Jane Russell

Glamour Star & Devote Christian

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What I am most passionate about is to inspire you to see that your life is your own and biggest masterpiece.

Jane Russell was one of the most glamorous stars of Old Hollywood and had been known for almost a decade as the „motionless picture actress“. Her life is intricately tied to Howard Hughes and her deep faith in God has navigated much of her life. She is one of the most extraordinary ladies of Hollywood and definitely has one of the most outstanding life stories. 


Family Beginnings

Jane Russell was born on June 21, 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota in the US. Curious thing – according to biographer Christina Rice, the often cited birth name of Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell apparently shows up nowhere in her birth or other official certificates. Geraldine is actually the name of Jane’s mother and Ernestine the name of Jane’s aunt. Apparently it was deemed more appropriate for her and more down to earth to have this family-bound name. But, she was simply christened Jane Russell by her mother Geraldine. The reason for this name? Her mother said she thought it would look „good in lights“ – meaning in marquee lights above theaters. 

Geraldine Russell, Jane’s mom was actually an actress herself and had had theatre and oratory lessons as she had a great carrying voice. She was also interested in art and studied painting with Mary Bradish Titcomb. Titcomb actually created a painting with Geraldine as subject. It got quite famous when president Woodrow Wilson purchased it, hung it in the White House and later in his private residence, where it can still be seen today. Geraldine became a stock actress and toured the US and Canada with her troupe. On one of these stops, she married Roy Russell. But that was no haste decision, at least not particularly – they had known each other since childhood, growing up in the same town – Grand Forks in North Dakota. Roy and Geraldine had been Highschool sweethearts but when Geraldine set out to become an actress their ways parted and Roy was drafted for WW I. When her troupe was near the camp that he was stationed at, Roy just showed up, confessed his undying love and asked her to marry him. And yes, she did. By midnight they were married – the next morning Geraldine went away with her troupe to perform. In the end though, they started life together and settled in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley in California. They would build a house there which they called „La Posada“. This was the home to Geraldine and Roy as well as their five kids – Jane, the oldest, along with four younger brothers. 

The family was rather well-off with the father being general manager of a company – they even had horses for the kids. They were a close family bunch – Jane was more a tomboy than a girly girl and was the one managing her brothers, playing rough with them and standing her ground in a male-dominated household. 

When Jane was 16, her father died from a stroke during his convalescence after an operation. Life changed and got a bit less comfortable, the kids, and especially Jane, had to do more chores and had lot more responsibility. All in all, her upbringing equipped Jane to be confident and self-assured and to be able to talk to everybody and anybody, to socialize easily and have no reservations against anybody – male or female. 

Young and beautiful aspiring actress

When Jane graduated from High School, she was not sure what to do. Her boyfriend Robert Waterfield did not want to start a family yet and she wanted to contribute to the household. Her mother, once an actress and seeing the beauty in her daughter, urged her to go into acting and do some workshops at the Reinhardt Theater. But Jane was bored of it and rather found some other work as a sales person in shops and decided on studying design. But one day, when visiting one of her close girlfriends at Maria Ouspenskaya’s School of Dramatic Arts, she was bitten by the acting bug and enrolled in her course. But even after the course, Jane had a hard time breaking into the movies. She couldn’t get a role, because she had no representation and she couldn’t get any representation, because she didn’t have any acting credits. It was a lucky coincidence that Jane met Tom Keeley, a LA-based photographer, who would later become world-renowned for shooting Marilyn Monroe for the first ever playboy. He photographed Jane for various advertising campaigns and taught her everything a model needed to know in order to look great in photographs – a skill that came in handy in Jane’s later career. He liked Jane and even arranged a screen test for her at Twentieth Century Fox. They told Tom later that Jane simply was not photogenic and therefore wouldn’t get a contract.

