Only a select few actors can claim to possess both physical beauty and artistic ability, and Jane Russell is unquestionably one of them. Russell was one of the leading actresses and sex symbols of the mid-twentieth century, blessed with a voluptuous figure. With her full-figured body and alluring and fascinating sex appeal, she made men weak in the knees. With a passion for drama and music, it was her mother who persuaded her to enter the world of acting. Cinema happened to her by chance when she was spotted on a reality show by Howard Hughes. She later starred as Hughes’ leading lady in ‘The Outlaw’. Due to her daring shots and skin show, the film caused quite a stir in the film industry. Following that, she appeared in a variety of other films, ranging from comedy to thriller to drama. Her big break came with the co-starring role in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ alongside Marilyn Monroe. A sequel, ‘Gentlemen Marry Brunettes,’ was released. Apart from her acting abilities, Russell established herself as a singer by expressing her musical ambitions. She released several singles and also released a self-titled album.
Childhood & Adolescence
Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell was born to Roy William Russell and Geraldine Jacobi as Jane Russell. She was the couple’s eldest and only daughter, having been blessed with four sons.
Her father was a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, while her mother worked as an actress with a traveling troupe. After being relieved of his responsibilities, the family relocated to Southern California, where his father found work as an office manager.
She demonstrated an early interest in music and drama. She studied piano and took drama lessons. Additionally, she was involved in stage productions at van Nuys High School.
While in school, she aspired to be a designer but abandoned her dream following the death of her father. She began working as a receptionist following her graduation.
While she continued to work as a receptionist, she modeled for photographers. Her mother pushed her to study drama at Max Reinhardt’s Theatrical Workshop, where she studied with Maria Ouspenskaya.
Career of Jane
Strangely, her big break came in the most bizarre of circumstances, when director Howard Hughes chose her as the winner of a nationwide chest search for a figuratively suitable leading lady for his upcoming film. She then signed a seven-year deal with Hughes.
She made her film debut in 1943 with ‘The Outlaw,’ which was released to a small audience. The film did an excellent job of showcasing her voluptuous figure and deep cleavage, which irritated the censor board. Despite this, the film received a wide release in 1946.
She immediately became a national celebrity following the release of her first film due to her busty, full-figured, and bodacious appearance. She achieved greater fame than her contemporaries, who coveted her voluptuous figure, which was a must-see for men of that era.
Following the success of ‘The Outlaw,’ she directed her second film, ‘Young Widow,’ in which she starred as Joan Kenwood. Given her seven-year contract with Hughes, she was obligated to appear in his films, which emphasized her alluring physical appearance over her artistic ability.
Meanwhile, while pursuing her acting career, she developed her musical abilities and began her musical career in 1947 by singing on the radio with the Kay Kyser Orchestra. She even collaborated with him on two singles, ‘As Long As I Live’ and ‘Boin-n-n-ng!’
Additionally, she created a 78 rpm album titled ‘Let’s Put Out the Lights’ for Columbia Records. In 1950, she collaborated with Frank Sinatra and The Modernaires on a duet titled ‘Kisses and Tears’ for the film ‘Double Dynamite’. The song later charted in the Top 10 as the soundtrack to ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’
In 1948, she was cast as Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in the film ‘The Paleface.’ The film was a smash hit and spawned a sequel, ‘Son of Paleface,’ in 1952, in which she starred as Mike ‘the Torch’ Delroy.
Meanwhile, she worked on a number of other films during her early career, including the gangster drama ‘His Kind of Women’ and the seductive smuggling thriller ‘Macao’. Both films starred Robert Mitchum. She was cast in the comedy ‘Double Dynamite’ in 1951.
She made her film debut in 1952 with the film ‘The Las Vegas Story.’ In the same year, she made cameo appearances in the films ‘Road to Bali’, ‘Montana Belle,’ and ‘Son of Paleface.’
In 1953, she was cast in the film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ alongside Marilyn Monroe. This was her most successful film due to the fact that it showcased her artistic abilities.
She returned to Howard Hughes’ RKO production camp in 1954 for the film ‘The French Line.’ The film featured her in a form-fitting one-piece bathing suit with strategically placed cut-outs. It was filmed in 3D and lasted approximately one hour and forty-two minutes.
The year 1955 was a busy one for this talented actress, as she had four films scheduled for release that year, including ‘Underwater!’, ‘Foxfire’, ‘The Tall Men’, and ‘Gentlemen Marry Brunettes’. The latter was a follow-up to her previous film, ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’
In 1956, she starred in the films ‘Hot Blood’ and ‘The Revolt of Mamie Stover,’ which both showcased her ability as an actress. She then made the film ‘The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown’. This was her final feature film before taking a self-declared hiatus from the big screen.
In the absence of films, she channeled her energies into singing and co-founded a gospel quartet with three other members in 1954. The quartet peaked at number 27 on the Billboard singles chart with the Coral single ‘Do Lord.’ It ultimately sold two million copies.
The quartet was reduced to a trio following the departure of one of its members. Despite this, the group maintained their musical ambitions and released their second album for Capitol Records, titled ‘The Magic of Believing.’ Soon after, the trio expanded to a quartet with the addition of Fleming.
In 1957, she made her Las Vegas debut as a successful singer and solo performer at the Sands Hotel. She then performed in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, and Europe.
On MGM Records in 1959, she released her self-titled solo LP. The following year, she toured New England with Janus, appeared in Skylark, and starred in Bells Are Ringing at the Westchester Town House in Yonkers, New York.
In 1964, she made a triumphant return to the big screen with ‘Fate is the Hunter’. In a flashback scene in the film, she performs as herself for the USO. She followed this with four additional films titled ‘Johnny Reno,’ ‘Waco,’ ‘Born Losers,’ and ‘Darker than Amber.’
In 1971, she made her Broadway debut in ‘Company,’ a musical drama. In it, she succeeded Elaine Stritch as Joanne. Following her stint in theatre, she ventured into television commercials as a spokesperson for Playtex’s ‘Cross-Your-Heart Bras’ for us full-figured gals. It quickly became and continues to be one of Playtex’s best-selling products.
In 1985, she reinvented herself as a writer with the publication of her autobiography, ‘Jane Russell: My Path and My Detours.’
In 1995, she starred alongside Charlton Heston, Peter Graves, Mickey Rooney, and Deborah Winters in the docudrama ‘America: A Call to Greatness.’
Awards and Accomplishments
She received the Women’s International Center’s (WIC) Living Legacy Award in 1989. At Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, her hand and footprints have been immortalized.
She is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is located at 6850 Hollywood Boulevard.
Glamour magazine named her one of the 40 Most Iconic Movie Goddesses of All Time in 2009. (UK edition).
Personal History and Legacies
She was married three times. The first was with Bob Waterfield, a former Los Angeles Rams quarterback who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1943, the two married but divorced in 1968. Tracy, a baby girl, and Thomas and Robert John, two baby boys, had been adopted by the couple.
In 1968, she married actor Roger Barrett. The marriage, however, lasted only a few months, as Barrett died in November 1968.
Following that, in 1974, she married real estate broker John Calvin Peoples, with whom she remained married until his death in 1999.
In 1955, she founded the World Adoption International Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to matching children with adoptive families and pioneering American adoptions from other countries.
She entered a rehab facility at the age of 79 to recover from alcoholism. She spent the latter half of her life on the Central Coast of California’s Santa Maria Valley.
She died on February 28, 2011 at her home due to a respiratory illness. Pacific Christian Church held her funeral.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth is $40million.
This American actress from the ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ era was endowed with a voluptuous figure and full-buxom breasts that served as the inspiration for Alaskan peaks named after her.