Thanks to Peter Winkler for this link: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2007/07/gail-russell.html
There is an excellent Foster Hirsch interview with the late (and blacklisted) director Joseph Losey. Gail Russell's story has always struck me as particularly sad and obviously Losey had the same impression of her. Here's Losey on working with Russell.
"Gail Russell, who didn’t want to be an actress, was
picked up by a talent scout when she was a clerk in a
department store in Beverly Hills, came from a lower
middle-class family. She died of alcoholism because she
was so deathly frightened of acting, but she had in her the
makings of a great star. I had a tragic time with her. I think
she had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, the most
moving eyes. And she was immensely sensitive.
She didn’t know anything. Paramount had her under
contract—like a horse. She got a big salary then, and I had
absolute instructions from them not to let her have a drink.
The very first time I shot with her I had a long night-track-
ing shot. It was a half-night, we finished at twelve.
remember a single line
and it was three or four
pages of important dia-
logue. I wasn’t trained
enough then to say “Well,
we’ll shoot it another
way,” and I kept trying to
get it by coaching her in
her lines, and finally I
said “What’s the matter?”
And she grabbed
me, her hands were icy
cold, she was absolutely
rigid, and she said “Look,
I don’t want to be an actress. I’m not an actress. I can’t act.
I never had a director who gave me a scene this long
before. I can’t do it.”
And I said “Oh yes you can. I’m sure you can, and
you are an actress.”
“No, I’m not, I’ve never kidded myself. I’m not an
actress. I hate it, I’m frightened of it. Get me a drink and
I’ll be alright.”
So I said, “You know, I’ve been told not to get you a
drink?” She said. “Get me a drink!”
I got her a drink and she did the scene.
By this point Macdonald Carey couldn’t remember his
lines. She had absolutely destroyed him. It was a very bad
start for me on that quick picture, to spend the whole night
on one set-up. And I just barely got it..…This started her
drinking and she was drunk throughout the rest of the pic-
ture. That isn’t to say she was bad. I think she was very
good often, but sometimes I had to shoot scenes in
ways to disguise the fact she was drunk. "