Monday, September 30, 2013

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!


William Kendall said...

Her I do know. The Uninvited is such a splendid ghost story... gives us just glimpses of a ghost, which is very wise, but creeps us out thoroughly. And it does have a sense of humour.

Maria McKenzie said...

I love that movie! It's thoroughly entertaining. I like it when more is left to the imagination--it's much creepier that way;).

Norma said...

I've heard of her. I never knew her real story, though.

I was lucky--I was able to pursue and realize my dream while I was still young (I was 35 when my first novel was published). Now that I'm older, I just wish I could finish something!

Maria McKenzie said...

Norma, congrats on pursuing your dream and your success! You've still got more stories to come;).

Jennette Marie Powell said...

Such a sad and ironic story! I was a graphic designer with a dream to be a novelist. But in Ms. Russel's era, gender probably would have limited her chances for a career in design. So glad I had a chance, even though I left it for software development!

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, Jennette,

I think you're right. Being born in a different era has its advantages:). And how lucky you are--from graphic designer to software developer AND novelist!

Nas said...

Hi Maria,

I'm trying to live my dreams through my daughter. I always wanted to be a doctor and when I received a scholarship to study, my mum wouldn't send me as it was not known for girls to go alone overseas.

Yet I always wanted to. And now my daughter is studying to be a doctor!

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, Nas! I'm so happy for your daughter--but my heart breaks for you! However, I'm glad we get to enjoy you here in the world of books and writing!

Intangible Hearts said...

Yes, I'm enjoying life but I wish more folks would enjoy my book. Reaching readers is the hardest part of my dream....