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March 03, 2011  | by: Dania McDermott

Jane Russell (1921-2011)

Jane Russell, the busty brunette counterpart to Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, died in her home this Monday of respiratory failure. The actress was 89.

As one of Hollywood’s prominent sex symbols of the 1940′s and ’50′s, Jane owed much of her success to her sultry face and voluptuous packaging.

Once dubbed “the queen of motionless pictures,” the buxom bombshell seldom received praise for her acting ability – or roles that allowed her to showcase any of her other gifts, for that matter.

Just as Gentlemen co-star and and fellow sexpot Monroe acknowledged, the movie-makers of their day weren’t at all interested in learning who their actresses were. “Instead, they would invent a character.”

And, for the bulk of her projects, Jane’s character was an in-your-face kind of sexpot: She spoke with conviction, she knew what she wanted, and she never played dumb.

This brand of sexuality made Jane the perfect counterpoint to Marilyn’s naive and ultra-feminine persona in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Russell’s most successful film. As Mark Cousins notes of their respective characters, ”She is smart where [Marilyn] is brainless; grown-up where [Marilyn] is juvenile; wisecracking where [Marilyn] is breathy; straightforward where [Marilyn] is dissembling. She doesn’t care for diamonds, but she does care for her own desires.”

And while she croons about loving big muscles amongst musclebound men, Jane Russell lets her desires be known, becoming a character indeed worthy of praise: a woman in control of her sexuality.

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