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Gentlemen Prefer Brains—Jane Russell

Every time I hear a hen session on the merits of a gal showing her brains, I’m reminded of a studio romance that I watched—two young girls struggling hard to snag the same man. Phyllis was a real hep gal, had a nice job in the studio office, and in addition had plenty of gray matter, which she purposely hid behind a physical front. Jim was the nice guy in question . . . worth any girl’s efforts to land. And Phyllis tried her hardest. She used every physical appeal in the book to get Jim and tried almost as hard not to show her intelligence quotient. This was part of her feminine attack. When Jim listened to a forum on political problems on TV, Phyllis would go into the bedroom to pretty her face. She might have discussed the forum with him, but she settled on sex appeal. When June came along, Phyllis didn’t seem worried. June wasn’t as pretty, and besides she could be classified as “brainy”. . . a good gal to have around to discuss the rising prices of steel. Well, to make the tale a short one, June walked off with Jim—natch. And Phyllis is still trying to figure out where she goofed.

I could have told Phyllis, since I had casually kept in tune with the whole romance, but for once, I kept my advice-giving instincts to myself. It was difficult, for nothing is more discouraging and distressing to me than to watch a woman simper and fawn and make like there isn’t a brain in her little old head as she coyly looks up at the man she’s secretly plotting to lead to the altar. If she hooks him purely on the basis of her physical appeal, somebody is going to end up feeling gypped!

It takes brains to build a personality that’s warm and full enough to last a lifetime. It also takes honesty. Sure, we gals will take every advantage by way of clothes, make-up, nature’s aids and natural assets, but behind the front, we need the gray matter that’s necessary for the long haul of dating, marriage and earning a living. There comes a time when the honeymoon is over. Your hero comes home, griping about the boss. Just try a seductive simper or giggle at that point and you’ll end up in your own stew. Often he needs a sympathetic, understanding helpmate who can intelligently discuss the situation (from his point of view), and then again there are times when you have to use your brains and keep quiet.

I started learning to keep my mouth shut at the ripe old age of three. My dad had an important job that frequently brought him home nervous and upset. We had two standing rules laid down by Mother. One, never discuss anything until Dad ate his dinner. Two, after dinner, check his mood. If good, go ahead and have your say. If not in a good mood, keep quiet. Both of these rules are still very important to me. However, Im a gal who opens her mouth loud and long when I feel instinctively it’s the right time.

No two people are alike, so if some of my ideas on brain power don’t jibe with your own, then understand that the way I feel is strictly from my.own experience. They don’t have to be right for you, but they are for me.

I’m sure, for example, that most women don’t end up happily married by being nasty to their prospective bridegroom for three years. Well, I did. It was my way of using my brain. You see, Robert was the great big hero at high school, and practically all the girls drooled and sighed after him in a very obvious way. I liked him a lot, but I didn’t know how to show it. So, being me, I was nasty to him. When I first started this bit, I was a pretty scrawny kid and I’m sure it didn’t register with him.

But three years later when my girl friend Pat and I were catching the afternoon sun on the beach, I had reached my present proportions. I will repeat, here and now, that I’m all for making use of physical assets. Robert and his best friend Chuck were also at the beach. This time Robert noticed me. I was quite nasty to him again. As he is a constant needler, the repartee got pretty sharp and slowly, between verbal cracks, Chuck and Robert maneuvered up to our blanket and officially joined us. By the time the sun started fading, Robert and Chuck had offered to drive us home. When we got in Robert’s car, I couldn’t continue being nasty. I became shy, uncertain and flustered. Being nasty had been a tactic, but being shy was being myself. I liked the guy and I couldn’t go on sneering.

I’d like to say that this was the be- ginning of love’s young dream and we lived happily ever after, but tain’t so. I’d used my brain to interest Robert at the start, but I lost my head completely for the next few months. I learned that all heart and no head can be pretty sticky. I was in love and knew it, so I became terribly sweet. Anything Robert wanted was just what I wanted. Slowly he started walking all over me. He nagged at me constantly and I was miserable. Our friends were furious with his attitude and kept at me to tell him off, but I was afraid it would be the end, so I kept taking everything he dished out. Finally I got sick of it. I realized that it would be the end either way if I let him continue, and eventually we would have nothing between us if I didn’t stand up to him once in a while. I finally told him off—long and loud. Robert was delighted!

