While we’re still in the post-Oscar glow this week, Hollywood lost two talents on Monday: an icon of Hollywood’s golden age and an indie filmmaking veteran whose embrace of digital filmmaking allowed projects from a number of talented directors to get off the ground.
Screen siren Jane Russell passed away at the age of 89 on Monday. Russell came to fame — and notoriety — at the age of 19 when Howard Hughes cast her as the female lead in his production of the western “The Outlaw.” The film’s poster made ample use of the young actresses’ assets, sparking controversy from movie censors who wanted to bar the film’s release. And while the film had a bumpy release and was not particularly a critical fave, it made Russell a star. She would go on to star in numerous films in the next decade, including Howard Hawks‘ “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” opposite Marilyn Monroe. Singing became a big part of her career, as she landed in Las Vegas in 1957 and never looked back, continuing in various musical productions right through until as recently as 2008. Her last screen role was in an episode of “Hunter” in 1986 and she was a spokeswoman for Playtex throughout much of the decade; the actress also became a vocal conservative Christian in her later years as well. Very few women made their onscreen debut with as much impact as Russell did, and that will certainly never been forgotten.
Meanwhile, the world of independent film lost a trailblazer as well, as director and producer Gary Winick died at the age of 49. Winick was one of the founders of InDigEnt, a low-budget digital production shingle that helped bring films like Richard Linklater‘s “Tape,” Ethan Hawke‘s “Chelsea Walls,” Peter Hedges‘ “Pieces Of April,” Wim Wenders‘ “Land Of Plenty” and Steve Buscemi‘s “Lonesome Jim” to the big screen. As for his own directing career, Winick also started out in the indie world and found big success with his 2002 effort “Tadpole” which sold to Miramax for $6 million and allowed him transition to studio productions — as improbable as they were — including “13 Going On 30,” “Charlotte’s Web” and last year’s “Letters To Juliet.” Winick will always be remembered for being one of the pioneers of digital filmmaking and was a very well regarded figure in both the indie and Hollywood realms. [New York Times/IFC]