I am sure that the general audience will bite my head off after saying this, but I must confess that when I watched “Gentlemen Preferer Blondes”, I preferred Jane Russel, with all due to respect to Monroe.
Jane Russel was one of Hollywood’s leading sex symbols in the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1940, Russell was signed to a seven-year contract by film mogul Howard Hughes, and made her motion-picture debut in The Outlaw (1943), a story about Billy the Kid that went to great lengths to showcase her voluptuous figure. The movie was completed in 1941, but it was not released until 1943 in a limited release. There were problems with the censorship and with the production code over the way that her ample cleavage was displayed. When the movie was finally passed, it had a general release in 1946. During that time, she was kept busy doing publicity and became known nationally. Contrary to countless incorrect reports in the media since the release of The Outlaw, Russell did not wear the specially designed underwire bra that Howard Hughes had designed and made for her to wear during filming. According to Jane’s 1985 autobiography, she said that the bra was so uncomfortable that she secretly discarded it and wore her own bra with the cups padded with tissue and the straps pulled up to elevate her breasts.
In 1947, Russell attempted to launch a musical career. She sang with the Kay Kyser Orchestra on radio and recorded two singles with his band, “As Long As I Live” and “Boin-n-n-ng!” She also cut a 78 rpm album that year for Columbia Records, Let’s Put Out the Lights, which included eight torch ballads and cover art that included a diaphanous gown that for once put the focus more on her legs than on her breasts. In a 2009 interview for the liner notes to another CD, Fine and Dandy, Russell denounced the Columbia album as “horrible and boring to listen to.”
She performed in an assortment of movie roles. She played Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in The Paleface (1948) on loan out to Paramount, and Mike “the Torch” Delroy opposite Hope in another western comedy, Son of Paleface (1952), again at Paramount. Russell played Dorothy Shaw in the hit film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) opposite Marilyn Monroe for 20th Century Fox.
Russell married three times, adopted three children, and in 1955 founded the World Adoption International Fund. She received several accolades for her achievements in films, including having her hand- and footprints immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.