Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rant #454: Keeping Abreast of Another Icon's Passing

To a certain generation, all you have to say is "Jane Russell" and their eyes will light up.

Russell was the first of the modern sex symbols. She smoked on the screen without revealing very much, certainly much less than actresses show on the red carpet of the Academy Awards.

Russell, 89, died yesterday of respiratory failure, but she will be remembered as the predecessor to the great screen sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s, including Marilyn Monroe.

A local newscast, in reporting her death, said she was full figured, but I would call her sultry. She had a sex appeal that started with her wild, curly mane, moved down to her penetrating eyes, and then, well moved down a bit more.

Howard Hughes took her under his wing, and before she was in any movies, his publicity mill churned out photo after photo of her in low-cut costumes and bathing suits, all of which accented her exceptional figure.

Then, in 1943, right in the middle of World War II, Hughes and Russell made headlines in an absolutely horrible movie called "The Outlaw." There was more sexual innuendo in this film than had been seen and heard before, and it became something of a scandalous film. Russell wore low-cut costumes to accent her figure, but nothing came off on screen.

She starred in numerous other films, including "The Paleface," but even with her buxom figure and the possibility of made-up scandal, she mainly kept out of the headlines. She was married for many years to pro football quarterback Bob Waterfield, and really didn't generate much negative publicity.

She also starred with Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and it was like the passing of the torch from Russell to Monroe in that film.

During the 1960s and 1970s, playing on her ample figure, she was featured in a number of bra commercials.

With her passing, the last great pre-1960s sex symbol still alive is Mamie Van Doren, but Russell paved the way for her, Monroe, and into the 1960s, actresses such as Raquel Welch and Ann-Margret to exude ultimate sexuality without revealing very much.

She will be missed.

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