Russell c. 1950s
September 21, 1924
|Died||August 26, 1961 36) (aged|
|Resting place||Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery|
(m. 1949;div. 1954)
Gail Russell (born Betty Gale Russell; September 21, 1924 – August 26, 1961) was an American film and television actress.
Gail Russell was born to George and Gladys (Barnet) Russell in Chicago and then moved to the Los Angeles area when she was a teenager. Her father was initially a musician but later worked for Lockheed Corporation. Before she ventured into acting, she had planned to be a commercial artist.Her beauty saw her dubbed "the Hedy Lamarr of Santa Monica."
Russell's beauty brought her to the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1942, and she signed a long-term contract with that studio when she was 18. [ citation needed ]Although she was almost clinically shy and had no acting experience, Paramount had great expectations for her and employed an acting coach to work with her.
She later said, "suddenly there was this terrific amount of work for myself and no time to myself. It was that way for ten years."
At the age of 19 she made her film debut in the 1943 film Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour . She also had a small part in Lady in the Dark (1943) and was meant to play a role in Henry Aldrich Haunts a House when, in March 1943, she was cast in a key role in The Uninvited (1944) with Ray Milland. Joan Mortimer played her role in Henry Aldrich instead.
The Uninvited was directed by Lewis Allen and was a big success. A delighted Paramount announced Russell for Her Heart in her Throat and True to the Navy with Eddie Bracken.
Allen directed Russell in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944), in which she co-starred with Diana Lynn. It was another success.[ citation needed ]
Russell co-starred opposite Alan Ladd in Salty O'Rourke (1945), a horse racing drama.
Her Heart in Her Throat became the third film Russell made with Allen, The Unseen (1945), an unofficial follow up to The Uninvited. True to the Navy became Bring On the Girls ; Russell did not appear in that film.[ citation needed ]
Then she and Lynn were in Our Hearts Were Growing Up (1946), a sequel to Our Hearts Were Young and Gay.Paramount announced her as the female lead in The Virginian (1946) but she did not appear in the final movie.
She was reunited with Ladd in Calcutta (1947), shot in 1945 but not released until two years later. She made a cameo as herself in two all-star Paramount films, Duffy's Tavern (1945) and Variety Girl (1947).
Russell was borrowed by Andrew Stone for The Bachelor's Daughters (1946) at United Artists.
Republic Pictures borrowed her to be John Wayne's leading lady in a film Wayne was producing, Angel and the Badman (1948).Also at Republic she did Moonrise (1948) for Frank Borzage.
Russell returned to Paramount for Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), directed by John Farrow, who had made Calcutta. She reteamed with Wayne at Republic for Wake of the Red Witch (1948), which was a hit.
She appeared in a Western with John Payne for Pine-Thomas Productions, a production outfit who released through Paramount, El Paso (1949). Pine-Thomas normally made lower-budgeted films but El Paso was made on a bigger scale.[ citation needed ]
Russell did Song of India (1949) for Columbia and The Great Dan Patch (1949) for United Artists.[ citation needed ]
Russell married actor Guy Madison on 1 August 1949.They separated in less than six months but later reunited, then separated in 1953, and divorced in 1954.
She made some more Pine-Thomas films: Captain China (1950) with Payne, and The Lawless (1951) with Macdonald Carey directed by Joseph Losey.
By 1950 it was well known that she had become a victim of alcoholism, and Paramount did not renew her contract. She had started drinking on the set of The Uninvited to ease her paralyzing stage fright and lack of confidence.
She made Air Cadet (1951) for Universal then did not act for a number of years.[ citation needed ]
In 1953 John Wayne's then-wife claimed during her divorce proceedings that Wayne and Russell had spent the night together. Wayne and Russell denied this.
In November 1953 she was held in jail overnight after being arrested for drunk driving.The following month she and Madison separated permanently.
In January 1954, in a court in Santa Monica, California, Russell pleaded guilty to a charge of drunkenness, receiving a $150 fine ($1,430 today). The fine was in lieu of a jail sentence, with the provision that she not use intoxicants or attend night spots for two years. In the same court session, she received a continuance on a charge of driving while drunk.
She sued Madison for divorce in May 1954.The divorce was finalized in October 1954. During the court proceedings Madison claimed that Russell would never do any housework and would not allow visitors or servants in the house.
In October 1954 she was admitted to hospital in a coma after an attack of hepatitis.
In February 1955 she hit another car containing a couple and their baby while driving. She was fined $50. 286,000 today) and settled out of court.The couple later sued her for $30,000 ($
Russell returned to work in a co-starring role with Randolph Scott in the western Seven Men from Now (1956), produced by her friend Wayne and directed by Budd Boetticher. The film and Russell's performance were lauded and she seemed poised to make a comeback.
Russell was expected to follow Seven Men from Now with Madame Courage, again with Boetticher as director, but the film was never made.
Instead Russell appeared in an episode of Studio 57 and had a substantial role in The Tattered Dress (1957).
In April 1957 she was found unconscious on the floor at her home.
On July 5, 1957, she was photographed by a Los Angeles Times photographer after she drove her convertible into the front of Jan's Coffee Shop at 8424 Beverly Boulevard, injuring a janitor. After failing a sobriety test, Russell was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.The janitor sued her for $75,000. She failed to appear at a court appearance and was discovered at home passed out due to drinking. She was fined $420, given a 30-day suspended sentence and put on three years' probation.
She appeared in No Place to Land (1958) for Republic.
She had roles in episodes of The Rebel and Manhunt . "I guess there are still a lot of doubts about me", she said in April 1960. "And this is one of the reasons why I want to get back to the business to prove to people I can do a picture. I'm stronger now. The future looks pretty good."
In November 1960 she was announced for a film with Mark Stevens and George Raft called Cause of Deathbut it appears to have not been made. She was top billed in her last film, the low-budget The Silent Call (1961).
Russell moved to a small house where she lived alone. She would periodically try to stop drinking then start again. On one occasion she was hospitalized. On August 26, 1961, Russell was found dead in her apartment in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, at the age of 36.She was found by two neighbors who were concerned they had not seen her for several days. An empty vodka bottle was by her side and the house was full of empty bottles.
She died from liver damage attributed to "acute and chronic alcoholism" with stomach contents aspiration as an additional cause.She was also found to have been suffering from malnutrition at the time of her death. She was buried in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood.
|1943||Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour||Virginia Lowry||Alternative title: Henry Gets Glamour|
|1944||Lady in the Dark||Barbara (at 17)|
|1944||The Uninvited||Stella Meredith|
|1944||Our Hearts Were Young and Gay||Cornelia Otis Skinner|
|1945||Salty O'Rourke||Barbara Brooks|
|1945||The Unseen||Elizabeth Howard|
|1946||Our Hearts Were Growing Up||Cornelia Otis Skinner|
|1946||The Bachelor's Daughters||Eileen||Alternative title: Bachelor Girls|
|1947||Angel and the Badman||Penelope Worth||Alternative title: Angel and the Outlaw|
|1948||Night Has a Thousand Eyes||Jean Courtland|
|1948||Wake of the Red Witch||Angelique Desaix|
|1949||Song of India||Princess Tara|
|1949||El Paso||Susan Jeffers|
|1949||The Great Dan Patch||Cissy Lathrop||Alternative title: Ride a Reckless Mile|
|1950||Captain China||Kim Mitchell|
|1950||The Lawless||Sunny Garcia||Alternative title: The Dividing Line|
|1951||Air Cadet||Janet Page||Alternative title: Jet Men of the Air|
|1956||Studio 57||Episode: "Time, Tide and a Woman"|
|1956||Seven Men from Now||Annie Greer|
|1957||The Tattered Dress||Carol Morrow|
|1958||No Place to Land||Lynn Dillon||Alternative title: Man Mad|
|1960||The Rebel||Cassandra||Episode: "Noblesse Oblige"|
|1960||Manhunt||Mrs. Clarke||Episode: "Matinee Mobster"|
|1961||The Silent Call||Flore Brancato|
|1960||The Rebel||Noblesse Oblige|
|1946||This Is Hollywood||The Bachelor's Daughters|
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