She was born Elizabeth L. Russell to George and Gladys (Barnet) Russell in Chicago, Illinois, and then moved to the Los Angeles, California, area when she was a teenager. Her father was initially a musician but later worked for Lockheed Corporation. Before she ventured into acting, she had planned to be a commercial artist.
Russell’s beauty brought her to the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1942, and she signed a long-term contract with that studio when she was 18 Although she was almost clinically shy and had no acting experience, Paramount had great expectations for her and employed an acting coach to work with her.
At the age of 19 she made her film debut in the 1943 film Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour. Russell appeared in several more film s in the early and mid-1940s , the most notable being The Uninvited (1944) with Ray Milland and Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944), in which she co-starred with Diana Lynn. Russell later appeared in the more popular film s Calcutta (1947) with Alan Ladd and the two with John Wayne, Angel and the Badman (1947) and Wake of the Red Witch (1948).
She continued working after 1947 and married actor Guy Madison in 1949; but by 1950 it was well known that she had become a victim of alcoholism, and Paramount did not renew her contract. She had started drinking on the set of The Uninvited to ease her paralyzing stage fright and lack of confidence. Alcohol made a shambles of her career, appearance and personal life. In January 1954, in a court in Santa Monica, California, Russell pleaded guilty to a charge of drunkenness, receiving a $150 fine. The fine was in lieu of a jail sentence, with the provision that she not use intoxicants or attend night spots for two years. In the same court session, she received a continuance on a charge of driving while drunk.
Gail Russell Episode of Television Show Mysteries and Scandals.
She appeared in two more film s after that but was not able to control her addiction, and on August 26, 1961, Russell was found dead in her apartment in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, at the age of 36. She died from liver damage attributed to “acute and chronic alcoholism” with stomach contents aspiration as an additional cause. She was also found to have been suffering from malnutrition at the time of her death . She was buried in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood .