Jane Russell, Shapely Star of Hollywood Films, Dies at 89

Obituaries   Jane Russell, Shapely Star of Hollywood Films, Dies at 89
 
Jane Russell, a starlet of Hollywood westerns and musicals in the 1940s and 1950s who was as famous for her physique as she was for any of her films, died Feb. 28 at her home in Santa Maria, CA. She was 89.

Jane Russell
Jane Russell

Ms. Russell burst into vibrant tabloid life when, at 19 years of age, she was cast by Howard Hughes as the smoldering object of desire in his new western "The Outlaw." Scintillating details—such as Hughes having designed a special bra for the amply endowed Ms. Russell to wear—kept the movie in the papers. But censors objected to scenes in which they declared the actress revealed too much of her bosom. The negative publicity resulted in the 1943 film not getting a full release until 1950, but it did make Ms. Russell a star.

She remained a Hollywood creature for most of her brief career (film roles dried up by the late '50s). Few of her assignments asked more of her than to look good and show off her assets. (The troops in Korea named two embattled hills in her honor.) But the 1953 film version of the stage musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," in which she co-starred with Marilyn Monroe (Russell was by far the bigger star at the time), earned her a permanent spot in the hearts of movie musical fans.

Her hard-boiled showgirl sang "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?," "Bye Bye Baby" and "A Little Girl from Little Rock." Gwen Verdon coached both Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe in their dance and walk.

The film was a hit, and Ms. Russell called it her favorite. The studio was anxious to pair Russell and Monroe again, but the right project was never found. Ms. Russell starred with Jeanne Crain in a 1955 sequel of sorts called "Gentlemen Marry Brunettes."

Jane Russell made only one Broadway appearance, but the role was suited to her tough dame image. She succeeded Elaine Stritch as Joanne in the original production of Company, singing "The Ladies Who Lunch" every night.

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