Bright Lights Film Journal

Close-Up Blog-a-Thon – Jane Russell in The Outlaw (1943)




Although some parts of The Outlaw were directed by Howard Hawks, the film’s true auteur in every sense of the word was producer/director Howard Hughes. And unlike Hawks, Hughes was less interested in story than in the eroticization of his two young leads, Jack Buetel and Jane Russell.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the shot above (photographed by Gregg Toland) which begins as a tight close-up and becomes even tighter until we see nothing of Ms. Russell but her mouth – as fetishized by camera and lighting as the lips that hang surrealistically isolated in a sky painted by Man Ray (Heure de l’Observatoire, 1934).


This is the shot we see watched in a continuous obsessive loop by Leo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s Hughes biopic, The Aviator. No wonder.

The preceding is Bright Lights After Dark’s contribution to The House Next Door’s ongoing Close-Up Blog-a-Thon. For more, click here.