Actress Jane Russell, star of Howard Hughes’ ‘The Outlaw,’ dies at 89


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Actress Jane Russell, who became a star with the 1943 release of ‘The Outlaw,’ Howard Hughes’ challenge to the Hollywood production code, has died. She was 89.

[Updated at 3:47 p.m. Russell died Monday at her home in Santa Maria, said her son Buck Waterfield. He did not give the cause.] Russell went on to play Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in ‘The Paleface’ (1948), and she starred with Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 musical ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’


As former Times staff writer Claudia Luther explains in her obituary of the actress, ‘Russell’s provocative performance in ‘The Outlaw’ — and the studio publicity shots posing her in a low-cut blouse reclined on a stack of hay bales — marked a turning point in moviedom sexuality. She became a bona fide star and a favorite pinup girl of soldiers during World War II. Troops in Korea named two embattled hills in her honor. ...

‘Meanwhile, Hughes brilliantly publicized the film, issuing Russell-in-the-haystack posters with such lines as ‘How Would You Like to Tussle With Russell?’ and ‘Mean! Moody! Magnificent!’ In one publicity stunt, a skywriter wrote ‘The Outlaw’ in the sky and then carefully drew two circles with a dot in the center of each.’

Some readers will remember Russell as a pitchwoman for Playtex bras, for ‘full-figured women.’

Services are set for 11 a.m. March 12 at Pacific Christian Church, 3435 Santa Maria Way, Santa Maria.

Instead of flowers, her family suggests donations in her name to Care Net Pregnancy & Resource Center, 121 W. Battles, Santa Maria, CA 93458; or CASA of Santa Barbara County, 120 E. Jones St., Suite 130, Santa Maria, CA 93454.

The full obituary of Jane Russell can be found here. What is your favorite Jane Russell movie memory?



Jane Russell’s Hollywood star

-- Claire Noland