A Notorious New Star Is Born
Young Widow (1946) Is First Wide Glimpse Of Jane Russell
This was the Jane Russell movie most people saw after five years of ogling her pin-ups, The Outlaw a sufficiently hot potato as to be shunned by circuits and certainly small towns. Howard Hughes went for lurid even in push of this placid drama wherein war-widowed Russell must rejoin romance ranks as embodied by flyer Louis Hayward. "What Are The Two Biggest Reasons For Jane Russell's Success?" asked Hughes' publicity, to which everyone giggled the answer, and why not? To pose such a question was asking for trouble. A wider public hadn't seen Russell other than in still photography on haystacks or carrying milk jugs. Hughes was insanely unsubtle, or was he merely insane? For all his micromanage of publicity, HH interfered less with production of Young Widow, Jane Russell having been loaned to independent producer Hunt Stromberg. Part of that deal included starter Faith Domergue in third-bill placement, even though she'd have but two scenes.
Hughes would also negotiate for United Artists distribution, a package deal with The Outlaw, which would go out just behind Young Widow, Russell personal-appearing with both. Stromberg took time, and lost time, completing his project. There were complications renting studio space, the producer not having access to facility of the majors. Delay in getting Young Widow started ("scripting and casting trouble," said Variety) put Stromberg beyond his lease period with California Studios, so he had to move to General Service facility. Ida Lupino had been set to star, but "pulled out because she didn't like the script," according to Variety. By the time Jane Russell was aboard, Young Widow was headed over-budget, to eventual sum of $600K, according to Tino Balio's United Artists book. What muddied water further was three directors in and out over shooting: William Dieterle (left after arguments with Stromberg), Andre De Toth, and Edwin L. Marin, who Russell would recall as too literal with regards script and gave no leeway for actor input.
Maybe a most important element was stills, specifically ones of Russell in negligee and provocative pose. Two weeks were spent on these. If Young Widow sold, photo art was how they'd sell it. JR was tendered as "The World's Most Exciting Brunette," much of ads with her in bathing attire and/or sleepwear. Who'd have known going in how somber this drama would play, especially for a first act with Russell wallowed in grief? Well, the title warned them. It's only when action switches from bayou setting to