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Mean...Moody...Magnificent!

Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend

By the early 1950s, Jane Russell (1921–2011) should have been forgotten. Her career was launched on what is arguably the most notorious advertising campaign in cinema history, which invited filmgoers to see Howard Hughes's The Outlaw (1943) and to "tussle with Russell." Throughout the 1940s, she was nicknamed the "motionless picture actress" and had only three films in theaters. With such a slow, inauspicious start, most aspiring actresses would have given up or faded away. Instead, Russell carved out a place for herself in Hollywood and became a memorable and enduring star.

Christina Rice offers the first biography of the actress and activist perhaps most well-known for her role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Despite the fact that her movie career was stalled for nearly a decade, Russell's filmography is respectable. She worked with some of Hollywood's most talented directors—including Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, Nicholas Ray, and Josef von Sternberg—and held her own alongside costars such as Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum, Clark Gable, Vincent Price, and Bob Hope. She also learned how to fight back against Howard Hughes, her boss for more than thirty-five years, and his marketing campaigns that exploited her physical appearance.

Beyond the screen, Rice reveals Russell as a complex and confident woman. She explores the star's years as a spokeswoman for Playtex as well as her deep faith and work as a Christian vocalist. Rice also discusses Russell's leadership and patronage of the WAIF foundation, which for many years served as the fundraising arm of the International Social Service (ISS) agency. WAIF raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, successfully lobbied Congress to change laws, and resulted in the adoption of tens of thousands of orphaned children. For Russell, the work she did to help unite families overshadowed any of her onscreen achievements.

On the surface, Jane Russell seemed to live a charmed life, but Rice illuminates her darker moments and her personal struggles, including her empowered reactions to the controversies surrounding her films and her feelings about being portrayed as a sex symbol. This stunning first biography offers a fresh perspective on a star whose legacy endures not simply because she forged a notable film career, but also because she effectively used her celebrity to benefit others.

About the Author

Christina Rice is a librarian and archivist at the Los Angeles Public Library. She is the author of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel. She lives in North Hollywood, California.

Reviews

MeanMoodyMagnificent! Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend is a fascinating study of a complex Hollywood icon. As the movies' first full-figured sex symbol, Jane Russell starred in classic comedies, film noirs, musicals and Westerns opposite Bob Hope, Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, and Clark Gable, but author Christina Rice reveals that her life off screen is even more interesting. Russell was a woman of deep Christian faith who struggled with alcoholism. After a back alley abortion left her unable to bear children, she led the fight to overturn restrictive laws that resulted in thousands of overseas orphans being adopted into American families. Rice adroitly navigates through these contradictions and more, including the creation and marketing of a screen bombshell by executives, artisans, publicists, and the press, and the tension between that image and the real woman behind the façade. This is a magnificent biography of the occasionally mean and moody, but always magnificent Jane Russell.Andrew A. Erish, author of Vitagraph: America's First Great Motion Picture Studio

In the 1980s I was in the RKO Radio Pictures archives when Jane Russell was being interviewed for an RKO documentary. In 2010, I had the privilege is sitting with her for an entire day as she was interviewed for a documentary on photographer George Hurrell. Because Jane Russell's story is unique, she has often been misrepresented. I'm happy that she has been accurately portrayed in Christina Rice's biography.Mark A. Vieira, author of George Hurrell's Hollywood

Christina Rice has written an exceptional and thoroughly-researched biography that presents Jane Russell as a fully-formed human being and actress. As a Marilyn Monroe fan and biographer, I was enthralled by the chapters on their working relationship and friendship. It truly is a magnificent book, and one I'll refer to time and time again.Michelle Morgan, author of The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist

Just when I thought I couldn't enjoy a classic movie star bio more than Christina Rice's book on Ann Dvorak, along she comes with this first-rate tome on Jane Russell. Impeccably researched and engagingly written, Rice's latest is one of the better biographies I've read in some time. Her storytelling style grabs you from the opening chapter and never lets loose.Karen Burroughs Hannsberry, author of Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir and Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film

The tumultuous life and career of Jane Russell is captured by author Christina Rice in an insightful biography of the legendary star who ultimately resisted her caricature as a buxom Tinseltown sex object. No detail is spared from Russell's rustic San Fernando Valley childhood, discovery by the eccentric Howard Hughes and her subsequent stardom while enduring an abusive marriage and intermittent battles with the bottle. Through Rice's detailed research and sure prose, the resolute Russell emerges as an empathetic woman of substance who ended up selling bras rather than burning them. An important chapter of Hollywood history, Mean...Moody...Magnificent! is the definitive Jane Russell story.Alan K. Rode, author of Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film

Like many talented people, Jane Russell was a study in contrasts. . . . Christina Rice embraces these contradictions, taking the rough with the smooth as Russell herself did, and letting us judge for ourselves. Rice's book reaches well beyond the narrow boundaries of the conventional star biography; a gutsy, full-blooded account of a life well-lived and lived and LIVED!Stage and Cinema

Whether readers are intimately familiar with the golden age of Hollywood, or are newcomers to the topic, they'll come away having learned something about one of its stars.Library Journal

Christina has undertaken the unenviable job of explaining Russell and does so in a pithy, reasonable, fair and fascinating manner. . . . I've read MANY biographies and this is by far one of the best. . . . A better book on Jane Russell will never be published. Christina Rice has nailed it.Classic Images

A delightful book from the capable hands of librarian, researcher and archivist Christina Rice. . . . Rice's research shines through and her storytelling skills make this for an engrossing read. There's lots of great behind-the-scenes information, especially as it relates to how Russell was styled for her movies. Even if you're not particularly interested in Jane Russell as a person, this is still a must read for anyone who loves stories from old Hollywood.Out of the Past Blog

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

Thoroughly researched, written with insight, candor, and compassion. Fans couldn't ask for better.YES! Weekly

Across 300 engagingly written and well-researched pages, Rice shows how this talented, troubled woman emerged from the hype machine to craft one of Hollywood's most interesting and idiosyncratic careers.Parterre Box

A good read about a film star that made her mark in the Golden Age of Hollywood. . . . For those who are interested in Russell's life, and career in entertainment, this is an important in-depth study.NewsNotes Dance Blog

9780813181080 : mean-moody-magnificent-rice
Hardback
392 Pages
$29.95 USD
9780813181097 : mean-moody-magnificent-rice
Electronic book text
372 Pages
$29.95 USD
9780813181103 : mean-moody-magnificent-rice
Electronic book text
372 Pages
$29.95 USD

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