Monday, February 28, 2011

The Big Screen in The Sky

We here at Film Gab are sad to report that today at age 89, the lovely Jane Russell passed away. In 1943 she made her screen debut in Howard Hughes' The Outlaw- and movie advertising was never the same again. Basing the marketing around Russell's decolletage, Hughes gave the Hayes Office an embolism with his racy ads for a Western that without Russell would have been... well flat. Russell may have been blessed with a fine chassis, but she really was much more than that. She was smart, sassy and held a confidence that did not depend solely on her looks. In an era where beautiful women always seemed to be seeking male approval, Russell portrayed a woman who didn't seem to care. Men could look, but if they wanted to touch, they had to play by her rules. In Howard Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), she played the best friend to Marilyn Monroe's Lorelei Lee. Another actress might have been swept under the cinematic rug in the wake of Monroe's fresh sexuality, but Russell held her own as the more cynical, smart-mouth brunette without becoming a mannish counterpoint. She was as feminine and beautiful as Monroe, and the two made a delightful pairing in a film that, at least for one gay Midwestern teen, opened up a whole new world of cinema. Here's hoping Saint Peter has an angel-sized cross-your-heart bra.

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