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Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (14) | Personal Quotes (7) | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 21 September 1924Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date of Death 27 August 1961Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameElizabeth L. Russell

Mini Bio (2)

Gail Russell was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 21, 1924. She remained in the Windy City, going to school until her parents moved to California when she was 14. She was an above-average student in school and upon graduation from Santa Monica High School was signed by Paramount Studios.

Because of her ethereal beauty, Gail was to be groomed to be one of Paramount's top stars. She was very shy and had virtually no acting experience to speak of, but her beauty was so striking that the studio figured it could work with her on her acting with a studio acting coach.

Gail's first film came when she was 19 years old with a small role as "Virginia Lowry" in Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour (1943) in 1943. It was her only role that year, but it was a start. The following year she appeared in another film, The Uninvited (1944) with Ray Milland (it was also the first time Gail used alcohol to steady her nerves on the set, a habit that would come back to haunt her). It was a very well-done and atmospheric horror story that turned out to be a profitable one for the studio. Gail's third film was the charm, as she co-starred with Diana Lynn in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944) that same year. The film was based on popular book of the time and the film was even more popular.

In 1945 Gail appeared in Salty O'Rourke (1945), a story about crooked gamblers involved in horse racing. Although she wasn't a standout in the film, she acquitted herself well as part of the supporting cast. Later that year she appeared in The Unseen (1945), a story about a haunted house, starring Joel McCrea. Gail played Elizabeth Howard, a governess of the house in question. The film turned a profit, but was not the hit that Paramount executives hoped for.

In 1946 Gail was again teamed with Diana Lynn for a sequel to "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay"--Our Hearts Were Growing Up (1946). The plot centered around two young college girls getting involved with bootleggers. Unfortunately, it was not anywhere the caliber of the first film and it failed at the box-office. With Calcutta (1947) in 1947, however, Gail bounced back with a more popular film, this time starring Alan Ladd. Unfortunately, many critics felt that Gail was miscast in this epic drama. That same year she was cast with John Wayne and Harry Carey in the western Angel and the Badman (1947). It was a hit with the public and Gail shined in the role of Penelope Worth, a feisty Quaker girl who tries to tame gunfighter Wayne. Still later Gail appeared in Paramount's all-star musical, Variety Girl (1947). The critics roasted the film, but the public turned out in droves to ensure its success at the box-office. After the releases of Song of India (1949), El Paso (1949) and Captain China (1950), Gail married matinée idol Guy Madison, one of the up-and-coming actors in Hollywood.

After The Lawless (1950) in 1950 Paramount decided against renewing her contract, mainly because of Gail's worsening drinking problem. She had been convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and the studio didn't want its name attached to someone who couldn't control their drinking. Being dumped by Paramount damaged her career, and film roles were coming in much more slowly. After Air Cadet (1951) in 1951, her only film that year, she disappeared from the screen for the next five years while she attempted to get control of her life. She divorced Madison in 1954.

In 1956 Gail returned in Seven Men from Now (1956). It was a western with Gail in the minor role of Annie Greer. The next year she was fourth-billed in The Tattered Dress (1957), a film that also starred Jeanne Crain and Jeff Chandler. The following year she had a reduced part in No Place to Land (1958), a low-budget offering from "B" studio Republic Pictures.

By now the demons of alcohol had her in its grasp. She was again absent from the screen until 1961's The Silent Call (1961) (looking much older than her 36 years). It was to be her last film. On August 26, 1961, Gail was found dead in her small studio apartment in Los Angeles, California.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

An angelically beautiful leading lady with a demure and melancholy screen persona which reflected a deeper sadness in her real life. She was born Elizabeth Russell in Chicago, Illinois, the second child of George and Gladys (Barnet) Russell. She was painfully, almost disabling shy as a child. When she was a teenager, her family moved to Los Angeles.

Russell attended high school in Santa Monica, California, where she was spotted by a Paramount talent scout and signed to a contract immediately upon graduation. She was given considerable coaching and subsequently appeared in important roles in a number of prestigious Paramount films.

However, she suffered from an intense and almost crippling stage fright which she began to combat with alcohol. Conflicts with the law, particularly drunk driving, damaged her reputation and her star began to dim. Befriended by John Wayne, with whom she was later accused (apparently unjustly) of conducting an adulterous affair, she played a few roles in films he produced. But her drinking began to affect not only her work but her appearance and her personal life. Married in 1949 to actor Guy Madison, she was divorced by him in 1954 (though she retained as her legal name his legal name, Moseley).

