Publicity can be terrible. But only if you don’t have any. – Jane Russell
Jane Russell learned the power of notoriety at an early age. Director Howard Hughes (the reclusive billionaire) had cast the voluptuous 19-year-old in his epic Western The Outlaw (1943), with the full intention of making her a sex symbol. Hughes essentially made her considerable assets the star of the film, even going so far as to design a special cantilevered push-up bra for her to wear during shooting.
Hughes did his job almost too well. The prominent display of cleavage in both the film and its trailer unnerved censors and kept The Outlaw out of theaters until nearly 1950. (You can watch the full movie above.) The controversy also launched Russell’s career as a WWII pin-up girl, but she continued to perform in films, eventually proving to be a fine actress and singer. Today she is perhaps best remembered for her confident, sexy, performance opposite Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 comedy Gentleman Prefer Blondes, and especially for her showstopping number, “Ain’t Anyone Here For Love?”
A botched illegal abortion at the age of 19 left the actress unable to bear children, and she was a vocal anti-abortion activist and advocate for adoption. Also a proud Republican, she described herself to an interviewer in 2003 as a “a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot — but not a racist.”
Ms. Russell died yesterday of a lung-related illness at her home in Santa Maria, California. She was 89 years old.