It's all about her 38 D size, her blouse that slipped off her shoulder, her pout. At 89, Jane Russell has made her exit and still these are memories people carry of her. I did not notice any of this when only a few months ago I watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for the first time on a flight.
That any woman could stand her own beside Marilyn Monroe in her skin-tight clothes playing the pile-on avaricious but guileless woman was itself eye-grabbing. Monroe’s performance was wonderful – she was acting dumb as Lorelei Lee. When Lady Beekman says, “It's a tiara”, she responds, “You DO wear it on your head. I just LOVE finding new places to wear diamonds.”
Russell’s Dorothy Parker was a worldly-wise woman who too coveted the good things but did not have to try hard. There was such hauteur in her demeanour, such an arrogant smirk that twisted her lips that she was jockey pushing the filly to the finish line. For the most part she wore trendy but sober clothes. Her sex appeal, at least in this film, lay in the dark hair, the dark mouth that spewed devastating lines: “Now let's get one thing straight, Gus: The chaperone's job is to make sure nobody else has any fun. But nobody chaperone's the chaperone. That's why I'm so right for this job.”
She just seemed right. And proper. And scathing. But also a steadfast friend. More importantly, you could put her character as essayed by her in any of the contemporary films and she would not seem dated.
As for love, it simmered more as a desire rather than the need for realisation. She’d let the guys do the chase and with a wave of her hand just let it pass. As her character says, “I like a man who can run faster than I can.”
They couldn’t because she would be such a distraction. She’d stop them in their tracks with merely a throwaway line.
As she does with the utterly charming and devastating bit of advice to Lorelei: “Remember, honey, on your wedding day it's alright to say ‘yes’.”
Ms. Russell, you were so right. No one goes to bed at nine. “That’s when life just begins.”