February 18, 2015

Jack Buetel & Jane Russell ~ The Outlaw

Grit TV (Chanel 66.4) has been running The Outlaw recently and it's triggered some long forgotten memories for me. It was 72 years ago this month that the film was originally released; I was too young to have any recollection of it on that go around. It was released to the theaters on February 5, 1943 but after one week it was pulled due to violations of the Production Code on morals grounds.

Because of the moral code violations Century-Fox cancelled the agreement with Howard Hughes, who produced and directed the film, to release The Outlaw. As Hughes stood to lose millions of dollars, he worked out a scheme and had all his managers call ministers, women's clubs and housewives telling them about the 'lewd picture' Hughes was about to release starring Jane Russell. The public responded by protesting and trying to have the film banned, which turned into the publicity Hughes needed to create demand for the film and it was released on April 23, 1946, in San Francisco. And that's when I saw the billboard (above).  

I was five but I remember walking down the street with my mom and dad. I remember seeing the billboard advertizing the movie for an instant. My mom put her hand over my eyes and they walked me quickly away. This was not unusual as it was the mid-forties, after all, and that was the usual reaction to public displays of sensuality in those days. 

The entire incident couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds so the sight of the billboard must have been only a billionth of a second; but the image was burned in my mind for the rest of my life. Along with the image, however, came the message sent to a five year old brain that it was not nice to look at things like this. Of course I had seen women's busts in clothes and sometimes at the beach with full-body swim suits and thought nothing of them but having them almost right out there in the open was a mind blowing thing to me at that age and it was reinforced by the reaction of my parents. 

Now, flash forward not quite twenty or so years later; I finally got to see the film in my late teens. There is no doubt that the attributes of Jane Russell were outstanding; however, I remember I kept trying to avoid looking at her. I didn't know why until I watched the film recently on Grit TV (remember, that's where I started?). I realized that as a teen, I had reacted as the five-year old me had been taught. Then, there is the homoerotic overtone of the film I wasn't aware of at the time (see link below).  

So, if you don't look at Jane Russell, where do you look? Everywhere else, that's where. Thus, it was amazing how much of the details and visuals (other than Jane) of the film I remembered. After Jane, the next major item to focus on was Jack Buetel. He was intensely handsome in a dark and broody way. His looks were akin to that of Tyrone Power.   

photographer unknown

The next item to focus on: although they were unearthly beautiful, the acting of both Jane and Jack was not Academy Award winning material.  
photographer unknown

Even Howard Hughes, the director of the film, realized the limits of their acting abilities and utilized movie star security in the way of Thomas Mitchell, and Walter Huston to cover for them.   

Buetel never became a major movie star and limped along in minor roles and movies, however, the film catapulted Russell into a star of major proportions (links below).     

I think it was the first film by Hughes I saw and I looked for and enjoyed seeing his other work as well (see link below). Jack  

Howard Hughes on the movie set of 
The Outlaw, Hollywood, circa 1941
photo by Bob Landry
Howard Hughes Collection 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

And, of course, there was Jane!

photographer unknown
(pretty tame by today's standards but pretty racy back then)

I've having a fun time watching it again fifty years or so later. Good job Grit, and thanks  for the memories.

Net links:           
Jack Buetel Filmography           
Jane Russell Filmography           
Howard Hughes films           
Queer Review: The Outlaw (1943)                         
Styrous® ~ February 18, 2015

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