Gail Russell

  1. Joan Mortimer, Henry Aldrich Haunts a House, 1943.  The stunning Russell made her debut the year before in Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour – but left him to his own  haunted  house while she starred in a more serious version, The Uninvited, 1943.  Mortimer continued as the girl Henry was always out to impress in the next two of the eleven comedies. The Paramount series ran from What A Life, 1939, to Henry Aldrich’s Little Secret, 1943. Jackie Cooper as Henry in the  first two, Jimmy Lydon in the rest.
  2. Rhonda Fleming, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1948.  Ravishing Russell tested for the royal niece, Alisande La Carteloise, in the Mark Twain  fable with Bing Crosby as a 1912 mechanic finding himself in 528 AD Britain when Arthur was king and his table was round.
  3. Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1948.   
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMille’s 1935 plan had been had Henry Wilcoxon with Joan Crawford, Larraine Day, Dolores Del Rio, Paulette Goddard, Jane Greer or Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious.  He sought a mix of Vivien Leigh, Jean Simmons and “a generous touch of Lana Turner” from among… Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Rhonda Fleming (the Queen of Babylon, 1954), Ava Gardner, Greer Garson (Mrs Miniver!!), Susan Hayward (1951’s Bathsheba), Rita Hayworth (the future Salome), Jennifer Jones (St Bernadette in 1943), Patricia Neal, Maureen O’Hara, Nancy Olson (too demure), Jean Peters, Ruth Roman, Gail Russell, Ann Sheridan, Gene Tierney… even such surprises as comical LucIlle Ball (!) and song ‘n’ dancer Betty Hutton.  Plus the Dominican Maria Montez (perfect!), Italian Alida Valli and two Swedes: Viveca Lindfors and Marta Toren.  But CB had already fancied Lamarr for his unmade epic about the Jewish queen Esther (played by Joan Collins in 1960).  Here’s a Samson review signed Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  4. Arleen Whelan, Flaming Feather, 1952.    Discovered in a Beverly Hills store, director Joseph Losey said she had the most beautiful eyes he’d ever seen – and movie tycoon Howard Hughes soon made his move on her.   A secretary, Russell was terrified of acting. From her third film in 1944, she started drinking to quell her nerves. The booze led to driving charges and killed her.
  5. Dorothy Hart, Loan Shark, 1952.   Gail remained off-screen for four years, after being named in John Wayne’s divorce (denied by them both but ending her marriage to Guy Madison). Wayne had made Wake of the Red Witch with her, 1948) and brought her back in his Seven Men From Now production, 1956. At 36, Gail was found dead, surrounded by empty bottles. Hart also hated Hollywood; this was her 16th and final film before moving to New York and TV series.


 Birth year: 1924Death year: 1961Other name: Casting Calls:  5