Born in Bemidji, Minnesota, on June 21, 1921, actress Jane Russell was the daughter of an Army lieutenant and a former actress. In the 1920s, Russell's family moved to California. When Russell's father passed away in 1937, she took a job as a receptionist to help support the family. By 1940, Russell began to take acting classes and was discovered by producer Howard Hughes, who signed her to a seven-year contract. Her first film was the notorious western The Outlaw, which became known for its then-shocking display of Russell's charms rather than as a quality western film. Filmed in 1941 and directed by Howard Hawks, American censors almost immediately banned the film. It was briefly released in 1943 and again in 1946 and 1947, but The Outlaw did not gain a wide release until 1950. In some European countries, the film was banned until the early 1960s. The controversy surrounding the picture helped delay its release and, as a consequence, Russell's acting career.

Russell didn't appear in another film until the release of the drama Young Widow (1946; with Louis Hayward and Faith Domergue). In the meanwhile, she married future pro-football Hall-of-Famer Bob Waterfield in 1943 around the time he enlisted in the US Army. Discharged from the military due to a knee injury in 1944, he went back to UCLA and was eventually signed by the Los Angeles Rams. At the time, Waterfield was the highest paid professional football player until his 1952 retirement.

Bob WaterfieldJane Russell

LEFT: Bob Waterfield in a late 1940s Rams photo. RIGHT: Russell in a still from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, her best-known film

Russell's acting career did not gather steam until the early 1950s. At her best in light comedies, she starred in His Kind of Woman (1951; with Robert Mitchum, Vincent Price, and Tim Holt), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953; with Marilyn Monroe), and The French Line (1953; with Gilbert Roland). Film success didn't last long, however, and by the end of the decade Russell had walked away from her career.

the films of jane russell

The Outlaw (1943)

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Promotional photos of Jane Russell from The Outlaw

Montana Belle (1952)

Jane RussellJane Russell

Jane Russell in Montana Belle. Originally filmed in 1948, the release of this RKO retelling of the Belle Starr story was delayed until 1952, when the film was recut and additional footage was added. This color western is not a bad film by any means and is an early showcase for Jane Russell's singing talent

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Jane RussellJane RussellJane RussellJane Russell and Marilyn Monroe

Images from in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. LEFT, CENTER A and B: From Russell's musical number Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?. Russell's brother Jamie is pictured in CENTER B, on the far right. RIGHT: Russell with co-star Marilyn Monroe

The French Line (1954)

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Promotional photos from The French Line

Underwater! (1955)

Gilbert Roland, Richard Egan, and Jane RussellGilbert Roland, Richard Egan, and Jane Russell

With Gilbert Roland and Richard Egan in the racy adventure flick Underwater!

Hot Blood (1956)

Cornel Wilde and Jane Russell

With Cornel Wilde in the Columbia musical Hot Blood

The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)

Jane Russell and Ralph Meeker

Russell is kidnapped by Ralph Meeker in the United Artists comedy The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown

later years

Jane Russell called a halt to her acting career following the release of The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957; with Keenan Wynn and Ralph Meeker). By this time, she and her husband had adopted three children, so Russell focused her efforts on her nightclub act and acting on the legitimate stage. In 1967, Russell and Bob Waterfield divorced, and Russell briefly resumed her acting career, appearing in four films between 1964 and 1967. She married Roger Barrett in 1968, but tragically he died just a few months after their wedding at the age of 47. Russell made only two more films, Darker than Amber (1970; with Rod Taylor and William Smith) and The Godfather and the Lady (1975; with Peter Savage). She remarried again, this time to John Peoples, in 1974. Following her retirement from films, Russell did quite a bit of television work, including commercials for Playtex in the 1970s. Russell, widowed in 1999, devoted her efforts to WAIF, an organization she began in the 1950s that helps place abandoned and orphaned children in adoptive homes. Sadly, Jane Russell passed away on February 28, 2011, at the age of 89. She is survived by her children Tracy, Robert, and Thomas, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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The Godfather and the Lady (1975) with Peter Savage, Jake LaMotta, and Rocky Graziano
Darker Than Amber (1970) with Rod Taylor and William Smith
Born Losers (1967) with Tom Laughlin, Jeremy Slate, and William Wellman Jr.
Johnny Reno (1966) with Dana Andrews, John Agar, Lon Chaney Jr., and Richard Arlen
Waco (1966) with Howard Keel, John Agar, Brian Donlevy, Terry Moore, Wendell Corey, Richard Arlen, John Smith, and Jeff Richards
Fate Is the Hunter (1964) with Glenn Ford, Suzanne Pleshette, Rod Taylor, Mark Stevens, and Max Showalter
The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957) with Fred Clark, Ralph Meeker, and Keenan Wynn
The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956) with Richard Egan, Sally Todd, Agnes Moorehead, and Joan Leslie
Hot Blood (1956) with Cornel Wilde
Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955) with Scott Brady, Jeanne Crain, Alan Young, and Rudy Vallee
Underwater! (1955) with Richard Egan, Gilbert Roland, and Lori Nelson
The Tall Men (1955) with Clark Gable, Robert Ryan, and Cameron Mitchell
Foxfire (1955) with Jeff Chandler, Mara Corday, and Dan Duryea
The French Line (1954) with Gilbert Roland, Craig Stevens, Joi Lansing, and Jean Moorhead; originally released in 3-D
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Tommy Noonan
Macao (1952) with Robert Mitchum, Gloria Grahame, and William Bendix
Road to Bali (1952) with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour
Son of Paleface (1952) with Bob Hope, Bill Williams, and Roy Rogers
Montana Belle (1952) with George Brent and Scott Brady
The Las Vegas Story (1952) with Victor Mature and Vincent Price
Double Dynamite (1951) with Groucho Marx and Frank Sinatra
His Kind of Woman (1951) with Robert Mitchum, Vincent Price, and Tim Holt
The Paleface (1948) with Bob Hope
Young Widow (1946) with Louis Hayward and Faith Domergue
The Outlaw (1943) with Jack Buetel and Walter Huston

Hunter, episode Burned, originally aired January 18, 1986
The Yellow Rose, episode Chapter XIX: Sacred Ground, originally aired March 10, 1984
The Yellow Rose, episode Chapter XVII, originally aired February 25, 1984
The Yellow Rose, episode Chapter XII: Divide and Conquer, originally aired January 7, 1984
Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, episode Ballad For A Bad Man, originally aired December 23, 1958

jane russell now showing

Watch Jane Russell in the 1951 RKO noir His Kind of Woman

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