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Well Just Damn: Jane Russell 1921-2011 | Manolo for the Big Girl

Well Just Damn: Jane Russell 1921-2011

Most people know two things about Jane Russell:

Her scandalous-for-the-time promo shots of The Outlaw featuring what is generally acknowledged as the first underwire push-up bra, invented under the watchful eye of producer and tissue-box enthusiast Howard Hughes and being the woman who wasn’t Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Speaking of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, everyone knows the “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number, many even know the showgirl piece “Just Two Little Girls from Little Rock” but what folks seem to forget is the greatest assembly of golden age Safety Gays ever committed to celluloid:

I loved Jane Russell because she was obviously so much smarter than the doofuses who treated her as a just a bouncy bouncy bombshell. Plus, she inadventently helped a young Miss Plumcake come to peace with dressing her body.

In an interview sometime before 1993, Ms Russell bemoaned what a terrible time costumers had dressing her because she was so tall, long-waisted and actually much bigger than the 38-24-36 measurements the studio’s publicity department decided she had. She never once said it was a problem with her figure, the problem was with inept costumers, NOT her figure.

WELL! Enough lightbulbs to power Dallas went off in my young head. Was it possible the reason I had problems finding clothes that made me look as fabulous as I wanted (and remember, I was probably about 12 at this point) wasn’t because there was something wrong with ME, but with the people making the clothes?

I mean there was certainly nothing wrong with Jane Russell’s figure, and if SHE had a hard time of it, then CLEARLY the fault wasn’t in the star, dear Brutus, but in her seamstresses.

JR never got the respect she deserved as an actress. Her comedic timing was great and her dramatic roles had an undercurrent of ferocity that elevated even the flimsiest script. Yes, she had a great rack and was beautiful, but she was sharp, bright and unapologetic on and off the screen.

Rest in peace, Ms Russell, and in Heaven I hope everyone has the courtesy to look you in the eyes.

20 Responses to “Well Just Damn: Jane Russell 1921-2011”

  1. Frances March 1, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    “Looking For Trouble” is my Getting-dressed-for-Friday-night song.

    She was so stunning and yes, great comedic timing. A life well played, Ms Russell.

    Oh, Plum, Galliano! I cannot even.. Just, NO. Aaarrrggghhhh.

  2. Thea March 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    Absofrickinlootly – the problem is with the clothes, but with the twits who lack the skill and foresight to dress my goddessness! (oops, am I channelling Charlie Sheen)

    And thanks to Miss Russell, who inspired pushup bras and a 12-year-old girl who watched 18-hour bra ads and thought maybe she COULD handle being a curvy girl after all

  3. jojo.k March 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Ditto.
    I’m a huge fan of Miss Russell’s.
    Her confidence and attitude always seemed at odds with the stereotype of the female ideal of the time. And that’s not a bad thing.

  4. Toby Wollin March 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Jane Russell. Oh, how I wanted to BE Jane Russell – or at least be bequeathed 5″ of her height. What a woman!!! No namby pamby whispery voice. She had it all over the blond dipsy doodles of her time. And outlived them, too!!

  5. Atlanta Roofing March 2, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    Apart from the trashiness of today’s “superstars” they all lack what Jane Russell had in spades: star quality. Last Sunday, at the Oscars, most of those ladies looked like some Mary Smiths who had just washed their hair but didn’t have time to blow dry. All of them are interchangeable. Jane Russell was unique. RIP

  6. Jessica March 2, 2011 at 3:11 am #

    Ms. Russell was one of the women I wanted to grow up to be. Sadly I never got that tall! I grew up watching musicals and she always struck me as one of the most vivacious women in Hollywood at the time. Enjoy your resting place Ms. Russell!

    I’m so sorry to go off topic but it has been years since I had seen that skit and WOW! Those gentlemen and their skin toned trunks…Scandalous! And delicious!

