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 Russell Birdwell

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Russell Birdwell

  • Birth 17 Oct 1903 Coleman, Coleman County, Texas, USA
  • Death 15 Dec 1977 Oxnard, Ventura County, California, USA
  • Burial Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Plot Section D, Lot 215
  • Memorial ID 11796682

Motion-Picture Publicist. He won almost legendary status as one of Hollywood's most flamboyant press agents. Birdwell launched his first big publicity stunt in 1927, when he hired an actress to dress in widow's garb and place flowers at the tomb of Rudolph Valentino on the first anniversary of his death. An anonymous "Woman in Black" then took it upon herself to turn this one-time gimmick into an annual event that lasted several decades. Birdwell's greatest success was his three-year promotional campaign for "Gone With the Wind" (1939), which pressured Clark Gable into accepting the role of Rhett Butler and included a nationwide search for an actress to play Scarlett O'Hara. For "The Outlaw" (1943) he scandalized Tinseltown by focusing the public's attention on star Jane Russell's breasts, flouting the Production Code's ban on cleavage with ads that screamed, "Here are two good reasons to see 'The Outlaw'!" He even had skywriters emblazon the Southern California skies with two huge circles---with two dots in the center. The Texas-born Birdwell was a newspaper reporter working the Hollywood beat before breaking into show business around 1925. He directed the films "Street Corners" (1929), "Masquerade" (1929), "Fying Devils" (1933), "The Come On" (1956), and "The Girl in the Kremlin" (1957), wrote the screenplay for "Jim Thorpe--All-American" (1951), and penned an autobiography, "I Ring Doorbells" (1937), that was filmed in 1946. But publicity was his true forte. Although he has such clients as Carole Lombard, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Kate Smith, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, he preferred to work on individual films as a freelancer. One of his last assignments was for John Wayne's "The Alamo" (1960), which caused controversy over actor Chill Wills' shameless huckstering for an Oscar. By the late 1960s Birdwell's career had wound down and he paid for space in Variety to write a regular column, which mostly featured anecdotes about his glory days in Hollywood. He died of a stroke.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 22 Sep 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 11796682
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Russell Birdwell (17 Oct 1903–15 Dec 1977), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11796682, citing Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .