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Silver screen pin-up Jane Russell dead at 89

The actress passed away from respiratory problems in her Santa Maria, California home on Monday (28Feb11).

Born in Bemidji, Minnesota in 1921, Russell started out as a receptionist and model in California. She signed a seven-year contract with movie mogul Howard Hughes after he discovered her working for his dentist.

The silver screen sex symbol became an overnight sensation in the mid-1940s when she starred in controversial movie The Outlaw, and she went on to play Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in The Paleface. Her most famous role was perhaps opposite Marilyn Monroe in 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

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She failed to live up to her early promise as a movie star and became best known for her looks and figure. Russell was the number one pin-up girl of U.S. troops stationed overseas during World War Two and beyond, and her curvy figure earned her a 1970s spokesmodel role for Playtex bras. The Jane Russell Peaks in Alaska are named after her trademark breasts.

A vocal advocate of adoption, she also founded the Women’s Adoption International Fund. Unable to have children of her own, Russell adopted three kids with her first husband Bob Waterfield. She was married three times. Her third husband, John Calvin Peoples, died in 1999.

Her second husband, Roger Barrett, died just three months after the couple wed in 1968.

A born-again Christian, the actress held weekly Bible study classes at her homes in Montecito and Santa Maria.

Her 1986 autobiography was called My Path and My Detours.

A service will be held to honour Russell at Pacific Christian Church in Santa Maria on 23 March (11).

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