FILM & VIDEO
FLIFF 2010 - MEET JANE RUSSEL PARTY
November 8, 2010
Born in Minnesota, Jane Russell moved with her parents to California while still an infant. Her father joined the Jergens Company, becoming general manager of West Coast operations in Los Angeles. Russell’s mother had attended Emerson College in Boston and was a professional actress touring in such shows as “Disraeli” and “Daddy Long Legs.” In high school, Jane excelled in art, drama and music. After graduation,...
Born in Minnesota, Jane Russell moved with her parents to California while still an infant. Her father joined the Jergens Company, becoming general manager of West Coast operations in Los Angeles. Russell’s mother had attended Emerson College in Boston and was a professional actress touring in such shows as “Disraeli” and “Daddy Long Legs.” In high school, Jane excelled in art, drama and music. After graduation, she planned on attending design school, but changed her mind at the last minute and decided to study acting. She enrolled at Max Reinhardt’s workshop before transferring to Maria Ouspenskaya’s school, both of which were renowned training facilities for the acting profession.
She was working as a receptionist at a doctor’s office when discovered by producer and studio mogul Howard Hughes and director Howard Hawks. Hughes signed her to a seven-year contract at his RKO Studios and she was cast as the female lead in “The Outlaw,” Hughes’ ambitious film about the love triangle involving Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday and a girl named Rio. The story was provocative enough to be the subject of lengthy censorship negotiations between Hughes and the Hollywood Production Code Administration. Hughes used the censorship issue as a marketing tool and purposely withheld distribution of the film to build audience anticipation. The film eventually opened in San Francisco, but it was years before it overcame all of its censorship battles and was distributed nationally. When finally released, the film was a solid hit both in the U.S.and abroad.
Russell followed “The Outlaw” with a number of other film roles including “The Paleface” and “Son of Paleface,” both with Bob Hope. When she starred with Robert Mitchum in “His Kind of Woman,” columnist Louella Parsons described the team as “the hottest combination that ever hit the screen.” They co-starred again in “Macao,” and she teamed with Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Some of her other films include “The Las Vegas Story,” “Underwater!” “The French Line,” “Foxfire,” “The Tall Men” with Clark Gable, “The Revolt of Mamie Stover,” “The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown,” and “Fate Is the Hunter.” In addition to her film work, Russell has appeared in a number of TV productions and served as a popular spokesperson for Playtex in a series of commercials.
Early in her career, Russell began singing and performing at such venues as Miami Beach’s Latin Quarter and on radio’s “Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge.” She made a number of solo recordings and joined a group performing a number of spiritual songs (actress Rhonda Fleming later joined the ensemble). She was often called upon to sing in her films and her screen performances include such songs as “Buttons and Bows,” “One for the Road,” “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” “My Resistance is Low,” “You’ll Know,” “Five Little Miles from San Berdoo,” “When Love Goes Wrong,” “Bye Bye Baby,” “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?” and a number of others. Russell developed a successful Las Vegas act, which she debuted at the Sands, and starred in a number of stage productions across the country.
In 1971 Broadway director Hal Prince asked her to join the cast of the “Company.” She remained with the show for six months winning rave reviews for her performance and her rendition of the song, “The Ladies Who Lunch.” She has continued to perform and recently toured in a show highlighting movie musicals headlined by Michael Feinstein.
Russell has long been an advocate for children and began a mission during the 1950's which resulted in the adoptive placement of nearly 38,000 children through her organization, WAIF. She championed the passage of the Federal Orphan Adoption Amendment of 1953, which allowed children of servicemen born overseas to be placed for adoption in the United States. Since 1981 Russell has testified before Congress and has met with over 150 senators and representatives on behalf of issues affecting children.
Russell’s autobiography, “My Path and My Detours,” was published in 1985. In James Robert Parish’s book, “The RKO Gals,” she describes her show business career by stating, “The whole thing was really an accident.” For audience members, what a happy accident it was!
Jane Russell will attend her tribute screening of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, and following the film will receive The Lifetime Achievement Award. A reception in her honor will precede the film and another after at which she will sign autographs