Howard Hughes

„The Outlaw“ was Jane Russell’s first job as an actress that would take 10 years to finally make it to the big screen. And it is one of the best marketing campaigns to have ever been implemented. The one behind this? Eccentric multi-millionaire Howard Hughes who had entered the world of Hollywood roughly a decade before, launching such gems like „ Hell’s Angels“ (1930) and „Scarface“ (1932). He got a script written for a movie about one legend of Billy the Kid and engaged the services of versatile director Howard Hawks to direct the movie. He also cast veteran actors Walter Huston and Thomas Mitchell. But Hughes wanted unknowns for the roles of Billy the Kid and his love interest Rio. And therefore, a search similar to the search for Scarlett for „Gone with the Wind“ was started. It was through agent Levis Green that Jane Russell made it into this search. He saw one of her portraits at Tom Kelley’s studio, stole it and brought it to Howard Hughes and Howard Hawks – both of which wanted to see her in for a screen test. And in the end, Jane got the role as Rio and Jack Buetel was cast as Billy the Kid. Apparently, Howard Hughes was very big on big breasts and Jane Russell was very well equipped. So, she got it. And she signed two contracts that very day: One with Howard Hugh’s company and one with Levis Green as an agent. She was in business.

All in all, Jane Russell would sign three deals with Howard Hughes: The first was seven years, the second was four years with way more money and then a twenty-year deal, in which she only had to star in six movies within a five-year period and receive monthly income for twenty years. 

The Outlaw

Shooting „The Outlaw“ though was painful in many ways. Jane Russell had mainly signed on because she felt at total ease with Howard Hawks. And when shooting commenced on location, everything was fine – but that soon changed when Howard Hawks resigned. In the end, Howard Hughes made himself director – except during an accident-induced break. But, as he was not very good with people, the film and the acting is not as good as it could have been. But the overarching idea, the technicalities, the filming – it is quite a view (and still available to watch on Youtube for example). One of the most important things for Howard Hughs: Jane Russell and her enviable womanly physique – in short: he liked her breasts and was obsessed with them. One of the curious things about Hugh’s obsession with Jane’s bosom: He constructed a seamless bra for Russell to wear under her blouse – to make it seem as if her body was defying gravity. Jane Russell did not wear it – but did not tell Howard Hughes so. Instead she donned her own and padded it. He apparently never knew the difference!

The Making of a Star

Howard Hughs was sure that the success of „The Outlaw“ was not relying on the script or the director or the other actors, but solely on Jane. So, he engaged the wits of Russell Birdwell – the PR genius behind the „Search for Scarlett“ that made the whole country go „Gone with the Wind“-crazy and had ensured the movie to be a full success.

Hughs and Birdwell got the marketing machine rolling once Jane Russell had been signed to „The Outlaw“. They knew that Jane Russell was exceptional. So, a whole slew of photographers were flown to Arizona to photograph naive Jane Russell. What they wanted? Shots of her impressive cleavage. And they got them. Jane was incredibly embarrassed about them. These were the photos that made her officially enter the world of Hollywood. Jane was promoted big time. She was photographed at „La Posada“, at a gold mine, at a sorority party – wherever something was happening, Jane was sent there. 

George Burrell, the photographer who would later be credited to have created the most mesmerizing portrait photos of all of Old Hollywood, photographed her as well. They had two shootings together: At the first, he photographed her on a fur carpet, in a simple satin dress or in a frilly dress – very glamour, very Hollywood. At the second shooting, he shot the legendary hay stack pictures which would create an outrage with Hollywood censors. In the photo, Jane’s shirt has the appearance of being torn and her skirt is hoisted halfway up her thigh. Thus clad, Jane lies seductively in the hay. Not only the moralists of Hollywood were mortified, but so was Jane. Coming from a very God-abiding household, being promoted simply for being a sexy woman, made her uncomfortable. But she was a clever gal, understanding that this was the way she could become a household name in Hollywood. Howard Hawks’ first advice to her had been to say „No!“ Whenever she felt a line had been crossed. Something that empowered her to make the campaign her own. 

