Friday, 19 June 2015


In 1940, a nineteen year old Jane Russell was signed to a seven year contract by film maker Howard Hughes. She made her debut as Rio McDonald in The Outlaw (1943), the first of a string of films in which Hughes was determined to emphasise her sex appeal. The film's exposure of Russell’s figure stirred up a highly publicised censorship scandal and the film was only fully released in 1950. Its publicity shots, showing Russell reclining on a haystack, made her one of the most sought after pin-ups of World War II. Hughes’s obsession continued in 1954’s The French Line with a cut out swimsuit, and he later declared, ‘there are two great reasons why men go to see her. Those are enough.’

What Hughes failed to see was that there was so much more to Russell. Her portrayal of showgirl Dorothy Shaw in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) was a perfect example of her sharp wit, singing talent and comedic side, and became the ninth highest grossing film of that year. It was this singing talent that earned her an Academy Award in the 'Best Song' category in The Paleface (1948), and another nomination for the film's 1952 sequel, The Son of Paleface. 
In 1954, she formed the Hollywood Christian Group (despite being at the forefront of censorship controversy, she was actually a devout Christian), reaching number 27 on the Billboard Singles chart in 1954 with ‘Do Lord’, and releasing an LP soon after. And if that wasn't enough, she formed Russ-Field Productions with her first husband, Bob Waterfield, churning out titles such as Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955) and The King and Four Queens (1956). She deliberately addressed Hollywood’s manipulation in 1957’s The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (another Russ-Field release) saying, ‘that splendid career of mine? Don’t mix me up with the girl in the movies . . . all that’s only make-believe.’

Words by Anam Rahim