December 1, 2008

Random Musing: Jane Russell

I am uncertain why, but I started thinking about Jane Russell and her "bazonkas" the other day. When I think of Jane Russell (thanks to Scorsese's "The Aviator"), I always think of that one scene from "The Outlaw" where, in a closeup shot, she leans in toward the camera for a kiss - her eyes are husky and her top is falling at her arms, revealing her exquisite cleavage. As I mused on this scene in my head, I suddenly realized - Jane Russell really paved the way for brunettes out there to become Hollywood sex symbols. Think about it: Who had been sex symbols up to that time? Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Lana Turner, (Universal/early Warner) Bette Davis... The list goes on and on. But what was their hair color? Blonde. Granted, brunettes Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell were beautiful actresses in their time, but they never rivaled the sex symbol statuses of Hollywood's platinum starlets. It was not until Howard Hughes' 1943 "The Outlaw" that Hollywood could accept the idea of a brunette as being as sexually appealing as a blonde, and when they did, it took Jane Russell to do it.

But why Russell? I suppose back in the time of classic Hollywood, studio heads thought men considered beautiful blonde women (especially exotic [foreign] women) to be the perfect women, physically and sexually. However, Jane Russell had a beautiful figure, which Howard Hughes went to great lengths to exhibit in his "The Outlaw." According to Wikipedia, "In 1941, director Howard Hughes, while filming 'The Outlaw,' felt that the camera did not do justice to Jane Russell's large bust. He employed his engineering skills to design an underwired, cantilevered bra to emphasize her assets." Apparently it was the first underwire bra of its kind, but Russell apparently did not even wear it, and she still looked great - in fact, great enough that this film turned her into a sex symbol overnight and redefined the image of the ideal woman in classic Hollywood. All brunette actresses have quite a debt to pay to her...

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