The Jane Russell PR campaign as well as the media used several euphemisms for her physique: voluptuous, buxom, bosomy, curvy, well-rounded, ample, extraordinarily physically endowed. She was the „Sensational Cinderella“, the „Sultry Cinderella“, „Perfect 36“, „Hell’s New Angel“ and „Dark-Haired Harlow“. It was almost a year of consecutive promotion but the movie had not been released – and then Pearl Harbor happened. The marketing machine went into overdrive and Jane was documented in whatever war-related activity she was engaged in. Jane Russell said about the endless photographing that that was actually easy compared to the nightmare of filming „The Outlaw“ as she had learned from Tom Kelley how to pose. She knew what she was doing. 

During the promotional campaign of 1941, Jane Russell moved in with actress Carol Gallagher, who had dated Howard Hughes earlier. Jane was now independent, free and well-paid. 

Hay’s Code & Delays

But not only the marketing campaign was responsible for delaying the release of „The Outlaw“ – also the Hay’s Code and Hay’s Office did. They demanded many recuts, which Hughes went to appeal. He actually printed big size posters of the actresses in demand back then and proved to the jury that Jane Russell was as covered or uncovered as much as the others, including Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Irene Dunne, Loretta Young and Claudette Colbert. This resulted in less cuts demanded and the preliminary PCA’s seal of approval if the changes were seen through. Even then, the movie was not released. A premiere in London was cancelled due to the war proceedings, a Chicago premiere was cancelled. Instead, Hughes wanted to have a road show of „The Outlaw“ with a live sketch beforehand with Jane Russell and Jack Buetel. So, the roadshow was postponed  as well to try out the live sketch in theaters – which was hard to achieve as the sketch was not preceding the movie it was supposed to promote. Nevertheless, the sketch made its debut in Tucson, Arizona – with not much critical acclaim. Hughes got more and more occupied with wartime contracts and business with his aircraft business and did not have the time to redo the sketch – so, again, the premiere was postponed. And finally – two years after finalizing it, „The Outlaw“ would premier in San Francisco, after personal begging from San Francisco’s mayor. 

When the movie was finally scheduled to premiere in San Francisco, Birdwell heightened local marketing and put up gigantic posters advertising the movie with George Hurrelll’s sultress hay stack photographs all across town. Within the seven week run approximately 46000 people saw the movie. After this soft release and some PCA issues dealt with, Hughes could have had „The Outlaw“ release nation-wide. But he didn’t. Instead he focused on his aircraft business – and let the public believe that the PSA and the state censorship boards were responsible for the delay. This of course made people around America even more eager to finally see the movie. 

In 1946, a full five years after finishing the movie, the release was planned – AGAIN. This time accompanied with an ad campaign boasting copy like „The lady known as Rio … and the man she made notorious!“ Or promoting Jane Russell as „tall … terrific … and trouble“ as well as „mean … moody … magnificent!“

Another successful advertisement stroke of genius was getting illustration artist Zoe Mozert on board. She immortalized the infamous hay stack pictures in an even sultrier oil painting. The painting was put in an ad with its now famous line „How would you like to tussle with Russell“? 

Of course, censors were back on the case. Hughes acquiesced sometimes, sometimes not. He battled. „The Outlaw“ had a limited release in 1946 and a national roll-out in 1950 – ten years after filming had been wrapped. 

Further Film Career

Apart from „The Outlaw“, Jane starred in other movies. Howard Hughes loaned Jane to producer Hunt Stromberg for „Young Widow“ in , which was not such a great movie. 

„The Paleface“ in 1948 opposite Bob Hope as well as „The Son of Paleface“ In 1951 were incredible hits and showed Jane Russell’s great comedic timing. Her inspiration for the role? Her own husband – stone faced Waterfield. 

„Montana Belle“ was filmed in 1949 – but only released three years later, „It’s Only Money“ co-starring Frank Sinatra and Groucho Marx was also shelved for two years, mostly because Hughes was not happy about Sinatra marriage with Ava Gardner, on whom Hughes had always had a crush.  

