Russell Albion Meyer was born in San Leandro, California, to Lydia Lucinda (Hauck), a nurse, and William Arthur Meyer, a police officer, who divorced during his childhood. His parents were both of German descent. Meyer began winning prizes at 15 with his amateur films. He spent World War II in Europe as a combat cameraman. After the war, he became a professional photographer, shooting some of the earliest Playboy centerfolds. He made his film directorial debut with The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959), the first nudie (softcore sex) film to make a profit over a million dollars, which led to a string of self-financed films that gradually became more bizarre, violent, and cartoonish. In the mid-1960s, he established his style with his Gothic period, a quartet of black-and-white films: Russ Meyer’s Lorna (1964), Mudhoney (1965), Motorpsycho! (1965), and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) that many consider to be his best work. After the blockbusting Vixen! (1968), he was hired by 20th-Century Fox to make studio pictures. The first of these, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), was an enormous hit, but after the lukewarm reception of the uncharacteristically serious The Seven Minutes (1971), Meyer returned to the sex-and-violence films that made his name, culminating in the delirious Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979). He spent the 1980s working on various autobiographies, both in film (Breast of Russ Meyer) and print (“A Clean Breast”).
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