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Russell, ’40s and ’50s film star, dies at 89

LOS ANGELES – Jane Russell, the busty brunette who shot to fame as the sexy star of Howard Hughes’ 1941 Western “The Outlaw,” died Monday of respiratory failure, her family said. She was 89.

Although Russell largely retired from Hollywood after her final film, 1970’s “Darker Than Amber,” she had remained active in her church, with charitable organizations and with a local singing group until her health began to decline just a couple weeks ago, said her daughter-in-law, Etta Waterfield. She died at her home in Santa Maria, Calif.

“She always said, ‘I’m going to die in the saddle; I’m not going to sit at home and become an old woman,’ ” Waterfield told the Associated Press. “And that’s exactly what she did: She died in the saddle.”

Hughes, the eccentric billionaire, put her on the path to stardom when he cast her in “The Outlaw,” a film he fought with censors for nearly a decade to get into wide release.

With her sultry look and glowing sexuality, Russell became a star before she was ever seen by a wide movie audience. The Hughes publicity mill ground out photos of the beauty in low-cut costumes and swimsuits, and she became famous, especially as a pinup for World War II GIs.