Jane Got The Part, but Jayne Swam Off With the Gold

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Underwater! was a Howard Hughes 1955 adventure film starring Jane Russell and Richard Egan. Russell and Egan are a husband-and-wife salvage team looking for sunken treasure in the Caribbean when they are menaced by a band of modern-day-pirates.

The wreck is found teetering on the edge of a 300-foot underwater cliff that experienced divers like Russell and Egan have a rough time negotiating.

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russell underwater

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For the world premiere in January 1955, the film was projected on a submerged movie screen in Silver Springs, Florida. Invited guests were encouraged to don aqualungs and bathing suits so that they could watch the picture while swimming.

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Jane Russell and Reporter Preparing for Underwater Premiere

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In the above photo, United Press writer Aline Mosby (right) and Jane Russell prepare to submerge for the premiere. Miss Mosby wrote of the premiere, “Except for fascinating fish, seaweed, bubbles and wriggling reporters floating by, we could have been in Grauman’s Chinese Theater.”

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At the same time, a young Jayne Mansfield had been brought out to Silver Springs for the promotional junket. She’d been luckless in finding work in Hollywood until then, but a wardrobe malfunction during the premiere—she lost her bikini top—helped her land a Warner Brothers contract. And that was that.

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Jayne Mansfield during the Underwater! publicity junket.

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 Underwater! was supposed to be Jane Russell’s star vehicle, but the (possibly self-imposed) bikini blooper at the premiere by then-unknown Jayne Mansfield changed the tide—and fortunes—of the two.  Actresses, we mean.

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A 1955 Sunday Mirror Magazine article about the Jayne Mansfield’s sudden “discovery” on the “Underwater!” junket.

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underwater! premiere

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