Thursday, July 5, 2012

Flashback Post: Jane Russell Sings!

Back in September of 2011, I did a two part article about Jane Russell's singing career. Many people today don't know that Jane had a successful music career outside of her film career. She released a few albums, had a nightclub act, and even was part of Christian music group. Her albums (not in their original forms) are available on iTunes for purchase. If you like to relax to beautiful jazz tunes, you should check them out.

And here you are... 
a Flashback Post from September 2011: Jane Russell Sings!

PART ONE         +

With Jane Russell being the first star to have her films explored in the Filmography Project, I have been doing some research on the other parts of her career as well. One thing I am glad to have come across is the long list of songs recorded by Jane. Now I know it isn't hard to realize that she was a singer, but I don't think many people know she had a music career, maybe it was a small one, but nonetheless she had a music career. She released a few albums and even had a single perform pretty well on the charts. This is the first of a two part post about those albums and Jane's other ventures into music...

Jane's first venture into music was in the late 1940's. She had been signed to a 7 year contract at the age of 19 by Howard Hughes, but her debut film, The Outlaw, was held up for many years by the Hays Office. When the film finally made its way onto the silver screen, it never lived up the hype setup by the publicity the many years previous. Jane Russell was a popular movie star, without any movies under her belt. She was loaned out by Hughes to make Young Widow while waiting for The Outlaw to be released, but this film did little to nothing to advance her career.
While waiting for her film career to go somewhere, Jane put together a nightclub singing act. She debuted at the Latin Quarter Club in Miami Beach, Florida. While it didn't do anything to help her movie career, she did bring in a $15,000 salary for the one week engagement. In January 1947, after losing his lead singer, Kay Kyser invited Jane to make an appearance on his College of Musical Knowledge radio show. When she was so well liked on the show a 12 week contract was written. She even went with Kyser to Columbia to record two tracks with him ['As Long As I Love' & 'Boin-n-n-ng'].

The Outlaw was finally nearing its release in 1947 when Columbia approached Jane to record her own album. The result was an 8 track album titled 'Let's Turn Out The Lights.' The album found Jane cooing suggestive bedroom ballads such as 'Do It Again' and 'Body and Soul.' On two of the tracks, 'Let's Turn Out The Lights' and 'Two Sleepy People', she was teamed up with Bob Lowery to deliver bits of dialogue where it is suggested that there are other things to do before retiring to bed.

The album was reissued with the Kyser tracks she recorded at Columbia as well as two other unreleased tracks. The unreleased tracks, 'The Gilded Lady' and 'Reckless', were from the film Montana Belle. The songs were never released when they were recorded in 1949 because Hughes delayed the film's release until 1952. Years later, Russell put down the record calling it "horrible and boring to listen to."

While I can hardly agree with her views on the album, I must say it isn't something to listen to if you are trying to do anything but relax. The torch style ballads are beautifully sung and a joy to listen to. Album highlights for me include 'A Hundred Years From Today' and 'As Long As I Live.' The album is available on the web, but if you go on iTunes, you can find the tracks as apart of a few of the Jane Russell albums they offer.

PART TWO        +

As a part of the Filmography Project, I have been doing some research on Jane Russell's other talents... such as her singing. This is part 2 of the Jane Russell Sings! post, you can find the first part here. Find out more about the Filmography Project here.

After releasing her first album, Jane Russell went on to further her acting career. While working on the film Double Dynamite with Frank Sinatra, the couple recorded a track with The Modernaires for Columbia Records titled "Kisses and Tears."

In 1954, Jane , along with Connie Haines, Beryl Davis, and Della Russell, formed The Hollywood Christian Group after meeting at a church social. The fact that Jane was a devout Christian, may have come as a shock to the public at that time because of her very scandalous film career. The quartet was signed to Coral Records and released a single, which was followed by an LP named 'Make Joyful Noise Unto the Lord.' The album included orchestral arrangements by Van Alexandra and Lyn Murray. In May 1954, their single 'Do Lord' made its way to number 27 on the Billboard singles chart, selling a total of two million copies. They would follow up their success on the charts (after replacing Della Russell with Rhonda Felming) with other hit singles such as "Jacob's Ladder." During that time, Jane also cut a solo single titled "Forevermore" for Coral.

Aside from singing on stage, Jane would continue to showcase her vocal talents in her films. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes would team her up with blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe and give Russell the biggest hit of her career. Unfortunately, none of her other films would live up the success of GPB. While she went on to appear in a few films after 1957, Jane's career as a major movie actress ended in 1957 after a number of films flopped at the box-office.

On the plus side, with the exposure of her abilities to act, sing, and dance, Jane was able to put together a very successful nightclub act. She would go on to appear in biggest clubs in Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, and other places around the world. She even had another stent on the radio performing with Bobby Troup and his quartet. The group released the singles "It Never Entered My Mind" and "You're Mine."

Now a trio (Jane, Connie Haines, and Beryl Davis), The Hollywood Christian Group would do a follow up to their successful LP that was recorded in 1957 for Capitol Record titled 'The Magic of Believing.' In later years an album titled 'Feel The Spirit' brought together all of the recordings the group did for Coral and Capitol including their single for Warner Bros. Records from 1961, "Cumana."

Original Artwork For 1959 Album

Even though she wasn't making films anymore, Jane stayed busy with her nightclub and music careers. In 1959, she would release a self-titled LP for MGM Records. For this album Jane was recorded in stereo sound and given full creative control over the whole recording process. Jane would later say “I picked the songs and the band. I knew I wanted a small group. I got Billy May to arrange and when I needed a piano player, Peggy Lee found me Joe Rotondi. I finally got to make a record the way I wanted to make it.” The jazz inspired album was full of standards arranged by Billy May, this would become Russell's personal favorite. Jane would take this album on tour, appearing in New England and New York. The album would later be re-released under the name 'Fine and Dandy' with 5 never-before-released tracks and two demo recording from 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' and 'Macao.'

Though best known as a silver screen bombshell, Jane Russell had a fruitful music career and went on in later years to become a stage actor. Never satisfied with the roles she was given in film, it is nice to know what Jane was able to enjoy this part of her long career because she was respected as a talent, rather than being exploited to sell seats in theaters. I have started my own collection of Jane's recordings and hope to one day have them all. You can find most of her music on iTunes and amazon.

And there you have it... Jane Russell Sings!


  1. I am definitely going to check them out. I loved Jane's singing in Gentlmen Prefer Blondes and The French Line.

  2. Jane does a wonderful version of "One For My Baby" in "Macao."

  3. Hi, just wanted to let you know I've tagged you for an award: Pass it on if you wish :)