CBC Digital Archives

Jane Russell: image and illusion

They are some of the brightest stars in old Hollywood, leading ladies who lit up the silver screen with their beauty, wit and talent. From Canada's Mary Pickford, the biggest star of the 1920s, to 1960s favourite Audrey Hepburn, CBC Digital Archives presents interviews with the best-loved actresses of the golden age of movies.

Little old ladies, says Jane Russell, are pleasantly surprised to learn she's a "nice girl" after all. The actress burst onto the scene in the 1943 movie The Outlaw, becoming famous for her shapely silhouette. But Russell never asked for the sex siren image, she says in this 1966 CBC Radio interview. "That was a publicity campaign. I was green as grass and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. In a second interview segment broadcast the following day, Russell advocates for a cause she is passionate about: foreign adoption. 
• Born in Minnesota in 1921, Jane Russell had three Canadian-born grandparents. Her family lived in the San Fernando Valley in California, where she became a photographers' model. In 1940, film producer Howard Hughes signed her to a seven-movie contract, and her first film was The Outlaw in 1943.  She died February 28, 2011.

• Russell appeared alongside Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and did her own signing for the role.

• In February and December 1952 Russell and her husband adopted two children (and added a third in 1956), prompting her lifelong advocacy for opening up foreign adoption. She successfully lobbied for the U.S. Federal Orphan Adoption Amendment in 1953, which allowed foreign-born children of U.S. servicemen to be placed for adoption in the United States.

• In 1955 she founded the World Adoption International Fund (WAIF). According to a biography at the website for the Women's International Center, WAIF has placed over 38,000 children for adoption.

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: March 15, 1966
Guest(s): Jane Russell
Interviewer: Bill McNeil
Duration: 7:54

Last updated: June 11, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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