Hollywood icon Jane Russell who famously played Marilyn Monroe’s brunette counterpart in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes has died, aged 89.

Russell died of respiratory failure at her home in Santa Maria “surrounded by her children at her bedside,” her son, Buck Waterfield confirmed.

She  was originally discovered by multimillionaire producer Howard Hughes (immortalised by Leonardo di Caprio in The Aviator) in 1940 and first starred in racy film The Outlaw which was delayed by the censors for three years, establishing her reputation as a leading Hollywood sex goddess.

Russell also starred in films opposite Clark Cable, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.

Famed for her hourglass figure, Russell was the number one pin-up girl of US troops stationed overseas during World War II. She also modelled for Playtex bras.

She married three times and adopted three children with her first husband American football player Bob Waterfield.

Russell actress battled alcholism in the 1970s and expressed regrets over her career in her autobiography saying:

“Except for comedy, I went nowhere in the acting department. The truth is that, more often than not, I’ve been unhappy about the pictures I’ve been in.”

She was actively involved in various charities right up to her death and founded the Women’s Adoption International Fund in the 1950s.