We lost a another irreplaceable legend yesterday and one of our own, an outspoken Republican -- an independent-thinking feminist in the best sense of the word. Here are some of my favorite Jane Russell quotes
--"I have always been a Republican, and when I was in Hollywood long ago, most of the people there were Republican. The studio heads were all Republican, my boss Howard Hughes was a raving Republican, and we had a motion picture code in those days so they couldn`t do all this naughty stuff. We had John Wayne, we had Charlton Heston, we had man named Ronald Reagan, we had Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Clark Gable."
--"These days I am a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist."
--Asked what she thinks of Hollywood liberals George Clooney, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn: "I think they`re not well."
--"I had a botched abortion and it was terrible. Afterwards my own doctor said, `What butcher did this to you?` I had to be taken to hospital. I was so ill I nearly died. I`ve never known pain like it."
--"People should never, ever have an abortion. Don`t talk to me about it being a woman`s right to choose what she does with her own body. The choice is between life and death."
--Asked why modern Hollywood is so liberal: "I think the Sixties have happened between when I was there and now. A lot of the actors and actresses, their parents were Sixties people and they just have a Democratic left wing - they flipped."
--Asked about the apparent conflict between her faith and her image, Russell replied, "Christians have bosoms, too, you know."
Russell starred most famously in "The Outlaw" (1943), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953), and two terrific comedies with Bob Hope, "Paleface" (1948) and the even better sequel "Son of Paleface" (1952). For my money, though, her best work can be seen in the two films she did with Robert Mitchum: 1951's "His Kind of Woman" and 1952's "Macao," two of the truly outstanding noir films of the fifties that are just as hard-hitting today as when they were first produced. In fact, there are those who consider the former to be one the greatest noir films period.
The chemistry and steam Mitchum and Russell generate is off the charts, the kind of starpower you just don't see anymore. Thanks to DVD and Turner Classic Movies, both films are finally receiving more of the attention they deserve -- and Russell's good in them, very good. She didn't think much of herself as an actress but she proved herself enough of a screen comedienne that no less than Bob Hope worked with her twice and she more than holds her own in a gritty black and white world convincingly playing the kind of woman capable of getting under Mitchum's skin.
No small thing.
Jane Russell was 89.