Monday, September 14, 2015

Gail Russell: Lost Dream

Life is the fullest when we pursue our dreams. I once heard Oprah Winfrey describe a job she had as a teenager at a local five and dime. I don't remember the exact job, but I do remember her saying that she wasn't allowed to talk.  Regarding this restriction, Oprah said, "I thought I would die!" Can you imagine Oprah not talking?

Sometimes, not choosing the right career path can be deadly, as in Gail Russell's situation.  If you've never heard of her, she was a beautiful actress that never wanted stardom, or even to act for that matter, but regardless, a movie career was thrust upon her. 

Russell began painting at age five, and her lifelong dream was to become a commercial artist.  However, that ambition was put aside when Hollywood came calling.

Born in Chicago, Russell moved to the Los Angeles area with her family when she was a teenager. Her otherworldly beauty brought her to the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1942. She chose a starlet's salary of $50 a week to help her struggling family, and also to appease her mother, who as a young woman, had wanted to be an actress. Living vicariously through your kids is never a good idea. Russell was an extreme introvert and almost clinically shy with no acting experience, yet Paramount had great plans and lots of money riding on her.

Russell appeared in several films in the early and mid-1940s, the most notable being The Uninvited (1944).

She started drinking on the set of that film to ease her paralyzing stage fright and lack of self-confidence.  She'd freeze, forget her lines, then dissolve into tears, so the alcohol was a crutch.  But it eventually destroyed her career, her looks, and her personal life. By the fifties, Gail Russell's career was on the skids.

On July 5, 1957, she was photographed after she drove her convertible into the front of Jan's coffee shop at 8424 Beverly Blvd. After failing a sobriety test, Russell was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

Russell was unable to control her addiction and in August of 1961, was found dead.  Malnourished and full of alcohol, Gail Russell died of a heart attack at age 36. Authorities found her in her apartment surrounded by her paintings and empty vodka bottles.

Who knows how different and fulfilling Gail's life would have been if she'd only been able to pursue her dream?  Are you pursuing yours? If not as a full time job, do you have time to enjoy it as a hobby?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Reposted from 9/30/13


William Kendall said...

A tragic life. I loved her in The Uninvited.

shelly said...

That is sad.