Makeshift Set

Year of Jane Russell: Day 20

Many Hollywood hopefuls were tested for the roles of Rio and Billy the Kid in Howard Hughes’s production The Outlaw. In order to economize his time, director Howard Hawks shot the screen tests on 16mm film, which allowed him to film them in the basement of the Hughes office building on Romaine Street in Hollywood. This meant that rather than having to drive to a studio, Hawks could just pop down to the basement from his office in the same building. The downstairs space was transformed into a mini Western set, which is where this photograph was taken after Jane and Jack Buetel were cast.

Getting Discovered

Year of Jane Russell: Day 19

After graduating from high school, Jane began modeling for Tom Kelley, the same photographer who would later shoot the famous nude photos of Marilyn Monroe. When an agent saw one of Jane’s photos at Kelley’s studio, he submitted it to Howard Hughes and Howard Hawks. Jane was tested for The Outlaw in the fall of 1940 and got the part. Here she is with Howard Hawks and costar Jack Buetel in the director’s office, located in Hughes’s building in Hollywood.

Van Nuys High School, 1939

Year of Jane Russell: Day 18

Here are few more pics from Jane’s days as a student at Van Nuys High School. The copy of the 1939 yearbook I have has three signatures, including one next to a moody portrait where Jane was listed as a “personality.”

A collage of photos shows Jane with a fella named Chuck, which she also signed.

Jane isn’t in this image of the drama club, but in the first row on the far left is Jane’s dear friend, Pat Dawson, who was the daughter of Academy Award winning film editor Ralph Dawson. Pat’s mom thought Jane had film star potential and took her to meet agent Charles Feldman, who politely declined, saying he only represent established talent. Jane would tease him about that later.

Also in the first row, second from the right, is Jim Dougherty, who Jane acted with in some of the school’s productions. In 1942 he married a 16-year-old named Norma Jeane Baker. She would file for divorce four years later and go onto international stardom under the name Marilyn Monroe.

Jane Russell at Van Nuys High, 1938

Year of Jane Russell: Day 17

Jane attended Van Nuys High School, graduating in 1939. She was admittedly a terrible student who did not take her studies seriously, but she was very social and some of her fellow student became lifelong friends. She got her feet wet on the stage as a member of the drama club, and photos of her in the 1938 Van Nuys High School yearbook show her onstage and in a group with the rest of the Beginning Drama Club. Naturally athletic, Jane was a member of the volleyball team as the yearbook reveals. Can you pick Jane out?

Personally, I think Jane is pretty easy to spot in a crowd!

Yearbook Model

Year of Jane Russell: Day 16

Jane Russell would become an international film star and photographer’s dream, but her humble beginnings in front of the camera started in Van Nuys. This advertisement for the local J.C. Penny with Jane as the model appears in the 1938 edition of Crimson and Gray, the Van Nuys High School yearbook. A little over two years later, she would be under contract to Howard Hughes.

Jane at La Posada

Year of Jane Russell: Day 15

By the early 1930s, the Russell household had grown to include five children and Jane’s grandfather. The Burbank house had grown too small, so the family needed to find bigger quarters. Geraldine found a seven-acre parcel of land in Van Nuys for sale, located east of Woodman Ave and north of Sherman Way, that butted up against the Tujunga Wash. There, they built a home that resembled a Spanish Hacienda which they named “La Posada.” Here’s Jane at La Posada in the early 1940s.


Year of Jane Russell: Day 14

Jane was the oldest of five and the only girl, so the family always called her Daughter. Having four younger brothers always kept Jane grounded, even after she became an internationally known film star. Here she is with three of her brothers at the Burbank home.

Beach Babies

Year of Jane Russell: Day 13

Jane was incredibly close to her mother, Geraldine Jacobi, particularly after Jane’s father Roy passed away unexpectedly when she was a teenager. Here’s mother and daughter enjoying a Southern California beach circa 1925.

Burbank Bound

Year of Jane Russell: Day 12

Jane lived in Edmonton, Canada for the first two years of her life, then she moved to California with her parents, Geraldine and Roy. They purchased a modest home on Angeleno Avenue in Burbank which Geraldine described as being “cute as a bug’s ear.” Here’s Jane circa 1925 at the Burbank house.

Bemidji Baby

Year of Jane Russell: Day 11

Jane Russell was born on June 21, 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her parents were actually living in Edmonton, Canada at the time, but Jane’s mother Geraldine opted to spend the end of her pregnancy in Bemidji where her side of the family had a vacation home. Even though infant Jane only spent the first nine days of her life in the Minnesota locale, Bemidji didn’t have a problem claiming her as a native daughter as evidenced in this 1961 photo of Jane with James Hensel, the city’s mayor.