Image Credit: Everett CollectionJane Russell, one of Hollywood’s most memorable sex symbols from the 1940s and 1950s who starred in films such as the The Outlaw and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, died today at her home in Santa Maria, Calif., of a respiratory illness, the Associated Press has confirmed. She was 89 years old.
The Minnesota-born actress was originally discovered by eccentric movie mogul and billionaire Howard Hughes when he signed her to a seven-year contract and cast her in the Billy the Kid pic Outlaw, which rocketed her to near-overnight fame and caused controversy because of the cleavage she showed in the film. Because she was so voluptuous, Russell was a popular pinup during World War II. Over the years, Russell amassed a body of work that saw her share the screen with a bevy of Hollywood stars, notably Frank Sinatra and Groucho Marx (1951’s Double Dynamite), Bob Hope (1948’s The Paleface), Clark Gable (1955’s The Tall Men), and Marilyn Monroe (1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).
While Russell’s career began to slow in the 1960s and her last film role came in 1970’s Darker Than Amber, she made a return to public consciousness in the 1970s, doing commercials for Playtex’s line of bras for full-figured women.