Also in 1949, filming on „His Kind of Woman“ started with Jane Russell co-starring Robert Mitchum. Mitchum had just served a fifty-day jail sentence for marijuana possession. And while other studios would turn away because of the scandal, Howard Hughes saw big publicity potential in Mitchum and hired him for the role. „His Kind of Woman“ would be another Howard Hughes disaster in the sense that after shooting wrapped, there was still a lot of work to be done – at least that’s how Hughes saw it. He ordered re-shoots, changed the ending, the climax and the personality of the characters. The re-shoot would take on another year or so, during which Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum would already need to start filming their next movie „Macao“. „His Kind of Woman“ underwhelmed the audiences, but it proved that Jane Russell could bring the A-list glamour to the screen. „Macao“ was again chaotic with Josef von Sternberg directing. His autocratic style did not work with Mitchum and Russell – nevertheless, he finished the film. But – again – reshoots were ordered and audiences would be able to see it only in 1952. Another movie released in 1952 would be „The Las Vegas Story“ opposite Victor Mature. 

Two more movies followed: a cameo in „Road to Bali“ and „Double Dynamite“ – both released in 1951. When „Double Dynamite“ hit the theaters, „The Las Vegas Story“, „Macao“, „Son of Paleface“ and „Montana Belle“ were also running simultaneously. 

In short: Russell, heavily publicized from the second half of 1940 onwards would have only three movies in the cinemas during the 1940s, whereas in the fifties, when all movies were basically released at the same time, she had 7 movies released within a time period of less than two years.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

In 1952, filming for „Gentlemen prefer Blondes“ started – co-starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn was still a rather unknown and even had to fight to get her own dressing room, whilst Jane Russell got the queen treatment. Those two very opposite characters had one commonality: Neither of them was able to dance. Their experience so far had only been minor movements – so that was the main part of preparation for these two. And choreography was changed – in the beginning they were supposed to make the same exact movements. But as they had different body composures and movements, it did not look good. So, in the end Marilyn would be assigned to do the more feminine, seductive moves, whilst Jane did the more male, outdoorsy, sporty moves. 

Jane and Marilyn Monroe really liked each other and got along well. Jane sensed that Marilyn was fighting some demons and was having trouble – and invited her to a session of a Hollywood Christian group. Marilyn would later say about this: „Jane tried to convert me to her religion and I tried to interest her in Freud.“ The friendship fizzled out after filming. 

Jane loved working on the movie and recalls it as her strongest performance as it was the role that was closest to her natural self – very grounded with good common sense and a feeling of what is important in life. On top of that she was allowed to show her comedian talent, her singing chops and her glamorous figure in the most exquisite Travilla designed dresses. 

The funniest thing about the movie? At least I think this – director Howard Hawks would later laugh about those two actresses being sex bombs. His words: „(…)nobody would ever take Marilyn out, nobody paid attention to her. She sat with no clothes on the set and everybody just walked right by her. (…)And Jane Russell had never known anything but one man … (…) she was like an old shoe, you now? I never thought of either of them as having any sex.“ 

The film was a smash hit – of course. And, until today, a much-loved classic

The following movies „The French Line“ and „Underwater!“ kind of were underwhelming, although memorable. „The French Line“ boasts some great costumes and a wonderful song sequence with Jane Russell. „Underwater!“ on the other hand was mostly filmed under water with Scuba gear. The publicity surrounding both though was magnificent! For „The French Line“ they even got the archbishop of St. Louis to forbid seeing the movie to all Catholics, which of course raked up the curiosity. „Underwater!“ on the other hand had its premier under water with guest also using scuba gear. Curious thing: Jayne Mansfield apparently was present during the premier in an almost-not-there two-piece bikini. 

Russ-Field Years

Jane and husband Robert Waterfield would found Russ-Field together, their own production company. When Waterfield resigned in 1952 from playing for the RAMs, he wanted to turn his attention to the movie industry, which he had some kind of knowledge of – both from his wife as well as some appearances he himself had on the screen. They signed a six-picture deal with United Artists, with a clause that Jane had to star in three of them. And she did: „Foxfire“, „Gentlemen Marry Brunettes“ and „The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown“. The last one being one of her personal favorites as the character was closest to herself. The deal was cut short as none of the movies made money and United Artists was not interested in waiting for the remaining movies. Robert and Jane were definitely not unhappy and dissolved the company in 1960. 

