Jane Russell: Real Beauty Without The Plastic
The late Jane Russell embodied sexiness. Get this: she achieved sex symbol status with the hips, the lips, the thighs, and the breasts her momma gave her. She was a tall (5 feet, 7 inches), voluptuous size 16 (38-24-36) and was the dream of men and boys during the 1940s and 1950s. Even in the 1970s, she championed the cause of full-figured women with her appearance in the Playtex “Cross-Your-Heart Bra” ads. So, why is Russell, who died Feb. 28, 2011, at 89 on a website filled with women who have doctored bodies? To prove a point that Russell and other sex symbols from her era, like Marilyn Monroe, achieved everything that today’s plastic, silicone injected Barbie dolls want, except Jane didn’t pay a visit to a high-priced plastic surgeon. Judging by some of the women who have had a cosmetic procedure, they come out looking worse than they did before going under the knife. Ms. Russell set an example of what true beauty is all about.
Hollywood icon Jane Russell passed away yesterday, in her Santa Maria home. The cause of death was “respiratory-related illness”. She was 89 years old. My favorite Jane Russell film is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, just because it’s actually quite hilarious today – it’s not as dated as you would expect, although Jane does have a scene where she’s surrounded by scantily-clad men at the gym, and she breaks into song and… well, that part is a little cheesy. But it’s totally worth watching! Jane’s complete filmography is here, in case you want to Netflix some of her old movies.
ery sad news out of Hollywood. Movie bombshell Jane Russell has died at age 89. I had the opportunity to meet Jane Russell many times and she was usually very nice to fans. I will never forget an autograph hound trying to get Jane Russell’s attention once and in a very small space, she yelled out, That became a source of smiles amongst my family for years! Jane was gorgeous throughout her life, proving that plastic surgery is not needed to grow old beautifully. After decades of being a sex symbol, Jane Russell became a very conservative Republican endorsing the Iraq War, speaking out against abortion (even in cases of rape and incest) and even crusaded to get the Bible “back in school.” Weird how that happens! At any rate, a legend has been lost.
Jane Russell is the last of the living Hollywood legends, a sultry ravenhaired temptress who costarred with Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, whose impressive embonpoint launched a thousand quips and who once inspired Bob Hope to introduce her as "The two and only Jane Russell".
When billionaire film-maker Howard Hughes designed a sensationally revealing bra for Jane to wear under a sweater in his movie The Outlaw, he sent shock waves around the world and the film was banned for many years.
The only surviving copy of The Outlaw poster - which depicts Jane lounging in a haystack, her skirt hitched up to her thighs, a gun in her hand and a provocative expression in her eyes - sold a few years ago for a record-breaking £52,000.
Yet when that iconic image was shot 64 years ago, it was inspired by Hughes's hot-blooded sexual fantasies about Jane but had very little to do with the real flesh and blood Jane Russell.
For although she was pregnant at 18, had a botched abortion, three husbands and a lifelong battle with alcohol, Jane - a born-again Christian who regularly peppers her conversation with talk of Jesus - has always been a housewife and a mother, never had much to do with Hollywood and certainly did not want to be the object of countless men's unbridled lust.
She was born Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell in Minnesota, 1,500 miles from Hollywood - a tomboy brought up with four rumbustious brothers.
Howard Hughes was transfixed by her 38D chest
She was working as a dental receptionist when her patient Howard Hughes - transfixed by her 38D chest - offered her a movie contract.
Jane signed a seven-year deal with Hughes, but on a personal level she was not in the least bit beguiled by him. When he lured her into a bedroom and grabbed her, she snarled: "No funny business, Howard, I'm a married lady," leaving him speechless.
Today, she may be 86, with her fabled topaz eyes dimmed by macular degeneration, and suffering from deafness, but she's lost none of her steely will.
At 5ft 7in, her posture remains startlingly erect, her voice is deep and authoritative, and when you ask her a question which displeases her, she raps: "I haven't finished my sentence yet."
When we meet for lunch in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, legendary haunt of Hollywood's elite, she cuts a striking figure in a black, pink and gold trouser suit, and a bangle that says 'Make Me Like Jesus'.
