Jane Russell


  1. Joan Leslie, Sergeant York, 1940.       Howard Hawks thought of Russell for the wife of 1918 war hero – as he’d never directed her much in The Outlaw in 1940. (Howard Hughes engineered all her scenes).  Her test was good but Alvin C York’s contract insisted on “no oomph girls” playing his wife.
  2. Rita Hayworth, Blood and Sand, 1940.    Good thinking!  Russell was  high  in the frame for Fox’s sexiest role of the year – the manipulative socialite vamp, Doña Sol,  toying with Tyrone Power’s matador in the re-hash of Rodolpho (sic)  Valentino’s 1922 silent classic. Also considered: Betty Grable, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour Carole Landis, Mona Maris, Maria Montez, Gene Tierney.  And Lynn Bari, who was awarded with the support role of Encarnacion).  Finally, thisbecame Rita Hayworth’s first Technicolor film… even if her singing had to be dubbed by Rosita Granada.  Another re-tread in 1957 for, almost obviously, Sophia Loren, never happened.
  3. Jane Greer, The Big Steal, 1949.     RKO (and TWA) boss Howard Hughes was rushing a Robert Mitchum movie into being for release while Bob was jailed for smoking dope. Producer Hal Wallis would not let his Lizbeth Scott work with a felon, and Hughes finally felt the same about Jane – and so continued his punishment of Greer for not sleeping with him.   When he called her with his offer, he added: “The rabbit died.”   Via his batallion of spies, Hughes knew she   and producer husband Edward Lasker were   pregnant before they did!
  4. Alexis Smith, Split Second, 1952.     For the first of his six films as director, Dick Powell lost Russell as one of the five hostages held by escaped con Stephen McNally on what proves to  be an A-Bomb test site.. (Powell helmed The Conqueror, 1978, at a real and obviously still radiaoctive 1953 atomic bomb test site in Yucca Flat, Nevada, leading to terminal cancer for 90 of the 220 cast and crew, including John Wayne, Susan Hayward and Powell, himself).
  5. Joan Collins, Our Girl Friday (US: The Adventures of Sadie), 1954.    Howard Hughes, paying her $52,00 annually until 1977, refused to let her make the tame British desert island comedy, best remembered for Joanie’s curves as Sadie… and Peter Sellers supplying the voice of her cockatoo!
  6. Rosemary Clooney, Red Garters, 1954.      Loving her with Paleface Bob Hope, Paramount decided to make another match with Danny Kaye in a musical Western.Their schedules clashed and the studio went el cheapo with Guy Mitchell and Clooney and (exceedingly) sparse sets. Clooney is George Clooney’s Aunt Rosemary.  
  7. Betty Grable, How To Be Very, Very Popular, 1954. Fox suits were staggered by the huge success of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1952, and immediately ordered a follow-up for Marilyn and Jane Russell (who called MM, Blondie).  Neither one fancied the idea or the script which is how North, the latest Marilyn photo-copy and Betty Grable, the Fox queen until Monroe arrived, headlined HTBVVP. Or, alternatively: FLOP. “A turkey,” she agreed. As many finale films are. When Marilyn returned it was on her terms.  Bus Stop!
  8. Vivian Blaine, Guys and Dolls, 1954.   Until beaten to the rights by producer Samuel Goldwyn, Paramount (which owned Damon Runyon’s original story) planned the musical with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope,  Betty Grable – and Jane Russella as Miss Adelaide.  Well, Adelaide an egg   Because MGM owned the music rights and so the rather more exciting …  Brando and Sinatra!  Opposite  Jean Simmons and Vivian Blane.
  9.  Doris Day, Love Me or Leave Me,1954. The role? The 30s’ stage and screen singer Ruth Etting, a shady chanteuse caught up with a gangster called  Marty “The Gimp” Snyder. Ava Gardner didn’t want her singing dubbed as in Show Boat.  Janes Morgan  and  Powell were just too sweet, although Ruth voted for Powell.  A third Jane (Russell)  was hoping to play another singer, Lilian Roth in I’ll Cry Tomorrow, 1955.  And so co-star James Cagney suggested Doris Day for the role, far from all her future virgins. Her best work, she thought. Her fans, not so much. Doris lost an Oscar but won Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, as a result. 
  10. Anne Baxter, The Ten Commandments,1954. 

  11. Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, 1955.  Another year, another singer’s biopic… MGM went through nan odd mix of actresses and ages! (from Piper Laurie at 23 to Jane Wyman at 38) to play the 30s’ alcoholic singer Lilian Roth.  Ann Blyth, Grace Kelly (!) ,Janet Leigh, Jane Russell, Jean Simmons and  Shelley Winters. Director Charles Walters quit when his choice of June Allyson (no, really!) was rejected (obviously) while Ava Gardner stopped trying to win another 30s chanteuse, Ruth  Etting  in  Love Me or Leave  Me,  to battle  for Roth. After winning Best Actress at the 1956 Cannes festival, Hayward won her fourth Oscar nomination. She won one for  the similar sounding but way heavier I Want to Live! about the 1955 gas chamber execution of alleged killer Barbara Graham. Said her producer Walter Wanger: ‘Thank goodness, we can all relax, Susie’s won the Oscar she has been chasing for 20 years.”
  12. Dorothy McGuire, Friendly Persuasion, 1956.     “[Director] William Wyler wanted me but I was already committed to something else.   [Replacing Marilyn in The Revolt of Mamie Stover].   That could have broken the pattern. I was definitely a victim of Hollywood typecasting.” 





 Birth year: 1921Death year: 2011Other name: Casting Calls:  12