Gail Russell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Gail Russell
Gail Russell 1946.jpg
Russell, 1946
Betty Gale Russell[1]

(1924-09-21)September 21, 1924
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedAugust 26, 1961(1961-08-26) (aged 36)
Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of deathLiver damage resulting from alcoholism
Resting placeValhalla Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1943–1961
Guy Madison
(m. 1949; div. 1954)

Gail Russell (born Elizabeth L. Russell, September 21, 1924 – August 26, 1961) was an American film and television actress.

Early years[edit]

She was born to George and Gladys (Barnet) Russell in Chicago, Illinois, and then moved to the Los Angeles, California, area when she was a teenager. Her father was initially a musician but later worked for Lockheed Corporation. Before she ventured into acting, she had planned to be a commercial artist.[2]


Russell's beauty brought her to the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1942, and she signed a long-term contract with that studio when she was 18.[3] Although she was almost clinically shy and had no acting experience, Paramount had great expectations for her and employed an acting coach to work with her.

At the age of 19 she made her film debut in the 1943 film Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour. She also had a small part in Lady in the Dark (1943).


Russell leapt to stardom after being cast in a key role in The Uninvited (1944) with Ray Milland. It was directed by Lewis Allen who then directed Russell in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944), in which she co-starred with Diana Lynn. It was another success.

Russell co-starred opposite Alan Ladd in Salty O'Rourke (1945), a horse racing drama. She made a third film with Allen, The Unseen (1945), an unofficial follow up to The Uninvited. Then she and Lynn were in Our Hearts Were Growing Up (1946), a sequel to Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. She was reunited with Ladd in Calcutta (1947), shot in 1945 but not released until two years later.

With John Wayne (1947)

Russell left Paramount and appeared in The Bachelor's Daughters (1948) for United Artists. John Wayne hired her to be his co-star in a film he was producing, Angel and the Badman (1948).

She did Moonrise (1948) for Frank Borzage at Republic. Russell returned to Paramount for Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), then reteamed with Wayne for Wake of the Red Witch (1948).

She appeared in a Western with John Payne for Pine-Thomas Productions, El Paso (1949). Russell did Song of India (1949) for Columbia and The Great Dan Patch (1949) for United Artists.

She made some more Pine-Thomas films: Captain China (1950) with Payne, and The Lawless (1951) with Macdonald Carey.

Later career and personal life[edit]

Russell continued working after 1947 and married actor Guy Madison in 1949, but by 1950 it was well known that she had become a victim of alcoholism, and Paramount did not renew her contract. She had started drinking on the set of The Uninvited to ease her paralyzing stage fright and lack of confidence.[4]

She made Air Cadet (1951) for Universal, but alcohol made a shambles of her career, appearance and personal life. In January 1954, in a court in Santa Monica, California, Russell pleaded guilty to a charge of drunkenness, receiving a $150 fine. The fine was in lieu of a jail sentence, with the provision that she not use intoxicants or attend night spots for two years. In the same court session, she received a continuance on a charge of driving while drunk.[5]

A Democrat, she supported Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 presidential election[6].

She divorced Madison in 1954[7] and, after a five-year absence, returned to work in a co-starring role with Randolph Scott in the western Seven Men from Now (1956), produced by her friend Wayne, and had a substantial role in The Tattered Dress (1957).

On July 5, 1957, she was photographed by a Los Angeles Times photographer after she drove her convertible into the front of Jan's Coffee Shop at 8424 Beverly Boulevard. After failing a sobriety test, Russell was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.[8]

She appeared in No Place to Land (1958) for Republic.


She appeared in two more films after that but was not able to control her addiction, and on August 26, 1961, Russell was found dead in her apartment in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, at the age of 36.[9] She died from liver damage attributed to "acute and chronic alcoholism" with stomach contents aspiration as an additional cause.[10] She was also found to have been suffering from malnutrition at the time of her death.[11] She was buried in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood.


Year Title Role Notes
1943 Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour Virginia Lowry Alternative title: Henry Gets Glamour
1944 Lady in the Dark Barbara (at 17)
1944 The Uninvited Stella Meredith
1944 Our Hearts Were Young and Gay Cornelia Otis Skinner
1945 Salty O'Rourke Barbara Brooks
1945 The Unseen Elizabeth Howard
1946 Our Hearts Were Growing Up Cornelia Otis Skinner
1946 The Bachelor's Daughters Eileen Alternative title: Bachelor Girls
1947 Angel and the Badman Penelope Worth Alternative title: Angel and the Outlaw
1947 Calcutta Virginia Moore
1948 Moonrise Gilly Johnson
1948 Night Has a Thousand Eyes Jean Courtland
1948 Wake of the Red Witch Angelique Desaix
1949 Song of India Princess Tara
1949 El Paso Susan Jeffers
1949 The Great Dan Patch Cissy Lathrop Alternative title: Ride a Reckless Mile
1950 Captain China Kim Mitchell
1950 The Lawless Sunny Garcia Alternative title: The Dividing Line
1951 Air Cadet Janet Page Alternative title: Jet Men of the Air
1956 TV: Studio 57 Episode: "Time, Tide and a Woman"
1956 Seven Men from Now Annie Greer
1957 The Tattered Dress Carol Morrow
1958 No Place to Land Lynn Dillon Alternative title: Man Mad
1960 TV: The Rebel Cassandra Episode: "Noblesse Oblige"
1960 TV: Manhunt Mrs. Clarke Episode: "Matinee Mobster"
1961 The Silent Call Flore Brancato

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1946 This Is Hollywood The Bachelor's Daughters[12]


  1. ^ "Betty Gale Russell - Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates". FamilySearch. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  2. ^ Johnson, Erskine (April 24, 1944). "Around Hollywood". Pampa Daily News. p. 2. Retrieved September 14, 2015 – via open access
  3. ^ "Actress Gail Russell Loses Battle of the Bottle; Found Dead in Flat". Wisconsin, Madison. Wisconsin State Journal. August 28, 1961. p. 4. Retrieved January 14, 2016 – via open access
  4. ^ Porter, Darwin (2005). Howard Hughes: Hell's Angel. Blood Moon Productions, Ltd. p. 618. ISBN 0-9748118-1-5.
  5. ^ "Gail Russell Fined as Drunk, Weeps as Barfly Act Banned". Long Beach Independent. January 19, 1954. p. 16. Retrieved September 14, 2015 – via open access
  6. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  7. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries (2nd ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 823. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5.
  8. ^ Coates, Paul V.; Harnisch, Larry (2007-07-05). "Gail Russell: In memoriam". Retrieved 2009-04-06.
  9. ^ "Gail Russell--in memoriam". LA Times. 5 July 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  10. ^ Davis, Ronald L (2001). Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-8061-3329-4. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  11. ^ Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. p. 251. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9.
  12. ^ "New Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 16, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 14, 2015 – via open access

External links[edit]