Jane Russell and I had little in common, but we shared the same birthday, which we both agreed was the best possible day to have a birthday, June 21. When I worked with her, briefly, she joked about the advantages of being a Gemini. She was very quietly spoken, though her make-up was a little louder. Her downward turned mouth sometimes gave her a sneering look, but she was considerate and funny with more than a little irony.
We never talked about her films or famous colleagues, but she talked much about her adopted children, and that was our other link as I too was adopted which she seemed to find fascinating – she was well mannered.
Russell was independent and didn't want to be helped too much, even though she was already elderly when I knew her, and very determined, using all her force to straighten her back and walk with confidence before going on stage. She shed 20 year in the wings!
Part of today's obituary in The Telegraph recounts:
Her 38in bust became the bedrock on which her career was built. Unlike modern actresses, she never unveiled it but its fully-clad charms were still enough arouse censors worldwide. Her first film, The Outlaw, made in 1941, was briefly shown in 1943 but caused such controversy that it was rapidly withdrawn and not widely released until 1950. The film is innocuous by modern standards, not to say dull.
But promotion is a powerful tool. “Mean, moody and magnificent”, the publicity department called her, and many a humble GI swallowed the message. Soldiers in Korea even names two hills on the battlefield after her. The Press endorsed it, reporting that her bosom “hung over the picture like a thunderstorm over a landscape.”
She was a discovery of Howard Hughes, the aeronautics tycoon. The Outlaw, a Western about Billy the Kid, was his production, which he ended up directing himself after firing Howard Hawks, a much more experienced film-maker. But try as he might, Hughes couldn't stop Russell quivering under fire.
“Call in my designers,” he commanded. “Time for another engineering feat – the world's first cantilevered brassiere.” And so the great structure, which parted like Tower Bridge, was built, and to his dying day Hughes believed that Jane Russell wore it. In fact she found the metal framework so uncomfortable that she secretly discarded it, substituting her trusted old bra and stuffing it with Kleenex to hold it firm.
read all via Jane Russell – Telegraph
Photo: Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.