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Actress Jane Russell, star of Howard Hughes' 'The Outlaw,' dies at 89 [Updated]

Actress Jane Russell, who became a star with the 1943 release of "The Outlaw," Howard Hughes' challenge to the Hollywood production code, has died. She was 89.

[Updated at 3:47 p.m. Russell died Monday at her home in Santa Maria, said her son Buck Waterfield. He did not give the cause.]

Russell went on to play Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in "The Paleface" (1948), and she starred with Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

As former Times staff writer Claudia Luther explains in her obituary of the actress, "Russell's provocative performance in 'The Outlaw' — and the studio publicity shots posing her in a low-cut blouse reclined on a stack of hay bales — marked a turning point in moviedom sexuality. She became a bona fide star and a favorite pinup girl of soldiers during World War II. Troops in Korea named two embattled hills in her honor. ...

"Meanwhile, Hughes brilliantly publicized the film, issuing Russell-in-the-haystack posters with such lines as 'How Would You Like to Tussle With Russell?' and 'Mean! Moody! Magnificent!' In one publicity stunt, a skywriter wrote 'The Outlaw' in the sky and then carefully drew two circles with a dot in the center of each."

Some readers will remember Russell as a pitchwoman for Playtex bras, for "full-figured women."

Services are set for 11 a.m. March 12 at Pacific Christian Church, 3435 Santa Maria Way, Santa Maria.

Instead of flowers, her family suggests donations in her name to Care Net Pregnancy & Resource Center, 121 W. Battles, Santa Maria, CA 93458; or CASA of Santa Barbara County, 120 E. Jones St., Suite 130, Santa Maria, CA 93454. 

The full obituary of Jane Russell can be found here.

What is your favorite Jane Russell movie memory?

RELATED:

Jane Russell's Hollywood star

-- Claire Noland

 

 

 
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In addition to her film work, Miss Russell was a singer, cutting a dozen or more singles in the late 1940s into the mid-'50s. (They are in my collection of 78 rpm discs.) May she rest in peace--she had a wonderful career!

I had just screened Gentleman Prefer Blondes last week for visiting Australian Guests who only heard of the Stars - Monroe & Russell. We laughed and laughed through the entire thing, and we all said the same thing - they don't make movies like that anymore! I'm very sad to hear of her passing. She held her own next to Monroe and had so many great moments. Her passing is the end of an era!

RIP you were a real ACTRESS unlike today!! Hugs!!

That ain't all she had!

I'm soooo bummed out by this, even if she was 89. "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" was one of my favorite movies growing up and I was just madly in love with her. She was so gorgeous and so spunky! And as a brunette myself, I identified with her character. ;)

I can remember my 4 older brothers having her pictures all over the back of their bedroom doors and my mother taking them down again!!!!! We were so innocent back then, were we not??

The courtroom scene in Gentlemen. I shant say any more. We love you Jane.

I loved Jane Russell and her sassy films. So I was thrilled when I learned that the condo building I live in was built by her -- it was called Taos West in Panorama City, California. I sold at the height of the bubble, so I walked away with some cash -- not quite enough to be a a marrying millionaire, but I'm grateful -- thanks, Jane Russell -- you are one of Hollywood's legends!

Goodbye, Jane Russell, and thank you. You'll be much missed.

NOW will somebody restore and re-release "The French Line" in its original 3D? It's kind of a bad movie, but it's got that famous "Looking for Trouble" number with Jane strutting around in a notoriously scanty (by 1954 standards) costume.

In 1998 when Woodbury University honored Ms Russell at our All Pinned Up Fashion Show she told the following story.

Her mother had given her the money to sign up for classes at Woodbury which was then on Wilshire Boulevard west of downtown. She arrived with a friend in tow only to discover that the office had closed 20 minutes earlier.

She looked at her friend and said let’s just go to your modeling class. So Woodbury lost a future alum, but the world gained a great star. We'll miss you!

My dad was in the army during WWII and had lunch with Jane during a tour she made. He commented that she was a very nice girl. He felt she was just a normal, down to earth, girl that just happened to be a movie star. That was a great compliment to her character coming from him. My sympathies to her family.

I knew Jane Russell worked through publicity for her at the Pine Bluff Film
Festival in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in which all of her films were shown at the
Festival. She will be always remembered.

This was a true Lady they don't make'm like her anymore she'll be sadly missed .may her spirit live on forever

Those women of the 1940s were the most natural beauties we've seen. No longer do we see these wonderful, larger than life, women. Nowadays, it's the surgeons knife, a bit added, a bit taken, and they all look the same - plain, until they get old, then they look like ventriloquist's dummies - only the mouth can still move. If this is evolution, we should abandon it. RIP Jane.


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