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Monday, February 28, 2011

Rest In Peace, Jane Russell and Gary Winick

Very sad news today as screen siren Jane Russell and indie-god Gary Winick have passed away. 

Let's look back at their illustrious careers. 

More after the cut -- 


Writing the two years always makes me sad, regardless of the name that proceeds it. In this instance, it makes me a little sadder to know that the name in precedence is Jane Russell's. Survived by her children Tracy, Robert, and Thomas, her long legacy of beauty and her unique comedic ability (put to best use in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) survive as well. She was reportedly discovered while working as a secretary. As a young girl, she had dreams of being a designer, though they were put on hold after the death of her father. She worked on the side as a model, and attended theater training whenever possible. 

She was cast in Howard Hughes' largely controversial film The Outlaw, and much news was made over Russell's cleavage size. Note how ridiculous that would be today. Hughes had a long standing debate with the Hayes Corporation - which heralded decency in film - while Jane and her cleavage went around touring and promoting the picture before its release. It was trimmed down and held from wide release for years. All of this began in 1941, and the film finally hit wide release in 1946. Neither the cleavage nor the news surrounding it had gotten any smaller. Jane Russell, a receptionist from Minnesota, had shaken Hollywood. Hughes had signed her to a seven year contract in 1940, which was up when their film was finally released. 

During Cleavage-Gate, Russell had gotten married to Bob Waterfield, who went on to become a Pro Football Hall of Famer for the Cleveland Rams. After which, she was shot to stardom with The Young Widow, and subsequently, The Paleface, Double Dynamite, and The Tall Men. 

I remember the first time I saw a Jane Russell movie. I was quite young, and it was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - at the urging of my mother. I believe I was around ten years old. She was gorgeous, of course; but it was the talent she displayed that had me hooked from the start. She's a genuine actress, and wound up being a wonderful woman. being an advocate for adoption for several years until her unfortunate death. Not many women can take the screen away from Marilyn Monroe.  But, she did - and retained it. She's definitely what I remember about that film, more than anything else. Her last film role was in the 70's in Darker Than Amber, and she was married twice more after her divorce from her first husband in 1968. She married Roger Barret for four months in 1968, and John Calvin Peoples in 1974. They remained happily married until his death in 1999. 

Another unfortunate recent passing is that of Gary Winick - indie producer wunderkin. 


His career is an interesting one. Unfortunately, his interesting career was cut short of unknown reasons at forty-nine years old. And while he's been the director of some of Hollywood's most... notorious romantic comedies, his work in the world of independent cinema will (God willing) sweep that under the rug, and be championed for the remainder of film. 

He founded a "collective" called InDigEnt, in which indie filmmakers were called upon to contribute feature films, digitally made, for less than $100,000. His days as a director of independent cinema gave us one of the best films of 2002 - Tadpole, starring the Oscar-worthy Bebe Neuwirth. In his Hollywood days, he gave us 13 Going on 30, Bride Wars, and Letters to Juliet. 

Under InDigEnt, however...

Personal Velocity: Three Potraits
Pieces of April
Lonesome Jim
Puccini for Beginners
Starting Out in the Evening

Each film, remarkable in their own way and important in the world of independent cinema. All thanks... to Gary Winick. 

May both he and the unforgettable Jane Russell rest in peace. Their deaths are unfortunate, and untimely, but their work will live, and be loved, forever.