Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jane Russell, 1921-2011

Jane Russell, the buxom brunette who was plucked from doctor's office obscurity by Howard Hughes for the censor-provoking The Outlaw, died of respiratory failure today. She was 89.

In my mind, she wasn't a particularly good actress, but she was a more than adequate foil for Robert Mitchum in His Kind of Woman, one of my favorite not-quite noirs. (Too bad there aren't many good clips to choose from, but the one above is as good as any.) In that film, as well as two other early '50s noirs The Las Vegas Story and Macao (again with Mitchum), she held the camera's attention. Interestingly, Vincent Price showed up in two of those three (Woman and Vegas), as well.

There's an easy confidence to her performances that I have a feeling was all Russell. She is a big reason why these low-rent pictures are fun to watch. Her chemistry with Mitchum, in particular, is knowing and playful in ways that Bogie/Bacall could never be, given how doctored the scripts for those bigger budget flicks were.

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