That’s when my brain started perking again. I realized that Robert and I could have a wonderful marriage if we were completely honest with each other. As I was not honestly a terribly sweet martyr, I relaxed and moved with relief back into my own personality. Since then, I can positively say that Robert and I have had more fights than any other two living individuals. We had five years to get used to the routine before we finally married.

Here and now, I’ll tell you my theory on marriage. If he doesn’t propose within six months, you’ve got to set a trap. A man will go steady until he’s eighty unless trapped in a marriageable mood and hustled off immediately to the preacher. So after five years of dating, I took steps.

Psychologically I knew the time was ripe. The studio was planning to send me on more p.a.’s; Robert was furious that I seemed to be having a ball, and I knew Robert was going to be inducted into the Army any minute. So when he came to San Francisco to see his best girl, the best girl was waiting, trap baited. I maneuvered for the right time and then said, “Look, we’re not going steady any more. You date other girls and I’ll date other guys—or we get married.” Robert was livid from toe to head. It was an ultimatum and he knew it. Finally he said, “Come on home and let’s get married.” And I accepted his manly proposal quickly like the shy sweet girl I was. I think if more women would be honest about the way they got a proposal, we’d have more trap-material to pass on to the younger female generation.

Knowing what you really want out of life helps a lot too. When Robert went to Fort Benning, Georgia, two weeks after we were married, I had no hesitation about following. Any woman’s career should be secondary to her husband. Although we never discussed it, I suppose Robert, like any man, took comfort from the fact that he was first priority. In that hectic year in Columbus, Robert and I built the foundation of our marriage. As individuals we were completely different; our common meeting ground was home. And that’s the way it still is with us. We have different interests in people, entertainment and hobbies. During that first year we established the honest pattern of living. During the day Robert went his way and I went mine, but for us, the coming together in the evening, in our own home, has given us a oneness that has made us both happy.

When we got back to Hollywood to take up our lives again, we had established a respect and tolerance for each other’s way of thinking. We had learned to compromise and blend, to enjoy being apart and then coming together. Even though we sometimes come together with a bang—we manage to have some pretty healthy fights—we have never thrown that final word, divorce, into an argument. It’s taboo in our house. In days gone by, the old cry used to be, “I’ll go home to Mother.” Now I’m afraid that divorce is thrown around too lightly and used as a tool in an argument. Any woman with brains knows that in the heat of an argument a threat can turn into a reality if the other person is equally as mad. Divorce is a dangerous dare to make with something as all-important as marriage.

I also learned early in my career that if I didn’t use my head for my own benefit, nobody else would. Howard Hawks taught me that lesson—but not quite early enough. “The Outlaw” was my first picture and I was green. When photographers descended to take my picture, I was eager to please. I pleased all right. They had me bending over picking up flowers or pencils or what have you off the ground. When the dawn finally came, I ran crying to Howard Hawks, the director. I wanted him to do something about those pictures and pictures in the future. He didn’t sympathize. He just looked at me and said, “Jane, if you’re going to be in this business, you’ve got to take care of yourself.” And I started growing up in the picture business. I have to a large extent looked out for myself since. On the important issues I can be firm, yet I’ll admit that I’m lazy about a lot of things. But I always have a reminder of my first wide-eyed stupidity. Every once in a while another one of those “Outlaw” pictures comes out. And if you see them and think that Old Jane looks awfully young, you’re right. She was when they were taken.

When I say I try to be aware of the serious things in my career, I mean just that. My career is not my whole life.

I know that my attitude of standing up for what I believe is right for my career, although personally effective, would not exactly enhance a position in an office. But then, I have to accept the fact that I’m in an unusual business and my theories may work only a little for you. It has been said that I can, when baited, scream, roar, growl and glare for what I think is right. This rumor is true. But I didn’t start standing up for what I believed in until I had quite a few years’ experience in picture-making and gained confidence in my knowledge of what to stand up for.

Harry Tatelman, the producer, has always given me the confidence in myself I needed. When we started “The Big Rainbow” together, he gave me an opportunity to work with him from his point of view. Thanks to Harry, now that I’ve taken the first step into understanding the whole, rather than the narrower, view of a script, I find it exciting. Naturally I want to learn more, and I go over prospective scripts for our company, Russ-Field, with a new eagerness. I think the planning of our company was a normal step in our pattern. Robert has always been the manager, bookkeeper and cash-accountant in our house. He takes care of all the money and I get an allowance. I would be horribly bored if I had to lend a hand in the decisions of what to do and what to buy. Robert is still a quarterback at heart, and he’ll call the signals on our producing company just as effectively as he did on the gridiron.

