Ok, we realize that your knowledge of Gail Russell’s career might be limited.
That, however, doesn’t effect our assessment that Russell was one of classic Hollywood’s more interesting leading ladies — perhaps more for her personal vicissitudes that for her on-screen sparkle.
Our Mini-Quiz reflects that focus on the personal, especially Russell’s liaison with John Wayne. But let’s not dismiss entirely Russell’s onscreen abilities.
You may not know this but she laid claim to a reputation as a strong actress in film noir, particularly in director Frank Borzage’s little known 1948 drama Moonrise for Republic Pictures. Her performance as a beautiful school teacher drew praise from noir critic, Eddie Muller. Gail Russell comes off as one of the true Dark Angels of fim noir, writes Muller.
The end of her life came early, and it wasn’t pretty, as we shall see. Let’s get to the answers to our Gail Russell Mini-Quiz, which reveal all. To check out the questions, just scroll down to the blog below. Here we go:
1) Answer: Russell is linked to Clara Bow and Gene Tierney because of d) none of the above. Russell was certainly a confirmed alcoholic, but Bow and Tierney suffered with other demons. All three were beautiful but suffered under the Hollywood system of their times.
2) Answer: Russell married c) Guy Madison in 1949. It lasted five years. Madison, “discovered” by Russell’s agent Henry Willson, was a popular “beefcake” star of the Fifties known principally as the protagonist of tv’s Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok. Madison later worked extensively in Europe in spaghetti westerns. He died in 1996 of emphysema in Palm Springs, California. He was 74.
3) Answer: It was c) Tab Hunter who made his movie debut in Russell’s 1950 crime drama, The Lawless. He was cast in his tiny part as a studio favor to agent Willson (who also represented Hunter). In his 2005 autobiography, Hunter recalls that for my debut, I walked up Main Street (the film was shot in Marysville, California) with a bunch of other guys. Speaking part, two words. ‘Hi, Fred.’ For this…I earned $500. Two hundred and fifty bucks a word! (A tidy sum at the time.)
4) Answer: c) Russell was psychotically gripped by stagefright, and turned to alcohol to settle her nerves — a lot of alcohol. By the mid-Fifties things got really out of control, and she wound up driving her convertible through the front of Jan’s coffee shop in Los Angeles, nearly killing a janitor. The end came in 1961, and it wasn’t pretty. Russell died in a Los Angeles apartment surrounded by empty liquor bottles… her stomach was so swollen it looked like she had swallowed a football, according to Wayne biographer Scott Eyman. She was all of 36 years old.
5) Answer: a) True. According to director Budd Boetticher, director of Seven Men From Now, (Wayne) was more fond of Gail Russell than any of them. And I think Duke had a crush on her. I think she was the one leading lady that he really cared about in anything but a professional way.