As Jane Russell had a deal with Howard Hughes at the same time, she had to juggle those roles as well – the first of which was „The Tall Men“ opposite Clark Gable, a real highlight in Jane Russell’s filmography. Strong script, great direction, impressive score, on-point actors. The following movie was „Hot Blood“, which flopped because of excessive rewrites and location changes that made the story uncompelling on several levels, but is apparently still enjoyable to watch today. „The Revolt of Mamie Stover“ opposite Richard Egan followed without much critical acclaim. 

Singing Career

Jane loved singing and, in 1946, she suggested Howard Hughes that she could sing instead of performing a live sketch before the screening of „The Outlaw“. She was quite good and audiences celebrated her. The reviews weren’t as favorable but that didn’t stop Jane. She would go on to appear on radio and would be booked for live performances not related to „The Outlaw“. 

While her first contract with Hughes was seven years, the next one was only four years with a significant increase in pay – and with only 40 weeks of work per year. She wanted to be able to have time off to get her 10 hours sleep in and do singing and live performances. 

She would go on to record and release an album with Columbia Records in 1948, while waiting for one of her pictures to be released.  

In 1949, Jane did stage work at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago as well as in the Princess Theatre in London. 

Her Christian singing group with fellow actresses Connie Haines, Della Russell and Beryl Davis would go on to record several albums and Jane Russell did release some solo albums on top of it. 

In 1957 she was unexpectedly invited to a four-week-engagement at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas as Dean Martin had to drop out last minute. It was a forty minute set that spoofed her career in Hollywood – clad in slinky gowns, 36 year-old Jane Russell was a full success. She followed it up with an engagement at the Latin Quarter nightclub in New York. From then onwards, Jane Russell would continue to do nightclub engagements for the remainder of her life. 

In 1963, Jane convinced her actress-friends-turned-singers to do a nightclub act and they performed again in Las Vegas.


In 1959, Jane Russell faced one of her fears – live acting on stage. Because, as a film actress, she was trained to learn lines quickly and forget them just as quickly again. Remembering a play was a whole other thing. But she did so in the play „Janus“ that would open in a theater in the round. Her first time was probably not the best, but received good reviews seeing that it was her stage acting debut. 

In 1966, she appeared in Toronto, in a stage production of „Pal Joey“ and in „Catch Me If You Can“ the same year in Chicago. 

In 1970, after the death of her second husband and a long and deep depression, Jane Russell appeared in the musical „High Button Shoes“ in Dayton, Ohio and was lauded by the critics. The next year she starred again in „Catch me if you can“ in New Jersey. 

But the final frontier for her was Broadway. It was the play „Company“ that finally had a part available that Jane Russell wanted to do. During the rehearsal for it though, Jane had to be put into the psychiatric ward of a hospital, because she had a completely psychotic break. She got out of it, did „Company“ and was a hit. She did not enjoy the long run though – she liked short-time engagements better, because she got bored by the daily routine. 

In 2006, bored from only doing personal appearances, Jane Russell developed a stage act and started to perform regularly at a local hotel in her then hometown of Santa Maria. 


When it comes to relationships it is important to know that Jane Russell always wanted to get married – even from an early age onwards. She once said that she was „born married. It was all I waited for.“ 

Robert Waterfield – Jane Russell and Robert Waterfield met at Van Nuys High School when Jane was only 14 years old. Jane was immediately taken by the handsome senior. Robert was described as „serious, brooding and distrustful of unfamiliar people“. Jane nicknamed him „Old Stone Face“. They actually only started dating when Jane herself was a senior and Robert was in college. This started a relationship that would last almost 30 years. But it wasn’t easy. Actually, Jane had to learn how to communicate and be with Robert, who never wanted to talk and wasn’t able to communicate feelings. They made love for the first time on Jane’s eighteenth birthday. When Jane was getting more and more coverage and her career was gaining speed, their relationship got more and more strained as Robert did not like the movie industry and did not like Jane to be a part of it. 