In 1961, at the age of 36, she died alone in her apartment of chronic alcoholism, an extremely fatty liver and terminal aspiration of stomach contents all while surrounded by empty liquor bottles. She will be remembered, however, as an incredible doe-eyed beauty who presented a screen image of great innocence and vulnerability.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (1)

Guy Madison (31 July 1949 - 26 October 1954) (divorced)

Trivia (14)

Jane Fonda studied up on Russell's life in order to play an alcoholic, once promising actress in The Morning After (1986).
Her brother, George Russell, who was five years older than Gail, became a musician.
A talented artist, she starting sketching at the age of 5 and later grew into a respectable oil painter.
Attended Van Nuys High School and was in some of the same classes as actress Jane Russell.
Suffered paralyzing stage fright during the filming of The Uninvited (1944) and suffered a nervous breakdown following its completion. In the role of Stella, the song "Stella by Starlight," which came from the film, is forever associated with Gail.
Her blue-eyed, dark beauty was frequently compared to Hedy Lamarr throughout much of her career.
Her death certificate and the California State Death Record shows her date of death as August 27, 1961. Many sources give her date of death as August 26, possibly because her body, found on August 27, had been dead for at least a day. But August 27 is the official date of death.
In 1930, she lived with her parents George and Gladys Russell at 5306 S. Blackstone Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
In Italy, most of her films were dubbed by Lidia Simoneschi and Renata Marini. She was also dubbed once by Dhia Cristiani in Wake of the Red Witch (1948).
She was signed to co-star with George Raft in Loan Shark (1952), but had to withdraw due to "illness", according to studio press releases. She was replaced by Dorothy Hart.
In 1960 she was signed to co-star opposite George Raft in a film to be called "Cause of Death", directed by (and co-starring) Mark Stevens, but production was halted just prior to the start of filming.
Had an affair with John Wayne during the filming of Angel and the Badman (1947). Wayne later admitted that the affair almost caused the breakup of his marriage to Esperanza Baur, to whom he had been married little over a year.
Although only weighing about 100 pounds, she was a talented archer and used a 48lb draw bow. She could hit a two foot target at one hundred yards.
In "Seven Men From Now", her character was attempting to extricate a covered wagon mired axle-deep in mud and the director said that Annie should look like she had just fallen in and not patted on artfully by makeup assistants. Whereupon, Gail motioned the crew aside and calmly took a nosedive face down into the slush. The director was delighted with her impromptu mud bath and the cameras rolled.

Personal Quotes (7)

I was possessed with an agonizing kind of self-consciousness where I felt my insides tightening into a knot, where my face and hands grew clammy, where I couldn't open my mouth, where I felt impelled to turn and run if I had to meet new people. When my parents had guests, I would run, get under the piano and hide there.
Everything happened so fast. I was a sad character. I was sad because of myself. I didn't have any self-confidence. I didn't believe I had any talent. I didn't know how to have fun. I was afraid. I don't exactly know of what - of life, I guess.
We lived first in Chicago, came gypsying to California. When my family first came here it was a vacation, really. Then we put a down payment on a house and a down payment on some furniture. My brother went into the Army and one by one pieces of furniture went.

When I was discovered for the movies I was sleeping on the living room floor on newspapers. I went for my first interview with paint all over my face--I'd been helping paint a room at the technical school. Paramount offered me a minimum salary--$50 a week--and Mom said, 'Take it, we need the money.'
For my first test they put me into an evening gown. I had never even worn high heels before--or makeup of any kind. To say I was self-conscious is understatement plus. A week later they cast me in a Henry Aldrich picture, wearing a bathing suit and a transparent raincoat. It had been raining and there was a large puddle across from the studio commissary where the scene was to be shot. Of course they had to do it just as the sets broke for lunch and such stars as Alan Ladd, Bing Crosby and others were passing by.

There I was trying to speak my lines while holding an umbrella which kept slipping from my nervous fingers. To this day I refuse all bathing suit scenes in public or private.
[For certain auditions at Paramount, the person was placed in a glass booth which was lit so that they could not see that anyone was outside watching] My coach accompanied me and we read the script together. Then he excused himself. There I stood, sat, or something, for 10 minutes waiting for him to return. Finally they turned on the outside lights and to my horror I saw 15 executives filing away one by one. I frantically tried to remember what I had done those 10 minutes. What an experience!
[About filming "The Uninvited"] I started out weighing 125 pounds, then I was rushed to New York for the opening. When I got back I weighed 106--all in two months. Everything was that way, rush... rush... rush... So many pictures one after another. I tried to be a nice guy and took on too many things and didn't take care of my health.
I have hand trouble. Unconsciously I clasp my hands and then start wringing them. It's getting to be a gag now on the set. Director John Farrow ("Calcutta" and "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes") had a stock line to deliver every time my hands wouldn't behave. It was, 'Hands, Gail, cut.' They finally tied my hands to my sides with handkerchiefs.

Salary (1)

Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour (1943) $50 /week

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