DID YOU READ

Jane Russell, 1921-2011

Jane Russell, 1921-2011 (photo)

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Not many actresses had enough raw charisma to share the screen with Marilyn Monroe without getting upstaged, but Jane Russell could. Russell, who died Monday at the age of 89 of respiratory-related illness, was a rare Hollywood commodity: an actress who combined raw sexual magnetism with a razor-sharp wit. She was beautiful and sexy and smart and funny, the total package. And man, what a package.

Russell gave the world two gifts for which we will be forever grateful: the musical comedy “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” with Monroe, and a figure so voluptuous it inspired filmmaker, aviator, and voluptuousness hobbyist Howard Hughes to invent one of the first underwire brassieres. As the legend goes, Russell served as Hughes’ bra muse during production of his film “The Outlaw” in 1941. The 19-year-old actress had been plucked from obscurity working in a doctor’s office when Hughes cast her for her curvaceous body and smoldering onscreen presence. Here, according to NNDB.com, is what happened next:

“Hughes had his engineers design a seamless underwire brassiere, a breakthrough in bra science to lift Russell’s 38-D breasts, leaving no visible support lines to interrupt the under-blouse contour of her bosom. It was the first practical “lift and separate” push-up bra, but Russell later said she did not wear the uncomfortable contraption during filming. Instead she wore her own bras, adding a layer of tissue paper over the cups to eliminate unsightly support lines. Hughes, despite directing the picture himself, never knew the difference.”

The publicity photos of Russell for “The Outlaw” — reclining with a gun in a dress that looked like it was about to fall off her frame completely — became one of the most iconic images of sexuality of the 1940s. The stills’ blend of sex and violence continues to inspire movie marketers to this day.

Anyone whose obituary includes the phrase “breakthrough in bra science” has already lived a great and important life. But Russell wasn’t done. In 1953, she made Howard Hawks’ “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” a hilarious comedy about two man-crazed showgirls living it up on a cruise to Paris. Almost sixty years later, I’m not sure Hollywood has yet to make a funnier and sexier movie from a woman’s perspective. The film was completely ahead of its time, feminist before feminism even existed, in its depiction of its two leads as capable, independent women in complete control of their lives and their powerful sexuality.

“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” is most famous for Monroe’s climactic musical number “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and rightfully so, but Russell gives an unforgettable performance too. She plays Dorothy Shaw to Monroe’s Lorelei Lee, chaperone for Lorelei’s transatlantic voyage to marry her rich fiance Mr. Esmond (Tommy Noonan). Esmond’s father disapproves of the marriage and so the couple travel separately to Paris for their nuptials. If they have any hope of convincing Esmond Sr. of their seriousness, there can’t be any funny business on the boat. Hence it’s Russell’s job to keep an eye on things, an arrangement which suits her well. “The chaperone’s job is to see that nobody else has any fun,” she tells Esmond on the docks. “Nobody chaperones the chaperone.”

Dorothy Shaw has to be one of the coolest characters in all of the movies, a one-liner factory built like a brick house. Her sexuality is both powerful and empowering. Her eyes widen when she sees the entire U.S. Olympic team on the boat, and she later shares a lusty musical number with them in their skin-colored swim trunks, “Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love?,” which puts a lie to the theory that all Hollywood films are designed solely for the pleasure of the male gaze.

Russell’s promiscuous ways — in an age when married couples still slept in separate beds onscreen, Dorothy openly admits to sleeping with a guy on their first date — aren’t portrayed as sleazy or slutty. Dorothy is simply smart, self-aware, and self-reliant. None of the men in this movie, even the one she ultimately chooses to be with, seem good enough for her — Hawks, taking a page of the Hitchcock playbook, cast duds as his male leads so that the women would be even more appealling. It worked: though “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” stars two of the most beautiful women to ever appear in the movies, it’s not about fantasizing about them; it’s about fantasizing about being them.

Though Russell worked steadily through the 1940s and 50s, including notable films with Bob Hope (“Son of Paleface”) and Robert Mitchum (“Macao”), “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was her unrepeatable apex. The New York Times story about her death says that in her later years she became a bra spokesman, struggled with alcoholism and, maybe most surprisingly, dabbled in conservative politics. There was nothing conservative about the young Russell, who pushed boundaries, broke taboos, and offered one of the most comprehensive arguments in history why gentlemen shouldn’t prefer blondes.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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