One of the major landmarks in movie pin-up history is the screen debut of Jane Russell in the 1943 cowboy movie The Outlaw. The movie cemented Russell as a pin-up queen with her famous sultry pose laying on top of a stack of hay.
The photo of the then-19-year-old Jane Russell proved to be titantically popular. It drew immediate interest from the public and became the movie’s central image that was used in its movie posters.
Russell was the girlfriend of the movie’s director, the famous businessman Howard Hughes. To increase the marketing allure of his leading lady, Hughes had a new underwire bra engineered to show off Russell’s busty curves and expose her shoulders without showing any bra straps.
For the time of the 1940s, the photo of Russell was red hot racy. Men were drooling over her scorching sex appeal while women were left wondering how her bosom seemed to defy gravity.
The truth is, Jane Russell never wore the underwire bra Hughes had made. Sure, she tried it on but found the metal frame so uncomfortable to wear, she never kept it on for more than a few minutes time.
“I never wore it in The Outlaw, and [Hughes] never knew. He wasn’t going to take my clothes off to check if I had it on. I just told him I did.”
Jane Russell in her 1988 autobiography
When the film was screened by the Hollywood Production Code Administration they found the imagery of Russell too provocative and ordered Hughes to trim his film. The business mogul grudgingly accomodated by editing out approximately 30 seconds of footage emphasizing the starlet’s bust.
However, the studio releasing The Outlaw got spooked. When the company dropped distributing the picture, Hughes needed to act fast. He hired a team to call up women’s clubs, local church groups and decency committees to register their protest against the risque release of the The Outlaw. These guardians of morality didn’t know that they were being played, and when they raised their voices to protest, the public interest in this forbidden celluloid fruit only grew.
Hughes got to release The Outlaw in 1943 but it only ran for one week at theaters before it was pulled for violating the decency code. Another three years passed while the image of the beguiling Jane Russell ran in magazines and adorned garage walls. The public was still interested in seeing what was being kept from them when United Artists finally won the case to release The Outlaw back into movie theaters in 1946.
The film became a box office hit and turned Russell into a leading lady alongside Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Lauren Bacall.
The artwork showing Jane Russell in her now infamous pose was painted by Zoë Mozert, whose birth name was Alice Adelaide Moser.
Mozert was a model herself as well as a pin-up artist. She started off her career modeling before painting hundreds of magazine covers as well as movie posters. Mozert’s depiction of Jane Russell in The Outlaw may be her most famous.