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Jane Russell remembered

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It’s a testament to Jane Russell’s onscreen charisma that she could appear alongside Marilyn Monroe in a 1953 movie called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and make the audience prefer the brunette. The 1940s pinup, who died Feb. 28 of respiratory problems at age 89 in her home in Santa Maria, Calif., was a gifted comedic actress (in Bob Hope movies like 1948’s The Paleface, though Blondes was deemed her best work). Still, Russell was most famous for her voluptuous 38D-24-36 figure, which adorned countless U.S. Air Force nose cones and GI footlockers during World War II. In fact, Howard Hughes even invented a special pneumatically enhanced underwire brassiere for the actress. It was Hughes, of course, who discovered Russell, making her famous — and infamous — by casting her as a tightly clad cowgirl in The Outlaw, a 1941 Western that was considered so racy and scandalous, it didn’t get released until 1943. Russell’s career wasn’t filled with many hits, but she did have a knack for pushing the envelope. She was making 3-D movies decades before James Cameron picked up a camera (doing a sexy dance in a skimpy outfit in 1954’s The French Line). In her later years, Russell found more dignified parts. In 1971, for instance, she replaced Elaine Stritch on Broadway in the musical Company. She’s survived by three children, six grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

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