its sequel, Son of Paleface (1952) and especially Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).
Born Ernastine Geraldine Russell on June 21 1921 at Bemidji, Minnesota, she grew up in California, graduating from Van Nuys School. Though her mother had been an actress, the young Jane did not initially entertain thoughts of a career in showbusiness, opting instead for employment as a chiropodist’s assistant. But showbiz was in the blood and in 1940, she enrolled in Max Reinhardt’s Theatrical Workshop. Later, she studied with Maria Ouspenskaya, with a litle modelling on the side.
Jane Russell was truly one of Hollywoods last remaining great dames.