When I ask if she has any memories of the Polo Lounge, she shrugs her shoulders. "I'm a valley girl. Instead of going to an acting coach every night after we finished shooting, I'd go home and have dinner with my family."
She credits her marriages with helping her avoid the fate of many a screen siren - fragile butterflies broken by Hollywood's relentless demands.
"I was born to be married. A family life helps everything, and also my belief in Jesus," she says.
Although she and Marilyn Monroe made Gentlemen Prefer Blondes together - and were well-matched, particularly during their duet, Two Little Girls From Little Rock - their ultimate fates turned out to be dramatically different.
Despite their differences, she warmed to Monroe.
"Marilyn's first husband, Jim, went to high school with me. One day he came by and said: 'I want you to meet my wife'."
It was Marilyn. "She was a pretty girl, and later on I discovered that she was shy and sensitive," she remembers.
"When we made Gentlemen Prefer Blondes together and I discovered that she was nervous about going on set, I finally went to her dressing room and said: 'All right, baby, come on set with me now, we've only got a few minutes.' And she said: 'Ooh'." She copies Marilyn's blonde breathlessness to perfection, but there is no malice in her mimicry.
"I remember there was this actor, Tommy Noonan, who had to do a kissing scene with her, and afterwards some guy asked: 'You've just kissed Marilyn Monroe. What was it like?' And Tommy replied: 'It was like being swallowed alive.' Marilyn overheard that and ran crying to her dressing room. I grew up with boys, so boys didn't bother me. I knew all about them. I don't think Marilyn did.
"But she wasn't a dumb blonde.
'Marilyn was planning to marry again'
"Right before she died, she was planning to marry Joe DiMaggio, her second husband, again, and she had a new movie contract. So I don't think she killed herself.
"Someone did it for her. There were dirty tricks somewhere."
I suggest that Jack and Bobby Kennedy - both Marilyn's lovers - may have been involved, and Jane nods darkly.
"Soon after Marilyn died, I met Bobby Kennedy and he looked at me as if to say: 'I am your enemy'."
Jane, however, remained undeterred, and you sense that fear isn't a part of her make-up.
Although she is guarded about her own love life - denying that she and Hughes were ever lovers, freezing when I ask her about her one-time co-star, Frank Sinatra - she doesn't clam up when I ask her about Liza Minnelli and David Gest.
As a friend of the Hollywood impresario and the tragedyprone Liza, she attended their opulent 2002 wedding, but sided with David after their acrimonious divorce.
"David thinks I'm his other mother," she says proudly.
"He is very giving, and I think someone was talking to Liza and saying 'He's using you', which was a bunch of crap."
Although one can't quite imagine the independent Jane Russell sitting on any man's lap - now or years ago - she still misses having a man in her life. Her third husband, John Peoples, who worked in real estate, died in 1999, after he and Jane had been married for 25 years.
After he died, she turned to drink for solace. "I got so trashed that they hauled me into hospital," she says. "I woke up on my birthday and my family were sitting around my bed.
"They said I was to go into rehab, and that if I would stay there for 30 days, the Lord would stay with me, but if I left, he would not."
She was 79 years old when she went into rehab, and since her stay there, hasn't been tempted to drink again. Today, she sips iced tea, and thinks back on the other great tragedy of her life, the death of her second husband, actor Roger Barrett.
Just three months after their wedding in August 1968, he dropped dead of a heart attack.
It was, quite simply, the worst moment of her life.
Her marriage to Roger had come in the wake of a 25-year marriage to her first husband, footballer Robert Waterfield, which ended in divorce.
"We met when we were kids and we were really hot for each other," she remembers.
Jane admits that she had an affair during the marriage. He, however, consistently swore to her that he had always been faithful.
Then she discovered that he had been having an affair with her secretary. Devastated, Jane divorced him.
By then, she and Robert had adopted three children - after she aborted Robert's child when she was 18, and nearly died in the process, she was unable to bear children.
For the past 40 years, she has devoted herself to WAIF - World Adoption International Fund, an organisation for the adoption of children, which she founded.
She appears twice a month in a Forties musical extravaganza in her California home.
"I sing a song Peggy Lee wrote for me years ago,' she says, proudly. Then she half sings some of the lyrics to me.
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