Review: 'Mean...Moody...Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend' a Phenomenal Biography

by Bill Biss

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday June 23, 2021

Review: 'Mean...Moody...Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend' a Phenomenal Biography

Anyone who has enjoyed the sparkle, sass and sensuality of this classic motion picture star will go from reel-to-real in Christina Rice's biography "Mean...Moody...Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend."

Jane Russell wrote her autobiography 36 years ago, in 1985, titled "My Path and My Detours," and, believe it or not, Christina Rice has written the very first full biography of Jane Russell's life. Rice has done a phenomenal job in capturing the person behind the physical attributes, the woman who dealt with the image presented to her and the era of the times, where men often held the upper hand.

One man in particular is film producer, eccentric genius aviator and billionaire Howard Hughes. His ties with Jane Russell run deep in this biography. Hughes saw the buxom, raven-haired beauty in a modeling pose and signed her for seven years to her first of three contracts. There were no casting couch antics; she liked him and (other than his obsession with her breasts) he liked and appreciated her.

Russell's first film "The Outlaw" is covered extensively. The problems with the censorship board, camera angles, promotional materials, and Hughes input as producer caused years of delay until the film was finally released in 1946. None the less, from there on, as Rice puts it, "the movies were coming for her."

The wide array of leading men in Russell's films is a horn of plenty. Throughout her career she starred opposite Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, Victor Mature, Richard Egan, Jeff Chandler, and Clark Gable. Russell respected Bob Hope for teaching her the ropes of comedy, and formed a lasting friendship with Robert Mitchum in their two films together. All of Jane Russell's films, and the situations encountered when making them, are an integral part of this biography. And, of course, Jane's friendship with co-star Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" is spotlighted as well.

One of the most valiant decisions in Jane's life was to form an organization called WAIF. Jane Russell came from a family of five, with Jane being the oldest and having four younger brothers. When she was unable to have a child of her own, she set out to adopt a baby and even traveled to Europe to do so. This proved fruitless. So, she created WAIF, an organization to legalize bringing babies from abroad to the United States to welcoming adoptive parents. A spiritual and religious person, Jane Russell was very pleased and proud of this accomplishment. As she sings in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Ain't there anyone here for love?"

Jane Russell was all in for real love, and author Christina Rice proves it beyond a doubt in this "Magnificent!" biography.

"Mean...Moody...Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend," by Christina Rice, is available now from University Press of Kentucky.