Mean…Moody…Magnificent! Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend

Univ. of Kentucky. (Screen Classics). Jun. 2021. 372p. ISBN 9780813181080. $29.95. FILM
Though actress Jane Russell is probably best-remembered for costarring alongside Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Rice (Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel), a librarian at Los Angeles Public Library, aims to rectify that with this intricately researched biography that offers a far fuller portrait. Russell was born in Minnesota, and her parents moved to Los Angeles when she was a baby. Russell didn’t plan on becoming an actress, but a brief modeling career led to her discovery by Howard Hughes, who was looking for an unknown to star in his movie The Outlaw. The film was a breakout hit for Russell, though it was arguably more famous for the photo in which she posed provocatively on a haystack, and the resulting censorship assaults, than for her performance. Writing in a folksy, readable style, Rice shares the contradictions of Russell’s career and personal life: She was a sex symbol who studied the Bible, and while she was a staunch conservative, she advocated for social programs for orphaned children. Rice also explores Russell’s association with Hughes, which lasted for more than 30 years and was both a blessing and a curse.
VERDICT Whether readers are intimately familiar with the golden age of Hollywood, or are newcomers to the topic, they’ll come away having learned something about one of its stars.
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