The Siren has always divided the screen personas of great beauties into two categories: those who would steal your man the second your back was turned, and those who would just as soon knock back a few with the gals, while the man lopes off until such time as his presence becomes nonsuperfluous once more.
Jane Russell, who has died age 89, belonged to the latter category. Her chief asset was likability, but that's a rare quality in a woman so stunning. There aren't many sex symbols who seem chummy on screen. A guy could buy her a beer without being ensnared forever; a woman could lament an errant lover to her without fearing that Russell might snap him up on the rebound. Russell had talent; witness her hilarious courtroom scene in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which she out-Marilyns Marilyn, or her perfect reactions in The Paleface, one of Bob Hope's funnier movies. She had moxie, too; "don't let her fool you," said Hope. "Tangle with her and she'll shingle your attic."
Without hesitation the Siren would name His Kind of Woman as her favorite Russell movie, even if the film really belongs to Vincent Price. Her Lenore Brent is a different noir character from the femme fatale; it's the Gilda type, a woman who seems trampy but really isn't. When Lenore says "Wherever I am, I sing at the drop of a hat," you want to say, "Of course you do, doll."
Mitchum and Russell had liked one another as soon as they met on set; their mutual lack of pretension made them the right kind of friends. It's impossible to view the TCM interview with Russell and Robert Mitchum, filmed not long before Mitchum's death, and not like her even more. (The interview is included as an extra on the Macao DVD.) Mitchum gives one of the most screw-you performances the Siren has ever seen from any actor on any chatfest. Robert Osborne goes from surprise, to discomfort, to outright desperation as he tries to get more than a monosyllable out of the uncooperative legend slumped next to Russell. The actress' treatment of her old co-star is that of a loving spouse after decades of marriage to an impossible coot, as she tries to nudge him into courtesy.
But as biographer Lee Server told it, Mitchum, as much as anyone, had boundless appreciation for the things--many more than two, thank you--that made Russell such fun.
He loved to tell the one about the pestering reporter who couldn't believe a girl with her 'image' read the Bible and went to church each Sunday. 'Hey buddy,' she told him, 'Christians have big breasts, too.'