Jane Russell

Active - 1943 - 2009  |   Born - Jun 21, 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota, United States  |   Died - Feb 28, 2011   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Musical, Romance, Western

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Voluptuous sex symbol and star of Hollywood films, TV, and nightclubs, Jane Russell was the daughter of an actress. She worked as a receptionist and model, and studied theater at Max Reinhardt's Theatrical Workshop and with Maria Ouspenskaya. Endowed with a large bust, she won the lead role in Howard Hughes's The Outlaw (1941) after Hughes conducted a nationwide search for a curvaceous actress, eventually finding her working in his dentist's office. The film caused a storm of controversy due primarily to the amount of cleavage shown by Russell onscreen, and, after brief releases in 1941 and 1943, it was not officially released until 1950. The controversy brought her much publicity, often in the form of off-color, sophomoric jokes. However, she surpassed her mindless "bombshell" image and went on to perform with versatility in a number of films during the subsequent three decades, including comedies with Bob Hope and musicals with Marilyn Monroe. She often played cynical, "tough broads," and starred in the Broadway musical Company in 1971. TV viewers may also remember her for a series of bra commercials during the '70s.

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Factsheet

  • Billionaire filmmaker Howard Hughes, impressed with her physical assets, signed her to a seven-year film deal in 1940. Her debut, filmed in 1941 but first screened in 1943, was The Outlaw
  • Most memorable role was in the 1953 musical-comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with costar Marilyn Monroe.
  • Unable to conceive children after a botched abortion as a teenager and having run into problems trying to adopt foreign-born children, she founded the World Adoption International Fund in 1968.
  • Appeared on Broadway for six months in 1971, replacing Elaine Stritch in Stephen Sondheim's Company.
  • Became the spokesperson for the Playtex Cross Your Heart bra in the 1970s.
  • Her 1985 autobiography, My Paths and Detours, divulged episodes of infidelity that doomed her first marriage and led to battles with alcohol.