It may seem hard to believe now, but Russell--the matronly lady on TV hawking Playtex bras ""for us full-figured...


MY PATH AND MY DETOURS: An Autobiography

It may seem hard to believe now, but Russell--the matronly lady on TV hawking Playtex bras ""for us full-figured gals""--once symbolized lust for a generation of GIs. Ads for her film debut in The Outlaw showed her pouting on a bed of straw, blouse stretched tight, skirt hiked up, gun pointed strategically at thigh. Shocking stuff in 1940. At the time, Russell herself found it hard to believe, too. The only girl amongst a family of four boys, she was 18 when Howard Hughes discovered and cast her in The Outlaw. A theatrical novice, she was a pure PR creation, famous just for being famous--thanks to a barrage of cheesecake shots that kept the public appetite whetted while Hughes fought a five-year battle with the censors. When The Outlaw was finally releashed in 1946, it quickly died, as did most of her movies thereafter. Russell wasn't, by her own admission, the most driven of actresses; most of the time, as she puts it, ""I just learned the lines and had fun."" Fans of the ""kiss-and-tell' school of screen-star bios will be disappointed, however. My Path and My Detours contains no graphic stuff, just plenty of good humor and trust in the Lord. Russell is possessed of a strong mystical/ religious streak, manifested by her identifying everyone by their Zodiac sign (as in ""Vincent Price was my Gemini brother""), and by printing messages from the Almighty (which she hears after hours of praying in tongues). Aside from that, Russell comes across much as she did in her movies: warm, earthy, commonsensical. Trouble is, this chatty, folksy account is a bore. My Path includes very little on cinematic colleagues like Marilyn Monroe (her costar in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, her most memorable film). Instead, there's much on the Russell clan who, when not at prayer, are playing juvenile practical jokes on each other. The ""girl next door"" image here doesn't work: anecdotes about Jane's first date or first kiss fall flat. And even when matters get more serious--Jane's first abortion, Jane's arrest for drunk driving--they're so glossed over that they seem embarrassingly trivial. In sum, unlike Russell's image, flat as a board.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1985


Page Count: -

Publisher: Watts

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985

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