Before Jane Russell turned 21 years old, she got pregnant – on the cusp of a Hollywood career with a boyfriend who did not like her job, a marketing campaign worth millions of dollars for „The Outlaw“, and during a time that unmarried good girls did not become pregnant, Jane Russell did not see any other way out than getting an abortion. But options were limited and unsafe, official ways to get an abortion were not available back then. So, she went to a doctor known to perform these procedures. He did it – without anesthesia. Twice, because it was not successful the first time. It was pure hell for Russell, who got severely ill the second time with high fever. She had to be rushed to the hospital and operated on. She would never be able to get pregnant again because of the physical damage done by the illegal procedure. This led Jane to rethink her life – she broke off the engagement to emotionally unavailable Waterfield to officially date John Payne, whom she had occassionally dated during her time with Waterfield. She was actually not sure which baby it has been – at least that is what she wrote in her autobiography. 

Nevertheless, Jane Russell would not be able to free herself from the fascination she had for Robert Waterfield and eloped with him in 1943 to Las Vegas, Nevada and got married at 22 years.  

The marriage was a rocky one with two strong characters that were quite different. As they say – they were not able to be together nor to stay apart. The almost three decades together included also physical abuse of Jane, with one incident in Las Vegas, when Robert would punch her so often in the face that she had a black eye and was swollen for days. She would affirm that this was a singular event, but Jan Lowell who helped her ghostwrite her first autobiography said: „Honey, he beat the bejuses out of her. Apparently this is a football thing. She used to talk to the other football wives. They were all battered women. He beat her, she was a battered wife.“ 

Jane and Robert two adopted three kids during their marriage – Tracy, Thomas and Buck. 

The strained marriage went into serious decline during the filming of „The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown“ in 1957, when 36 year-old Jane cheated on her husband and was confronted about it by Robert. Although Robert swore on the Bible to have never cheated on her, this was a lie. He had done so. Jane filed for divorce in 1967. The process would take about 18 months – Tracy and Thomas would stay with Jane, Buck who adored his dad, stayed with him instead. 

John Payne – John Payne was quite the opposite of Waterfield. He was able to communicate feelings, he was a thinker, reader and writer, showered Jane with attention and tenderness. She dated him briefly during her relationship with Robert Waterfield. They even discussed marriage. 

Robert Mitchum – Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell got to know each other during the filming of „His Kind ofWoman“ and „Macao“, which basically started filming at the time of the reshoots for „His Kind of Woman“. They got along very well and developed a life-long friendship. She never admitted to have dated him nor to have had an affair with him. But, in interviews after his death, she would say something that could be interpreted to the contrary. For example, to the question „What did you love about working with him (Robert Mitchum)?“, Jane Russell answered „I loved Robert Mitchum!“ And when asked whether Robert Mitchum or later co-star Richard Egan was a better kisser, she would answer: „I never kissed Richard Egan, except in the picture.“ So a lot of people are assuming that he is the man that she cheated on Robert Waterfield with – and who would be the beginning of the end of their marriage. 

Dan Darby – Jane and Dan, a businessman, met through mutual friends and developed a bond quickly. In the beginning of 1962, they started an affair. This affair let Jane to ask for a divorce from Robert Waterfield. After separating from Waterfield, she found out that Dan was meeting other women at the same time and ended the relationship. 

Roger Barrett – Whilst the divorce of Jane and Robert was ongoing, Jane starred opposite Tony Dow at the Chicago Mill Run Playhouse. Co-starring was Roger Barrett. They fell in love immediately. Two months after meeting, they decided to get married. They were married in August 1968. But on November 18 of the same year, Roger Barrett suffered a heart attack from a blood clot and was dead at age 47, Jane was the same age. And devastated. She would would live on a boat for a while, suffered from deep depression and turned to alcohol – something she had done for most of her life. 

John Calvin Peoples – In 1973, Jane Russell moved to Santa Barbara, where she met Texas native John Peoples. He was a retired Airforce colonel and now involved in real estate investments near Santa Maria. They got married in 1974 and stayed together until Peoples’s death in 1999. They would live the most part together in Sedona, Arizona. After his death, Jane would move to Santa Maria and become friends with Katy Perry’s mother, Mary Hudson. She died at home in 1981 at age 89. 