  7. Funny T Shirts March 2, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    I have to say that I am a big fan of Miss Russell’s.
    Her confidence and attitude always seemed at odds with the stereotype of the female ideal of the time. And that is not a bad thing by far.

  8. Margaret March 2, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    This may not be entirely relevant to the post, but I was just wondering if Miss Plumcake has any plans to write a book?

  9. Talbot March 2, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    Jane Russell was fantastic. If you can find them, it’s worth looking for interviews of her with Robert Mitchum. They were apparently great friends for years, and these interviews are very funny–especially Jane talking about people asking her to pick up a bucket or some other action so they could get a look at her chest.

  10. Miss Plumcake March 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    @Magsryan: I get asked that question pretty frequently and my answer is always the same: I’ll write a book when someone gives me an advance that pays for an entire year of rent at Stately Château Gâteau plus a new pair of slippers and a bottle of Scotch.

  11. dcsurfergirl March 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    I remember Jane Russell for her 18-Hour Bra TV ads. I wish I could have met her.

    As a chunky girl growing up among thin women, I was sure I was going to be the biggest girl alive. Any time I dared to look at pretty clothes or cute underwear, I somehow ended up back in the chubby section at Sears. Even getting fitted for a bra was painful. What needed to be trained? Why was everyone so sure I going to need a whole lot of support? What WAS support? Nothing made sense.

    One night as I was watching TV, I saw one of Jane’s ads. Jane talked about the support “us full-figured gals” needed. Oh, THAT’S support. Us? There were others like me? Oh, good. Somehow, bras didn’t seem so scary. Maybe everything would be all right.

    Thanks, Jane.

  12. Thea March 2, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    DCsurfer girl – are you another victim of the Sears “Lemon Frog” department? We need a club!

  13. Julia March 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Thanks for posting that clip! There was a certain point early on, during a close-up as she was singing, that she looked like a dead ringer for Elvis. She had that same sensuality and swagger in the way she projected herself on screen. Fierce, indeed!

  14. dcsurfergirl March 2, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    Thea–no, no Lemon Frog. I just kept getting led back to the chubby younger girl section. I remember a lot of loose plaid puff sleeve dresses. I always seemed end up with a size too big so I would look thinner.

  15. dcsurfergirl March 2, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    http://www.aperfectworld.org/page_fourteen.html
    Oh, wow. Lemon Frog or chubby section? What a choice.

  16. Jezebella March 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    DCsurfergirl: ayeee! You have just hit one of my pet peeves: “buy a size too big so you look thinner.” WHAT I DON’T EVEN that makes no sense… and yet my mother, I swear to dog, STILL, to this day, always wants me to buy the next size up no matter how well something fits me. So I will put on the next size up and show her how the shoulders droop and the sleeves are too long and the waist billows, and I can tell she’s not convinced. I can still fit into clothes she talked me into buying fifty pounds ago. This is why I cannot shop with her. I once broke up with a local shop that was already kind of on my bad-list because they hid the plus sizes in the back corner.. but THEN! They hired a waif of a redneck teenager who told me that the house-sized pants I’d tried on “made me look smaller because they were too big.” Such a liar, in the service of a sale.

    Where did that terrible myth come from? And how can we kill it?

  17. dcsurfergirl March 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Oopsie. I didn’t mean to get things off-track. The trauma of Sears could be the subject of another post.

    I am just glad Jane made things less scary. Thanks again.

  18. Thea March 4, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    dcsurfergirl – sorry my bad, I thought Lemon Frog WAS the chubby dept, where I also ‘did time’. All those stupid drop waist dresses that made me look bigger than I actually was…arrrugh

  19. Thea March 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Jezabella, I’m with ya. Let’s kill ‘bigger makes you look smaller’ along with the aspiration to look ‘taller and thinner by wearing all black’. I love black but that’s expecting too much of a color.

  20. Thea March 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    OK I promise I’ll stop after this, but for your viewing pleasure – Sears 1971 ‘chubby section’ for girls http://www.aperfectworld.org/page_fifteen.html