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celebrity news

Jane Russell brought glam to the party

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Monday, February 28, 2011

It may have been her curvaceous looks that brought Jane Russell to the attention of audiences but it was her devilish charm that kept her in their minds. A siren of the screen in the 1940s and 50s, the dark brunette Russell captivated mens' minds and commanded their eyes as she pushed the envelope for what was considered going too far with on-screen sexuality. And while her curves and come-hither eyes certainly helped play a substantial part in presenting that temptress image, it was also in the way that Russell chose to use her good looks in her acting that made her a lasting presence on the screen.

Her first role was in 1943's The Outlaw, and the fact that it's her languid reclining pose against a mound of hay, pistol in hand, that serves as the poster artwork for the movie shows clearly that the film's producers knew exactly what they were marketing in their western picture. One of those producers was industrialist Howard Hughes. When Hughes set about casting his picture, he knew that he wanted a new face that would capture the attention of both men and women, and for different reasons. He found Russell working as a receptionist and immediately cast her in the movie's lead female role. Already a legend for his engineering prowess, Hughes used the media to his advantage by telling the press that he had created a special "cantilevered" bra to accentuate the already busty actress. When Russell tried on Hughes' bra she found it next to impossible to wear for any sort of duration, and so she opted to use her own undergarment when filming her scenes. By the time the picture was released, the urban legend of Russell's specialty bra had caught on with the public's imagination and proved to be next to impossible to let go.

It was at the beginning of the 50s when Russell's film career went into superstardom. She starred in a comedy with Groucho Marx, Double Dynamite, and it showed that she could also use her abilities to deliver effective comedic timing. That set the stage for what remains Russell's most famous role opposite Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, perhaps the ultimate sexpot team-up of all-time for Hollywood. In the hands of legendary film director Howard Hawks, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes became a huge hit, and it truly turned both Monroe and Russell into massive stars. Russell used the success to cash in two years later with a sequel-in-title only follow-up called Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, but it didn't capture the same lightning as the earlier film.

But just as Russell had made it big, her star rapidly dimmed. While still a few years shy of turning 40, Russell found herself relegated to parts on television shows. In later years she commented that the work dried up because Hollywood considered any actress over 30 to be too old to play sexy bombshells, a disturbing mechanism of show business that still happens today.

However, she was able to capitalize on the memories that her fans still had of her. In the 1970s she plugged a line of bras that helped beef up her bank accounts as women recalled that infamous bra Howard Hughes built for her, as well as that unforgettable figure that they wanted for themselves.

Today, at the age of 89, Jane Russell passed away in her Californian home, survived by her three adopted children, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Married three times, she founded the World Adoption International Fund, a global organization that helps make it easier for would-be parents to find children to adopt from countries around the world. Tens of thousands of loving parents have Jane Russell, Hollywood bombshell, to thank for their new family members.

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