Marilyn and Jane Russell Cover ‘Closer’

Jane Russell was arguably Marilyn’s most effective co-star – and the two bombshells bonded offscreen as well. In a cover story for US magazine Closer Weekly‘s November 14 issue, Jane’s biographer Christina Rice talks about their friendship. (More about Christina’s book here – and for fans in the UK, Closer USA hits newsstands a week or two after its domestic release.)

“Marilyn and Jane also developed a warm relationship while filming the 1953 hit. They shared a strong work ethic and bonded over the ways their personal histories overlapped. ‘She was like a little sister,’ said Jane, who called her costar ‘Baby Doll’ and ‘Blondie’ on the set. ‘[Marilyn was] very shy and very sweet and far more intelligent than people gave her credit for.’

Another woman might have viewed Marilyn as a rival, but Jane saw her as a friend. ‘Jane was pretty grounded, self-possessed, and very comfortable in her own skin. She was never threatened by Marilyn,’ says Rice, who adds that the older star felt very empathic about Marilyn’s difficult life. Said Jane: ‘She never knew her father, her mother was in a mental institution, and Marilyn had been in foster care. I think she’d had some terrible experiences, and she wanted to get away from her background.’

The celebrity press, meanwhile, tried inventing a rivalry between the costars, but Jane and Marilyn put a stop to it. ‘Both of them were like, “Come on, we are not doing that,”‘ says Rice. ‘They were quick to prop each other up, and they combatted those kinds of stories from the start.’

Sadly, although time would never dull their affection for each other, Marilyn and Jane only kept in sporadic contact after Gentlemen wrapped. ‘We considered ourselves friends, but Marilyn kind of went from one group to another,’ explained Jane, who nonetheless sent her pal a sweet letter after Marilyn’s second divorce.

Jane also wrote in her memoir, My Path and My Detours, that Marilyn had been on her mind during a girls’ weekend she had with friends just before hearing of Marilyn’s death. ‘We philosophised, laughed at our problems, and giggled,’ she wrote. ‘I wished I had [Marilyn’s] phone number because I knew she belonged there, where we were all laughing about our problems.'”

Thanks to Lorenzo at Marilyn Remembered