Didn’t Russell confess to having had an abortion?
Yes. It happened when Jane was 21.
Hello everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers here, your classic movies guys.
Jane Russell, one of Hollywood’s biggest female stars of the late Forties and Fifties, made clear in her 1985 autobiography, “My Path & My Detours,” that she was brought up in a highly religious family.
The Russells were fundamentalist Christians, and Jane found herself speaking in tongues at a young age. Her God was personal, a friend to whom she would openly address almost as if in casual conversation. Her faith was a lot more than a once-a-week-on-Sundays thing.
Here, then, is how she described a distinctly un-Godly situation she confronted.
“From my free and easy life, leaving God out of things, I suddenly found myself to be quite pregnant. I was terrified. In those days no ‘nice girl’ got pregnant. There was no such thing as keeping a child out of wedlock in 1942.”
So Russell had an abortion. She describes two procedures (the first didn’t take) concisely but painfully in her book. Referring to her paramour at the time, Bob Waterfield (more on him later), she wrote: “I suppose Robert thought it was his. I wasn’t that sure.” The procedures left her “very sick for the first time in my life.”
She recovered at home with her mother who “prayed for me and read the Bible. Every morning as I looked out on her beautiful garden, all I could see was the good Lord and how much He loved me in spite of myself.”
It’s hard to say how Russell dealt with issues such as premartial sex and abortion and continued to maintain her devout faith. She never had children of her own, although she emerged as a potent Hollywood advocate over the years for adoption, founding the World Adoption International Fund in the 1950’s. She became the mother of three adopted children (to whom her autobiography was dedicated) — “Who more than once have been my reason for living.”
After her abortion, Jane broke off her relationship with Waterfield, and began what she described as a “very serious affair” with actor John Payne, who she described as “a thinker, a reader, a writer.” He certainly was a far-sighted businessman. While employed at 20th Century Fox, Payne invested in land along the Malibu coastline. For some reason, such a auspicious relationship didn’t last.
In any event, Russell eventually married Bob Waterfield, in Las Vegas in 1943. The couple had met in high school when Waterfield noticed that Jane had transformed “from a skinny fifteen-year-old to a well-stacked seventeen-year-old.” Jane confessed to two infidelities during the marriage including a one-night stand with “one of my old loves, who I’ll call Lance.” Many in Hollywood thought Jane and Robert Mitchum had been lovers, but she never admitted it . They were very close friends and their on screen chemistry was vibrant.
Russell maintained that Waterfield, an all-star quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams from 1944 to 1952, was unfaithful multiple times. Their 24-year-marriage veered from ecstatic to acrimonious, and the divorce came through in 1967.
Jane married twice more after Bob Waterfield, but outlived both husbands. Throughout her life Jane remained deeply religious. In 2003, she described herself as a “conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist.”
YESTERDAY’S PIC: Jane and Bob Hope in “Paleface.” It was Hope’s highest grossing picture without Crosby and Lamour.