Western Women We Love

Viva Outlaw Women

Western Cinema Loves a Pistol Packin' Mama.


Long before Raquel Welch graced the big screen in nothing but a Mexican poncho, gun belt and Colt .45 in Hannie Caulder, America and the Westerns-loving world fell in love with the original Lady Outlaw, Jane Russell.

Ms. Russell, who changed American cinema and Western movies with her starring role as the voluptuous Rio McDonald in 1943’s The Outlaw, passed away on February 28, 2011. Russell’s role as the bodacious girlfriend of Billy the Kid redefined casting of the femme fatale in Hollywood. Before the censors allowed the release of The Outlaw in 1946, pre-WWII saloon girls like Marlene Dietrich’s outrageous Frenchy in Destry Rides Again, Claire Trevor’s prim Dallas in Stagecoach and Mae West’s comedic, pistol packin’ singer Miss Flower Belle Lee in My Little Chickadee defined the outlaw woman in Westerns. After 1946, Western cinema casting of outlaw women, singing saloon girls, soiled doves and dance hall divas have been measured against Russell’s larger-than-life figure, opening the saloon doors for future big screen outlaw ladies like Welch, Jennifer Jones, Angie Dickinson, Marilyn Monroe, Claudia Cardinale and Sharon Stone.

Decades before the release of the...

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