A Tribute to Jane Russell

A Tribute to Jane Russell
Actress Jane Russell may have passed away, but her life and career was an outspoken one with monumental events. Russell's spunk and originality carved an image that has upheld not just as an icon but a role model for future generations.

Her career started with the controversial Howard Hughes film, "The Outlaw" (1943), in which Hughes required Russell to promote the film for four years while he fought in court to keep her cleavage in the film. As a result of her publicity, Jane became a popular World War II pinup for the boys overseas, with one impressive photo of her seductively posing in hay. This was only the beginning of what would bring the attention to her noticeable bustline. After "The Outlaw", Hughes decided to release another film, "The French Line" with Jane, only it would be in 3D with the cheesy tagline, "J.R. in 3-D: It’ll knock both your eyes out!" A more tame version was released to theaters, but no one cared to see it.

Over time, the public's focus shifted to Jane's skills as an actor and the personality of a good-humored person. She impressed critics and audiences with her appearance alongside funnyman Bob Hope in two films, "The Paleface" (1948) and "Son of Paleface" (1952).

During the production of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1952), Marilyn and Jane became good friends. In interviews, Jane would recall that during the times Marilyn would not come to set because of her nerves, Jane would go back stage and give her a pep talk to come out and start shooting. The exaggerated personas that Marilyn and Jane created in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" set movie screens on fire and has become a classic ever since.

One of Jane's best moments in the film is when they are at dinner and the reporter accounts Jane's cynical attitude toward him as having no taste in men and she responds with, "No, I'm a hobo collector. I may even have room for you." And it is worth noting, that of all her films, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1952) was Jane's favorite.

In the two films that Jane co-starred with Robert Mitchum, "His Kind of Woman" (1951) and "Macao" (1952) both scripts had just had enough tongue-in-cheek humor to bring balance to the actors' sizzling images. Off-set, Mitchum and Jane got along famously. He would describe her as, "An authentic original. She tells it like it is." Mitchum took to nicknaming her "Hard John" because he considered Jane to be just as tough, maybe even tougher, than a man. Both remained close friends until Mitchum's death in 1997 when Jane was the only non-family member to attend his funeral.

In 1956, after having immense difficulty in adopting her own children, Jane co-founded the World Adoption International Fund (WAIF) with fellow actresses Irene Dunne, Loretta Young and June Allyson. It is an adoption organization that helps adopt children who are older, handicapped, foreign or of a minority.

After the 1950s, Jane made an unofficial retirement from films. But she remained active in other areas of both entertainment and politics. She ran the Hollywood Christian Group and in her golden years, Jane was still lively and entertaining around California.

In her last interviews, Russell was still as vocal as ever about her opinions on anything and everything. She believed without a doubt that her friend Marilyn Monroe was murdered and spoke out for being a Pro-Life supporter after her own experience of having a back alley abortion in her twenties that left her infertile. One of her most recent proclamations was, "These days I'm a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist."

At 89, Jane Russell passed away on February 28, 2011. She is survived by her three adoptive children and she will surely be missed by classic film fans everywhere.

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