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You’re Wrong About Jane Russell!

Not very long ago a typically “hot” Hollywood story came winging out of Las Vegas, Nevada, from the scene of RKO’s premiere for The Las Vegas Story. More than 100 members of the Hollywood press were in town at the time, partying at the studio’s expense, so the story was well covered. However, it was one of the most provocatively confused tales to ever hit the front pages.

The fact was that Jane Russell had a black eye. But beyond-that no one seemed sure of anything. One group of reporters held that Jane’s husband, Bob Waterfield, had belted her in a moment of masculine pique. Another, that Waterfield had aimed a tender caress at comedian Ben Blue and Mrs. Waterfield got in the way. And the loudest and mostest scribblers howled that Jane had been downed by a Cadillac door in a high wind.

How Jane Russell got the mouse is, actually, of no consequence—and it is, by now, ancient history. The point is that 100 reporters covering the same story ran about like pigeons in a panic frantically trying to get the low-down when it was there for the simple asking. All they had to do was ask Jane Russell. She’d have told them—for sure.

This exhibition is a fair example of what the press boys and girls have been doing with Jane Russell ever since the day she was photographed in a hay barn for a scene in The Outlaw. They have been describing her, analyzing her and misquoting her until today—if you have read all of these canards religiously—you are a graduate “Know-nothing” on Jane Russell.

We, therefore, must begin from scratch.

In the first place, no camera has ever done her justice. Through the cold crystal eye of a lens Jane Russell is a sultry wench with hot, brooding eyes, a mass of jet, unruly hair, a kissable mouth and a nose with nostrils that tend to flare at the sight of a male. This is not so. Her complexion is creamy and outdoorish. Her eyes are dark and thoughtful. They snap or smile, they’re never, in public, at least, hot and heavy-lidded. Her features are classic, thin and sensitive and her nose crinkles into a grin and never flares at anything.

Even when the camera is focused on that portion of her anatomy which has made her most famous, it exaggerates a quite normal symmetry of design into an RKO trade mark.

When the Las Vegas situation developed into such headlines, MODERN SCREEN decided to break a precedent and talk to Jane to clarify the true personality of this movietown enigma.

We dispensed with the eye because it was well when we spoke to her, and began with the figure.

“Does it bother you,” we asked, “hearing all the jokes that are made about your anatomy?”

“No,” she said, “it just bores me.”

“But don’t you realize,’ we pressed, “that your proportions have become something of a trade mark?”

“Sure,” she said, “It’s like the label on a can of tomatoes.”

That answer should settle once and for all the question of anger on the part of either one of the Waterfields over allusions to Jane’s figure. It is a dull part of the routine of being a movie star—but Jane and Bob realize that they’re stuck with it.

A great deal has been written about Jane Russell and religion. It has been intimated that she is something close to saintly in private life and as athletic an organizer of gospel gatherings as Billy Graham. It has been said that she formed a group of Hollywood stars and executives into a sectarian force that met weekly, or oftener, in one of the town’s largest churches in religious revivals.

That is not true. Jane Russell is neither saintly nor a revivalist. She confesses frankly to a quiet faith and she also confesses, with a glint in her eye, that she gets a bit of plain fun into her life. She has attended and probably still does attend an occasional service with the Hollywood Christian movement that has received so much publicity, but she is not a steady member and most certainly not the founder.

“Those fabulous gatherings of celebrities you read about me getting together,” she says with a smile, “are anything but that. And it’s odd that someone hasn’t found it out before. The group I do meet with began way back when we were all kids. It consists of my brothers, their wives and a few close friends, all of whom were a bit on the hellion side when we were kids. You know, kids who drove ears too fast and smoked too early and things like that. We meet at my house and we sit around on the floor in blue jeans. If you were to peek in the window, you’d think we were having a party. Well, we all decided that now we are grown up, a little religious education wouldn’t hurt us, so we get together and have discussions and Bible readings—and it’s fun.”

All you have to do is talk to Jane Russell on any subject for ten minutes and you can see that she isn’t capable of going overboard about anything. She has too many interests and, according to her own admission, she’s not steady enough on her course to become a fanatic.

“I’m a starter,” she said. “I begin things but I never finish them. I started to paint—and never got very far with it. I even started to write,” she laughed, “and always wound up whatever I was doing in the middle of a paragraph.”

The papers would have you believe that Jane Russell is something of a one-woman orphan asylum, and that she and her husband have every intention of assembling most of the unwanted children of the world in their own small nursery. Last year, some European correspondents even got pretty ugly about it when the word spread that Jane didn’t want all the kids that were offered to her for adoption on a trip abroad.

The truth is that right now Jane and Bob have in their home the adopted family they expect to wind up with. It consists of two children.

“Everybody has the idea,” Jane said, “that I am the Mother Machree type. Well, I’m not. I am not the sort of woman who can’t resist patting a kid on the head in the street. And I certainly don’t want every child I see. Bob and I feel deeply for the parentless children of Europe and this country and we like helping them, trying to place them with couples we know who are childless. It’s that simple.”

