Happy Birthday to the incomparable Jane who would have been 98.
Updates on the book coming soon!
When I was first approached about writing a Jane Russell biography, I must confess that I had only seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Outlaw, so it’s been a lot of fun diving into Jane’s filmography. Jane was certainly more of a personality than an actress, but she was usually well cast and always a heck of a lot of fun to watch onscreen. For those wanting get more exposure to Jane’s work (or revisit it), Turner Classic Movies is happy to oblige with three of Jane’s titles this month.
His Kind of Woman (1951)
Saturday, January 5, 9:00pm PST
Sunday January 6, 7:00am PST
Tomorrow, Eddie Muller is kicking off the 2019 Noir Alley series with His Kind of Woman, the first of two films Jane co-starred in with Robert Mitchum. This is a fun noir with amazing chemistry between its two stars and Vincent Price is an utter delight. The film ultimately gets the Howard Hughes touch, meaning it goes completely off the rails toward the end, but it’s well worth the time. Just in case you miss it for Noir Alley, it’s re-airing the following morning.
Monday, January 14, 12:45am PST
Macao was the second and (sadly) final pairing of Russell and Mitchum. For me, it’s not quite as memorable as His Kind Woman, but it’s still really enjoyable and Jane is stunning in this one. Her costumes are wonderful. This also might be my favorite entrance of Jane’s in a film. Check out her expression as she watches her date dance!
Born Losers (1967)
This is the first film of the Billy Jack series, focusing on the exploits of a part-Native American/Vietnam Vet/biker outlaw. Jane has a small role as the mother of a rape victim. I have not actually watched this film yet since, and admit to having been putting it off since the content sounds pretty intense. I could just watch Jane’s part, but feel like I need to watch the entire thing if I am going to ultimately write about it. Since I purchased the Billy Jack box set, I am going to be skipping this airing, but will post my thoughts once I take the plunge.
Yes, I know the holiday season is officially winding down, but I could not resist posting this photo of Jane topping off the Christmas tree to start a new year.
I do confess there’s been crickets in these parts since I first announced I was working on a Jane Russell biography. 2018 proved to be a year of distractions, albeit good professional ones, but I have cleared off my plate and am ready to be all about Jane.
So, where does the bio stand? I have spent the last couple of months organizing and logging the research I have compiled over the last four years and geeze there is a lot! Jane is the opposite of Ann Dvorak (the subject of my last book) in that there is more information than I could ever possibly use. Jane made far fewer movies than Ann, but she worked non-stop in television, radio, and especially as a touring singer so there was a lot of coverage. She was interviewed constantly over the years (though tended to get asked the same questions over and over), so that’s another great source. Jane also published her own memoir in 1985, though I am going to try to quote that sparingly since I want my book to complement Jane’s not just rehash it. Did you know Jane’s mother wrote book in 1960? In other words, there is no shortage of info on Jane Russell.
Looking forward, I have a list of folks I need to contact for interviews. For some reason, this is the one aspect of research that a loath, but I need to suck it up and do it. My goal is to finish organizing everything but the end of this month and start writing. I am hoping to send the proposal to my publisher by May and be damn near done with it by the end of the year. With Jane’s centennial coming up in 2021, that is my publication goal.
Anyone who has followed my Ann Dvorak exploits knows that I posses that defective collecting gene which tends to overcome my better financial judgement. After collection Ann Dvorak memorabilia for the last 20 years, I don’t find as much as a used to, so Jane has proven to be a worthy substitute. I have tried to limit myself to photos, though at this point I have way more than I would ever use in the book, though many of them are pretty great. I’ll probably start sharing some of those here and on social media.
In other words, get ready for a lot of Jane Russell!
Cheers and Happy New Year!
When Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel was released in November 2013, I was often asked, “who are you going to write a book on next?” At the time, my answer was an emphatic “No one!” It had taken me 15 years to research and write the book on Ann and I simply could not conceive of tackling a similar project on someone else. Instead, I went the opposite route and started writing issues of the My Little Pony comic book series.
After a spell, Patrick McGilligan over at the University Press of Kenucky asked me if I had considered writing a follow-up book. By that time, I had thawed on the idea of never writing another biography and was open to it. I told him I found Aline MacMahon fascinating, to which he replied, “We’d like to see you write about someone less obscure than Ann Dvorak. How about Jane Russell?”
How about Jane Russell? I have to admit that I had never given much thought to Jane Russell. Sure, I LOVED her in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and was vaguely familiar with all the hoopla surrounding Howard Hughes and The Outlaw, but otherwise I knew nothing about Jane. Ok, I did remember those Playtex bra commercials from when I was a kid. I found the suggestion intriguing and started exploring the life and career of Jane Russell.
What did I discover? Jane Russell is fascinating! Despite being discovered by Howard Hughes in 1940, Jane only had 3 movies released the entire decade, but managed to hold the public’s attention all that time, largely by being one of the favorite pin-ups of servicemen. While the marketing of Jane Russell was some of the most overtly sexual in Hollywood history, off-screen Jane was extremely spiritual and an avid student of the Bible. Jane worked with some of the era’s most notable director’s and actors, but considered her work as an adoption advocate to be her greatest accomplishment. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on Jane and commit to another book.
Amazingly, there has never been a biography on Jane Russell, though she did pen her own memoir in 1985. That book is incredibly candid and I recommend it. However, I believe an examination of her life and career is certainly in order and I view the book I am working on as a companion to the autobiography.
So where is the project at? I’ve been researching on and off for around three years now, and have a good deal of info compiled. I’ve conducted a handful of interviews, but would like to get some additional input for people who knew and worked with her. I’ll still need to go through an official submission process with University Press of Kentucky, but I feel pretty good that I will move forward with them. Overall, I am far enough along that I felt the need to launch this site and get the word out about my commitment to Jane!
If you’re a Jane Russell fan, I hope this is exciting news. If you’re not that familiar with Jane, I hope this book will make you a fan.
Catch you back here soon!