Jane’s mother Geraldine Russell had always had a close relationship with god. It intensified when she lost her firstborn son in his first year. From then on, she became loyal to God and tried to instill in her kids a deep faith, an unwavering belief in God. Jane grew up with her mother holding bible studies for her family and then with friends and neighbors, inviting anybody who wanted to participate. Geraldine was non-denominational – neither catholic nor presbyterian. She believed in God and his goodness and in the Bible and was able to instill this in her kids and those around her. There were only about three years in Jane’s life that she was not practicing her faith. Apart from that she was a very devoted Christian, set up Christian groups in the Valley and in Hollywood and prayed often. She would never push her faith on anyone though, according to those who knew her. She would be inviting and talk about it whenever someone expressed interest, but never forceful. 

The most amazing thing about Jane was that she was able to be deeply faithful, yet totally fine with her image of a sex bomb. She was able to reconcile these appealingly opposites. 

One of the things that came out of it was a Christian-themed singing career with fellow actresses Connie Haines, Della Russell and Beryl Davis. Della would drop out and be replaced by Rhonda Fleming. As said before, they were quite successful, recorded several albums and booked nightclub acts.


One thing to point out about Jane Russell: She was very loyal and full of integrity. She would never reveal the names of people that crossed her path and showed up less than favorable. She would never insult, mock or give the press any chance to attack people. For example, before she had started out in the movies, a gentleman that Jane would only refer to as Mr. X would make advances at her and tell her that he would get her into the movies if only she slept with him. She reportedly just laughed and left the room. She never revealed his identity. 

The other incident would be a man that she cheated with on her first husband. She would never reveal his identity either and there is only interpretation and guessing that it could have been Robert Mitchum. 

She would also not reveal who the father of her unborn baby was. It could have been Robert Waterfield or John Payne. 

Additionally, she was strictly loyal to Howard Hughes, her boss for almost 30 years. The press always wanted to get some gossip about the eccentric millionaire out if it. Her reaction: „He’s gone a long way out of his way to avoid publicity, so I’m not about to be the one to give it to him.“ She was always loyal to him – something he valued very much. That’s why they got along so well for such a long time. 

Another absolutely touching incident happened during one of her last films. The director was on set despite being in excruciating pain. Jane saw it, said she wouldn’t work for stupid directors and left. She turned and said: „When you feel better, I will work for free.“ That’s the kind of woman she was. 

She was living her faith in the best way possible – without a church or an institution in the back. Just her conscience and God.


Because of the botched abortion in her teenage years, Jane Russell was unable to have children of her own. But as she wanted to have a big family, she adopted. Her first child, Tracy, was of American origin and was adopted at a few months of age. But Jane had always wanted a bigger brother herself and mourned the loss of the brother she had never known. That’s why she wanted to adopt a boy that was a little bit older than her daughter. She voiced this wish very openly in the media. And when she was in Europe for a gala charity event, a lady approached her with the most angelic boy names Thomas and pleaded Jane to take him as he would have a better life with her than with his birth mother. Jane and her team were able to get all the papers to get Thomas out of the UK and headed back to the US. And that’s when trouble began. The media would make a scandal out of it and the coverage got so outrageous that officials on both sides of the Atlantic were no longer able to turn a blind eye. The US involved first the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover, but he passed it on to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). All charges were dropped on the US side. In the UK on the other side, the birth parents of Thomas were accused and charged with „unlawfully permitting the care and possession of the infant to be transferred.“ Although Thomas’s birth parents were Irish, Thomas was born in England and thus subjected to the British jurisdiction. Jane Russell paid for a lawyer for the parents to get cleared of all charges. In the end, Jane and husband Robert Waterfield were able to adopt Thomas. And in the end it was all for the better, because his birth mother Florrie Kavanagh would later be involved in drug use and died murdered in her apartment. But the whole ordeal made Jane question why it was so difficult to adopt a child from another country. She founded WAIF to make it easier for kids to find families – when it was not able to match them within their country, they should have the possibility to be part of a family in another country. WAIF would become the fundraising part of the INS and approximately 40000 kids would find a home through the organization. It was the one thing that Jane Russell was most proud of – more than of her glamorous movie career. 