The incident of the trial adoption of the baby Jane brought back from London last year, although it will no doubt have a happy ending, is rather humorous. Jane happened to mention casually one day that she would like to adopt another child. It made the papers, and mail began pouring into her hotel offering her babies from all over the land. The phones were busy for days with parents asking Jane to take one of their kids.

The mother of one child, however, was more enterprising. She showed up at the hotel with an infant and managed to get to see Jane in person. She shoved the tot into Jane’s arms and tearfully begged her to take it to America and raise it as her own. Jane was overcome and took the baby with her. When she got to Hollywood, she walked into the house with the kid in a set of new blankets and showed it to her husband.

“How did he take it?” we asked her.

“He hit the ceiling,” she said.

However, Bob Waterfield’s attitude has changed and he is as fond of the little Irish lad as Jane is. The little boy will be reared as his son.

It is interesting that Jane’s desire for a family is not a frantic one, as it so often is with a good many childless women.

“I guess,” she said, “that it is because I was part of a large family. And when Bob and I built our house we just automatically put in space for children.”

So, contrary to popular opinion, Jane Russell has no intention of maintaining a foundling institution. The press just took for granted that she did.

As for her career, Jane Russell is not the movie-struck girl that most motion picture stars are. She looks upon pictures as a business—and when she leaves the sets at the end of a day, she forgets Hollywood. As a matter of fact, Jane sometimes feels she would much rather be something else.

“I don’t know exactly what,” she said, “but I have a feeling that I would be equally as happy in another line of work. Making movies is hard work for me but there are real compensations such as the money and the nice people I’ve been thrown in with.”

Her private life, too, is unusual for a movie star of her prominence and glamor. Bob Waterfield, her husband, is the boss, no question about it, and Jane refers to him as “my old man,” a phrase bristling with respect. When Jane gets through with a picture, Waterfield doesn’t live her kind of life—she lives his. When he was in the service, Jane quit pictures and went along with him as many other soldiers’ wives did. And when he is on the road during the football season, with the Los Angeles Rams, Jane tags along as a football wife.

Bob Waterfield, although he has a number of good friends in the film industry, prefers the company of football people. Not sports people, just the football clan. He lives football and, according to Jane, finds most other subjects dull.

“As a matter of fact,” Jane said, “he is now beginning to worry what he’s going to get into when he passes the age that a man should quit throwing passes. He has a keen mind and an analytical one. He doesn’t care for coaching, so he’ll have to find another outlet for the talent for strategy his years as a quarterback have developed.”

Whatever it is that Bob Waterfield does, though, it is quite certain that it will not be a cushy job plucked from the fringes of his wife’s career as a movie star. It will be something that will still allow Jane to speak of him respectfully as “my old man.”

Jane Russell is very much of a family girl. She is fiercely fond of her mother and brothers and all the in-laws and children. All told are nine grandchildren in the Russell clan. Her brothers are sturdy men making their own way in the world on their own. Two of them have not the slightest interest in movies. The other two, though, would like to be in pictures—and they try for parts whenever the opportunity arises. But unlike a good many young Hollywood hopefuls, they don’t sit around growing beards waiting for the phone to ring. They have families—and they are busy at other occupations between movie roles.

“They’re pretty sensible about that,” Jane says admiringly. “When there’s nothing doing in the studios, they get jobs in service stations or driving trucks.”

It would be a disservice to Jane Russell to write an analytical study of her without mentioning the one that has made her one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood. It is a quality difficult to describe because it is almost masculine, and that is pretty hard to tag onto a girl as exquisitely feminine as Jane.

The Las Vegas incident—and the contention that if the reporters had asked Jane Russell how she got the shiner she’d have told them—is a good way to begin describing it. She has a basic honesty that will not allow her to lie to escape a result. It is masculine in a sense, because it is based on a fearlessness found usually in brave men who wind up their sentences with, “So make the most of it!” Jane Russell is the kind of person who would say just that. Consequently, there are no petty bickerings on her pictures. She does the best she can in front of cameras—and she has not time for the usual “protection” of scenes and billings, etc, that seem to make up such an important part of the average siren’s life in film. And she has no time for people who pretend. Lay it on the line and you can get with Russell. In the main, even the greatest complainers get to like this.

There is in Jane Russell a tremendous humor. She is alive every minute and when not being leered at by a paid villain for a picture, she is a cut-up rather than a femme fatale. Horseplay is fun to Jane and so are somewhat funny jokes when a gang of easygoing laughers get together.

We have, then, in Jane Russell, a mystery woman devoid of mysteries. A movie star, famed for religious crusades who wouldn’t think of it, and who, instead, placidly practices a set of religious rules that are based on the simple principle that any kid as strong-willed as she was could use a few thoughts along the spiritual line.

The next time you read a story in the newspapers about Jane Russell that appears a bit far-fetched, don’t buy it completely. Just say to yourself, “Now why don’t those reporters ask Jane herself about it? She’ll tell them the truth—for sure.”





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