Jane Russell: Actress, Sex Symbol, and WWII Pin-up Girl


“Sometimes the photographers would pose me in a low necked nightgown and tell me to bend down and pick up pails. They were not shooting the pails.” – Jane Russell


Jane Russell (June 21, 1921 – February 28, 2011)

Jane Russell
(June 21, 1921 – February 28, 2011)

Jane Russell was born Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell on June 21, 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota. Russell’s father was a Lieutenant in the US Army and her mother was a former actress in a road troupe. After her father was mustered from the army her parents moved to Canada. When Jane Russell was due to be born, her mother moved back to Minnesota temporarily to ensure that she would be born in the United States and be a U.S. citizen. Later the family moved to The San Fernando Valley of California. After high school Russell worked as a receptionist, did some modeling, and studied drama and acting with Max Reinhardt’s Theatrical Workshop. Discovered by Howard Hughes in 1940, she signed a seven year contract and made her screen debute in 1943 in “The Outlaw”. The film was actually finished in 1941, but wasn’t released until 1943, (then only a limited release) because of not being able to pass the censorship of the production code due to the ample cleavage Howard Hughes had Russell expose in the film. It wasn’t until 1946 that the film was fully released and was instantly a smash hit. During that time Hughes had Russell on a constant publicity tour to promote the movie and herself. The photo of her in a low cut blouse sitting in a hay stack became a popular pin-up poster for servicemen during WWII. She went on to make several more movies, starring with acting greats such as Bob Hope in “The Paleface” (1948), twice with Robert Mitchum in “His Kind Of Woman” (1951) and “Macao” (1952), Frank Sinatra and Grouco Marx in “Double Dynamite” (1951), Victor Mature and Vincent Price in “The Las Vegas Story” (1952), and Clark Gable in “The Tall Men” (1955).


Iconic photo of Jane Russell from "The Outlaw" (1943). This photo was a pin-up favorite of G.I.'s during WWII.

Iconic photo of Jane Russell from “The Outlaw” (1943). This photo was a pin-up favorite of G.I.’s during WWII.

Jane Russell’s most famous role was probably in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1955) with Marilyn Monroe. Russell went on to only make a handful of films the next few years and despite her early success never reached “A” status as an actor. Most of this is blamed on movie makers like Howard Hughes who were more interested in showing off her ample figure in movies than letting her acting and comedic talent shine through.


Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell putting signatures, hand and foot prints in cement at Grauman's Theatre. June 27, 1953

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell putting signatures, hand and foot prints in cement at Grauman’s Theatre. June 27, 1953

Jane Russell was married three times. Her first marriage was to Bob Waterfield in 1943, a successful American football player, with whom she formed a production company. They remained married for twenty-five years until they divorced in 1968. A brief marriage to actor Roger Barrett ended with his early death in the same year as her divorce from Waterfield. Real estate broker John Calvin Peoples, her last husband whom she married in 1974, died in 1999. Unable to have children of her own, Jane Russell and her first husband Bob Waterfield adopted three children. In 1955 she founded World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), an organization to place children with adoptive families and which pioneered adoptions from foreign countries by Americans. Through the World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), Russell has placed 51,000 children with adoptive families.


Jane Russell relaxing at home.

Jane Russell relaxing at home.

Even though Jane Russell was known as a sexy starlet and pin-up model, she was an avid Christian. At the height of her career Russell started the “Hollywood Christian Group” a weekly bible study held in her home for christians in the film industry, which was attended by some of Hollywood’s biggest names.


Jane Russell

Jane Russell


Jane Russell died Feb.28, 2011 at her home in Santa Maria, California from a respiratory related illness. She is survived by her three adopted children, six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.


Jane Russell

Jane Russell

For her film achievements, Jane Russell’s hand and foot prints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6850 Hollywood Boulevard.


Be sociable...Share!!Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest10Share on StumbleUpon0Share on LinkedIn0Share on Tumblr0

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Jane Russell: Actress, Sex Symbol, and WWII Pin-up Girl”

  1. […] Jane Geraldine Russell (June 21, 1921 – February 28, 2011) was an American film actress and one of Hollywood’s leading sex symbols in the 1940s and 1950s, starring in more than 20 films throughout her career. Jane Russell received several accolades for her achievements in films, including having her hand- and footprints immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. […]

Leave a Reply