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Jane Russell BiographyErnestine Jane Geraldine Russell was born on June 21, 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her father was an US Army lieutenant and her mother had been a student of drama and an actress with a traveling troupe. Once Mr. Russell was mustered out of the service, the family took up residence in Canada, but moved to California when he found employment there. The family was well-to-do and although Jane was the only girl among four brothers, her mother saw to it that she took piano lessons. In addition to music, Jane was interested in drama much as her mother had been and participated in high school stage productions. Upon graduation, Jane took a job as a receptionist for a doctor who specialized in foot disorders. Although she had originally planned on being a designer, her father died and she had to go to work to help the family. Jane modeled on the side and was very much sought-after especially because of her figure.
She managed to save enough money to go to drama school, with the urging of her mother. She was ultimately signed by Howard Hughes for his production of The Outlaw in 1941, the film that was to make Jane famous. The film wasn't a classic by any means, but was geared to show off Jane's ample physical assets. Although the film was made in 1941, it wasn't released until two years later and then only on a limited basis due to the way the film portrayed Jane's assets. It was hard for the flick to pass the censorship board. Finally, the film gained general release in 1946. The film was a smash at the box-office.
Jane didn't make another film until 1946 when she played Joan Kenwood in Young Widow. She had signed a seven year contract with Hughes and it seemed the only films he would put her in were those that displayed Jane in a very flattering light due to her body. Films such as 1951's His Kind of Woman and The Las Vegas Story did nothing to showcase her true acting abilities. Probably the pinnacle of her career was in 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as Dorothy Shaw, with Marilyn Monroe. This film showed Jane's comedic side very well. Jane did continue to make films throughout the 1950s, but the films were at times not up to par, particularly with Jane's talents being wasted in forgettable movies in order to show off her sexy side. Films such as Gentlemen Marry Brunettes and The Revolt of Mamie Stover did do Jane justice and were able to show exactly the fine actress she was.
After The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (a flop) in 1957, Jane took a hiatus from films, to dabble a bit in television, returning in 1964 to film Fate Is the Hunter. Unfortunately, the roles were not there anymore as Jane appeared in only four pictures during the entire decade of the sixties. Her last film of the decade was 1967's The Born Losers. After three more years away from the big screen, she returned to make one last film called Darker Than Amber in 1970. Her last play before the public was in the 1970s when Jane was a spokesperson for Playtex bras. Had Jane not been wasted during the Hughes years, she could have been a bigger actress than what she was allowed to show.
SalaryGentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953): $400,000
The Outlaw (1943): $50 a week
TriviaReceived the Women's International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award in 1989. Discovered by Howard Hughes working as a receptionist for his dentist. In the early 1950s, made a television commercial for Lustre Creme's shampoo campaign. She and husband Bob Waterfield adopted a 15-month-old British boy, Tommy Kavanaugh, in December of 1952. Through her organization, World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), Russell has placed 51,000 children with adoptive families. On 2 February 1967, Russell filed for divorce from Bob Waterfield; it was granted in July 1968. In 1955 she and husband Bob Waterfield formed Russ-Field Productions. Under this banner, they made Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955), The King and Four Queens (1956), Run for the Sun (1956), and The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957). Married John Calvin Peoples in a "kaftan" ceremony in Santa Barbara, California. Unable to bear children, Russell championed the passage of the Federal Orphan Adoption Amendment of 1953, which allowed children of American servicemen born overseas to be placed for adoption in the United States. Howard Hughes is reported to have said of her stardom, "There are two good reasons why men go to see her. Those are enough." (Source: quoted in the book "The Humour of Sex" by Robert Hale.) Is portrayed by Marla Carlis in The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977) (TV), by Renee Henderson in Blonde (2001) (TV), and by Erika Nann in Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996) (TV). Leonardo DiCaprio visited Jane while filming The Aviator (2004) in order to find up close and personal what Howard Hughes was really like. The troops in Korea named two embattled hills in her honor. Has macular degeneration and wears hearing aids in both ears. In the late 1930s she was a member of Max Reinhardt's Theatrical Workshop and attended Maria Ouspenskaya's Drama School for six months. Profiled in "Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames" bu Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner (McFarland, 2004). A longtime pro-life activist, she opposes the use of abortion in any circumstance including rape or incest. Has been a vocal supporter of the Iraq war since its beginning in March 2003. In 1942, Jane had an affair with actor John Payne. The affair is detailed in her 1986 autobiography, "My Path and My Detours". The affair ended when Jane realized that she was still in love with her high school sweetheart, football player Bob Waterfield, whom she married in April of 1943 (they divorced in 1967).
Source provided by imdb (Copyright) - The Internet Movie Database.