Born Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell in June 1921 in Minnesota, the Russell’s moved to southern California in the late 1930’s when Jane’s US Army Lieutenant father became an office manager. Jane was encouraged to take piano lessons and was passionate about acting from a young age, performing in many school plays. After working as a receptionist, in 1940 at the tender age of 19, Jane signed a seven year contract with Howard Hughes, and in 1943 made her film debut, and arguably most memorable role, in The Outlaw.
“They held up "The Outlaw" for five years. And Howard Hughes had me doing publicity for it every day, five days a week for five years.” There was further conflict between Hughes and Russell when he had a specially designed underwire bra made for her to wear during filming, Jane found the garment so uncomfortable she secretly discarded it and worn her own bra with padded cups and straps to extenuate her figure. A total Bad Girl!
Jane starred in over 20 films throughout her acting career and also attempted a musical career. She recorded two singles and a further song with Frank Sinatra called ‘Kisses and Tears’ but it became evident Jane would be most successful in front of the camera.
On the front cover of Picturegoer in 1956 in a beautiful black lace nightrobe, we’ll have one of those and the marabou mules!
“I like a man who can run faster than I can.”
In 1953 Jane founded the World Adoption International Fund, and adopted all three of her children as she was unable to have her own. The fund has helped place 51,000 children with adoptive families, and she received the Women’s International Center Living Legacy award in 1989.
Another one of Jane’s most memorable acting roles was alongside Marilyn Monroe in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’, released in 1953, a tale of the escapades of two showgirls travelling to France, and finding husbands along the way! The film grossed $5.3 million dollars when it was released, and made Monroe and Russell a formidable acting duo!
Monroe and Russell taking five on the set of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’
With close friend Marilyn Monroe in 1953 at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, taking their place on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame
“Publicity can be terrible, but only if you don’t have any.”
Jane was most recognisable for her deep side parted perfectly brushed out raven curls, killer eyebrows and blood red lips. She praised sleep and good genes as her beauty secrets, and also taught herself to apply her own make up as she wanted to get out of the dressing room and onto set as soon as possible. With an enviable figure, Jane avoided bread and sugar to keep her hourglass proportions in shape.
Jane was also a spokesperson for Playtex bra’s, measuring 38-24-36, she was an ideal advocate for their cross your heart bra! She was also no stranger to a fitted halterneck dress to excentuate her hourglass figure, it became her wardrobe staple and many of her most iconic photos showcase Jane draped in a beautiful halterneck design.
Jane passed away peacefully at her home in Santa Monica in 2011, she remains a true Hollywood icon.
Patsy - Jungle Pat
(Columnist for The Original Bad Girl Blog)