The Outlaw is a western, produced and partly directed by Howard Hughes, before he started saving his urine and letting his nails grow.
Howard Hawks was the original director but walked off the set after a few weeks because of Hughes’ meddling and Hughes had to finish the film himself.
The movie is a spirited retelling of the Billy the Kid legend that plays fast & loose with history. The undertone of the film is both erotic and sadistic, and there's a strong hint of homosexuality.
It was Jane Russell's breakthrough, turning the unknown actress into a sex symbol and a Hollywood icon.
Although the movie was completed in 1941, it didn’t see general release until 1946, as a result of Hughes defying the censors. By showcasing Russell's breasts in both the movie and the poster artwork, the film became very controversial.
Hughes felt that the camera didn’t do justice to Russell's large bust and he used his engineering skills to design a new cantilevered underwire bra to showcase her “assets”.
But the emphasis on her breasts was too much for the censors, and he reluctantly removed about 40 feet, or a half-minute, of footage that featured Russell's bosom.
Even then, he still had problems getting the film distributed, so he secretly started a campaign to get the film banned. Hughes spent tens of thousands of dollars to agitate the censors and arouse public indignation.
He leased thousands of billboards from coast to coast for three years, plastering a suggestive photo of the scantily clad Russell, reclining on a bed of hay, gun in hand.
The resulting controversy generated enough interest to get The Outlaw into theaters for one week in 1943, before it was pulled due to more objections by the censors.
This was just what Hughes wanted and when the film was finally released in 1946, it was a box office smash.
Russell later said that she never wore Hughes' bra, just her own with the straps pulled down and that Hughes never noticed.
She was a 19-year-old receptionist when Hughes discovered her through a talent hunt. Hughes had seen David O. Selznick get a lot of publicity for Gone With The Wind by searching for an actress to play Scarlett O'Hara.
So Hughes decided on a talent search too, and that’s how Russell got the part.
The Outlaw was Russell's movie debut. She was paid $50/week for the film, 10 years later she was paid $400,000 for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Russell was the first big star whose glamour pictures unashamedly emphasized her bust. Bob Hope once introduced her as "the two and only Jane Russell."
And the photo of her on a haystack with her blouse hanging low was one of the top 3 photographs requested by servicemen during World WarII.
In the early 50s, Russell formed a gospel group and their single "Do Lord" reached number 27 on the Billboard singles chart in May 1954.
In 2006 (at age 84), Jane put together a musical show entitled "The Swinging Forties" that played at a local hotel. And more recently, in 2008 a collection of some of Russell's gospel and secular recordings was issued on CD.
Unable to bear children after a botched abortion when she was18, Russell championed the Federal Orphan Adoption Amendment of 1953, which allowed children of American servicemen born overseas to be placed for adoption in the United States.
Russell went to high school with James Dougherty, who was the first husband of Marilyn Monroe, whom she would later co-star with in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
'The Jane Russell Peaks' in Alaska are named after her and she lived in California until her death in 2011.
Walter Huston, playing Doc Holliday, was a great character actor of the 30s & 40s. He was the father of director John Huston, grandfather of actors Anjelica & Danny Huston.
In 1948, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was directed by his son, John Huston.
And for an interesting tie-in to Hughes, Huston’s grandson Danny had a role in 2004’s The Aviator, a movie about Howard Hughes. Also working on the film was an assistant director named Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who went on to fame and fortune as producer of the James Bond movies.
His daughter and stepson still produce the Bond films today.
Thomas Mitchell, playing Pat Garrett, is probably best remembered for his role as Uncle Billy in It’s A Wonderful Life and the Oscar he won for Stagecoach.
There are also 2 uncredited stuntmen in the film, Ben Johnson & Richard Farnsworth, who both later became well-known actors.
Johnson got his start in movies with this film when he was hired by Hughes to move all the horses for the movie from Oklahoma to Hollywood. He went on to an acting career that lasted more than 50 years and included an Oscar for his role in The Last Picture Show.
Farnsworth worked as a stuntman for almost 40 years before moving into acting and was nominated for 2 Oscars. And at 79, he is the oldest person ever nominated for a Best Actor Award for 1999's The Straight Story, the movie where he rides a lawn mower across the state to see his ill brother.
Victor Young, the musical director for the film, holds the record for receiving the most Oscar nominations before winning an Academy Award- 22 nominations before winning for Around The World in 80 Days.
This movie’s most attention-grabbing moments center on a tussle between Russell and Billy the Kid in a hay barn, where he threatens to rip off her dress, hence the film's famous poster showing Russell with ripped clothing and one of the movie’s the taglines “How’d you like to tussle with Russell?”
(Shot in black & white, the film has been recolored twice.)
Today the film would be rated G but back then it was X-rated.
When The Outlaw finally came out, audiences flocked to theaters, hoping to answer the question that was splashed across every newspaper ad:
"What are the two reasons for Jane Russell's rise to stardom?"