Actually, style-wise Jane Russell was quite a late bloomer. As she was growing up with four brothers on a ranch, she wore predominantly practical clothing and was not accustomed to wearing glamorous dresses when she first entered the film industry. 

That started to change right away when signing with Howard Hughs. The night he celebrated with Jane Russell and Jack Buetel in the fancy nightclub Mocambo, she realized she had nothing to wear and had to buy a new dress for a lot of money. Afterwards, Hughs send her to Slim Keith (the future wife of Howard Hawks who also was the one suggesting Lauren Bacall for To Have and Have Not) who got Jane dressed with Howard Hughs footing the bill. 

She was also incredibly lucky to be under contract to Howard Hughes personally not as an actress amongst many at a large studio like MGM – she was not forced to starve herself to death, to shave eyebrows or change anything about herself. Hughs let her be her beautiful self. 

Jane Russell’s glamour style evolved throughout her film career. Her first glamour movie „His Kind of Woman“ established her glamorous body and style with figure-hugging costumes by Howard Greer; RKO costume designer Michael Woulfe was responsible for Jane Russell costumes in the movie „Macao“, which included her gold evening gown made of metal mesh with an estimated weight of twenty-one pounds. This was actually the only high-necked costume that Howard Hughes allowed Jane Russell to wear. Actually, during the filming of the film, Howard Hughes sent a memo to Woulfe that would detail problems with the bosom area of Russell’s dress. It was a long text that in essence said: Make those breasts look more natural and more beautiful and let some form of a nipple show through the fabric. He was obsessed. But that is what happened and it was a beautiful wardrobe that let Jane Russell’s beauty shine. 

Jane also made headlines in 1951, when being invited to a gala charity event benefiting the Cinema Trade Benevolent Fund and being presented to the Queen in the process. One reporter wrote: „The most brilliant gown among the film actresses who were presented tonight was worn by Jane Russell. It was a heavy scarlet off-the-shoulder crinoline gown edged with mink She also wore a velvet hood and carried a muff of mink.“

William Travilla also designed dresses for Russell for the movie „Gentlemen prefer Blondes“ – and was at his wits end to come up with the right wardrobe that would emphasize each actresses fortes, get by the Production Code Administration and pull the movie together visually as it was shot in Technicolor. Jack Cole said about the first disastrous costume test: „(…) next to Monroe, Jane looked like (…) a very good lookin, sexy iceman, but an iceman.“ Jane was taller and more muscular than Marilyn and needed a whole new wardrobe. That’s when Jane sat down with Travilla and let him in on all the wisdom that she had acquired of what she was able to pull off and what not. The new costumes were a hit. 

When Woulfe was requested by Hughes to design a Bikini for Jane’s role in „The French Line“, trouble ensued. Jane Russell would not wear it – instead Woulfe designed a one-piece with cut-outs that would give the illusion of a two-piece. And it is absolutely legendary – much sexier than an obvious two-piece would have been. 

In short

Jane Russell was full of contradictions. A sex symbol that was studying the Bible and had unwavering faith in God. She was one of the most publicized and best-known actresses of her time, but most of her movies failed either critically or commercially. 

She was different than anybody else because of her special contract with Howard Hughes – she was not part of the studio system, she was absolutely loyal to Hughes. This had pros and cons. She was marketed as the busty sex symbol that Howard Hughes was obsessed with and was left to his whims when it came to the movies, but she also was allowed to be herself, to have freedom in expression – both literally as well as in her other creative endeavors. 

Her style and personality as well as her films will forever live on. 

One last remark: There is a quote out there by Jane Russell which reads: „These days I am a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist.“ Honestly, I totally side with the CEO of WAIF who said about this quote that he is quite sure that it was followed by a wink by Jane Russell, because she is anything but narrow-minded and mean-spirited. I hope you came to that conclusion as well during this episode. 

With all my love!



Interested in more? Check out this great book by Christina Rice: “Mean … Moody … Magnificent! Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend!”


In the Shop

Joan Crawford Giclee Print
Jane Russell Giclee Print
Breakfast at Tiffanys Giclee Print