SANTA MARIA, CA (CBS/AP) – Jane Russell passed away at her home in California Monday, surrounded by her children, reports KCOY-TV. The legendary Hollywood sex symbol of the 40s and 50s – described by some as the sassy brunette counterpart to Marilyn Monroe’s ditsy blonde-bombshell – was 89 years old.
Russell leaves behind three children, six grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Veteran Associated Press Hollywood correspondent Bob Thomas reported in 2000 that Russell was married to her high school sweetheart, Bob Waterfield, for most of her film career. They adopted three children and divorced after 23 years of marriage. Her second marriage, in 1969 to actor Roger Barrett, ended after three months when he died suddenly. In 1972, she married real estate broker and builder John Peoples; he died in April 1999.
Thomas wrote that Russell’s house is filled with her color-splashed paintings, but little evidence of her movie past. The exception is a hallway filled with photos of her with Robert Mitchum, Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Monroe and other co-stars.
Russell’s fame was carefully nurtured early in her career by another Hollywood legend: Howard Hughes. Thomas wrote that her ample cleavage and good looks helped make her one of the most sought-after pinups of World War II.
In 1941, Hughes cast her as the temptress in his “sex Western,” “The Outlaw,” a movie that gained notoriety because censors kept the film from general release until 1950 in a dispute over Russell’s cleavage. Thomas reports that Bob Hope once introduced her as “the two and only Jane Russell.”
She appeared and starred in dozens of films and theatrical productions throughout her career. She also wrote an autobiography in 1985 called “My Path and Detours.” Her biggest box-office hits were “Paleface” with Hope, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” with Monroe.
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