Which brings up another “use your brain in business” point. If you have a good idea, stick to it. Of course you go on with your daily work, but always lurking in the back of your mind should be the one-track idea you’re holding on to. Eventually they pay off.

Margaret Martinez, my girl Friday, became a literary wheel about six years ago. She appeared with a terrific screen play, “The Way of an Eagle.” It’s a strong solid story and I immediately saw Jeff Chandler as the male lead. I had just seen him on the screen and had a strong reaction to his ability. I begged every producer at RKO to read it and get Jeff Chandler and me for the leads. Everyone was kind, but nobody bought. So? Five years later, Russ-Field bought the story and Jeff is going to do the lead.

One place a girl can show her brain is in her hobby. I have many, really too many, hobbies but the one that has become a part of my life is the International Adoption Association. Starting with the sole purpose of putting orphans in private homes with parents instead of institutions here in the United States, we have now gotten IAA recognized as the international channel for adoption through International Social Service and are raising funds to put case workers in desperate areas throughout the world. Here at home, too, we have a problem. Our laws are so antiquated that most Americans should be ashamed. There are enough orphaned children for all the people who want them and it seems tragic to let red tape prevent their happiness. This is work that any one of us can help out and make a contribution. Getting into something like this that’s more worth-while and bigger than yourself can be a glorious outlet for you mentally and also spiritually.

There is one place, and that’s in my marriage, where my brain power is useless to me. That’s with Robert. Every man has a different approach system. Robert, however, has no approach. I cannot finagle, plead, hint or coerce him into a decision. He just wants the facts. That’s all he needs to make a decision. It makes no difference how emotional I may feel about it. Robert doesn’t let that enter into his final decision, so you see I can’t prepare him to decide the way I want by building up his ego or being coy. For instance, with Tracy, our baby girl, I had hinted and discussed onesidely the possibility of adoption, with no response at all from Robert. So the day the letter came, I merely planted it in front of Robert and told him that this was the information concerning a baby girl who was available for adoption. I braced myself, but the impossible happened. Robert read it over, then said, “Okay, go ahead.” It had passed Robert’s test. I knew it was right.

In fact, there are many ways that I misuse my brains. ‘Intelligent women can take a tip on what not to do from me. I am much too impatient and that is not considered feminine. I like conversation stripped to the bone of necessity and general palaver can send me sailing into the blue. I am too often abrupt and to the point. I understand I frighten socially correct people into the stuttering meemies, by asking them to get to the point. My impatience has given many wrong impressions, but I can’t seem to overcome this fault. I say, when I am healthy and rested, that I will control myself and listen politely to the flubdub of the social world, but I know deep down I won’t.

I also realize that I can’t say no. I end up doing much too much in too little time. This not only tires me, but makes Robert ready to tie me to the doorstop. I know that some day I must attain some “enlightened selfishness” for my health and my family’s sake. But so far, I’ve not come up with a reason why I can’t appear for a benefit or offer advice to the unhappy. I am, I shamefacedly admit, an advice-giver. I’m not a person to be blithe and free with affection, so I take it out in listening and advising. Mentally, I am aware that any advice-giver is only used for his ears’ sake, but emotionally I get all tangled up in the trials and tribulations of others. This is to be avoided.

Another way you can use your brain is to express your thoughts carefully and clearly. I find myself woefully lacking in this area, not being able to express myself completely except when I roar. I therefore surround myself with understanding friends that I don’t have to explain anything to. This is social laziness and could also be a peculiar piece of social insecurity, but I’ve managed not to probe that too deeply. I have found though—as you probably have—that once I feel the confidence of knowledge, I break the bounds of silence and shyness. So if you’re shy, use your brain and bone up on a couple of subjects that interest you—you’ll find you’ll interest others, too.

And remember, every human being in the world grows—for better or for worse. Women who put their mind to it can grow beyond their own dreams. Don’t be afraid to use your brains. And don’t be afraid to let love and warmth and understanding seep through the skin of your outer shell. For in the long run outgoing, overcoming, understanding and love are the ingredients that make up a happy woman. And if we only cling to the outside shell, we’ll end up in old age being ugly on the outside—as well as ugly on the inside.





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