Gentlemen may prefer blondes, but when it comes to sex symbols, brunette Jane Russell was one of the greats. The actress, who passed away on Feb. 28 at age 89, more than held her own alongside Marilyn Monroe, challenged movie production codes with her bra (or lack thereof), and generally made being a smart, tall, curvy woman look good.
Howard Hughes signed Jane to a seven-year contract when she was only 19, and in 1943 she made her debut in The Outlaw, a movie that notoriously defied the Hollywood Production Code because it showed "too much" of Jane's cleavage. It looks like modest amounts of chest on display these days, but it set the stage for women in film (and real life) to wear more daring clothing.
Jane may, however, be best known for her role as sarcastic, sexy Dorothy Shaw opposite Marilyn Monroe's classic "dumb blonde" character Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Jane was also one of the first actresses to wear a bikini on film for 1954's The French Line, although in the final cut she wore a one-piece since the bikini was so risque that it had "horrified" the production crew.
Outside of film, Jane was also a great philanthropist and founded the World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), which placed children with adoptive families and pioneered international adoptions. For her daring in the face of censorship, her humor, and her unique beauty, she will be missed.