12/14/07

GF'S OF THE GREATEST GENERATION ERA--JANE RUSSELL

janebaby

Should you find yourself stuck in the town of Santa Maria California and looking for something to do with your evening, why not go to the Radisson Hotel (the one by the airport) and catch the local lounge act. Sound iffy? Well, what if the local entertainment was none other than Jane Russell, age eighty-six, who is apparently still going strong and happy to be performing even if the venue probably isn't quite what she's used to. Read this article and tell me you're not a wee bit curious about Jane's act.


(By the way: a few months ago I was trying to count the last living stars of the 'golden era' and could only come up with Kirk Douglas and Jerry Lewis. The Self Styled Siren quickly reminded me of the De Havilland girls--Olivia and her sister Joan Fontaine--who are both hovering around the age of ninety and still not on speaking terms. But we both appeared to have forgotten Jane. And, for that matter, Richard Widmark.)


Jane Russell, Miss "Double Dynamite", never overcame her lurid introduction vis a vis Howard Hughes (and Howard Hawks) quite suprisingly dull sexed-up Billy the Kid western "The Outlaw". She had a great deal more going for her than her tits--though I must admit that they're quite lovely as well as being responsible for one of Bob Hope's best lines when he introduced her as "the two and only Jane Russell." She was a charming singer, performer and had a face that was, for my money, as riveting and hypnotically watchable as Monroe's. Indeed, in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" it's Jane who I find much more interesting than Marilyn.


What else about Jane is interesting? That she suffered a botched abortion as a teenager which almost killed her and left her unable to give birth--but, in turn, led her to become a major advocate of adoption. (She founded WAIF, the World Adoption International Fund, which pioneered efforts to allow American families to adopt foreign orphans). And that became a staunch pro-life advocate as a result of her damaging abortion (hmm...a conundrum, no? I mean, wouldn't you think the experience would lead her toward a legalized pro-choice stance? Oh well, let's not even go there)...And that she became a born-again Christian long before our government officially sanctioned it as the religion of choice, starting a bible-study group in her home in the 1950's...and that her second husband died just four months after they married (poor bastard!)...and that she's performing at the Radisson in Santa Maria for Goddsakes, at an age when most performers are staring bitterly at the wall...


Here's the very funny, very gay "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love" number from "Gentleman Prefer Blondes", staged by Jack Cole (and more about him one of these days soon). The end, where Jane gets dunked in the pool, was an accident. Watch carefully and you'll see one of the divers clip her in the head quite severely. Cole decided to work with it and changed the end of the number to what you now see (a wet Jane). More Jane coming up in a minute...



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