Arturo

LINDA DARNELL for Star of the Month October 2013

858 posts in this topic

>I have several angles I've thought of exploring regarding a biographical book on Linda; I even have an idea for a dramatization of a certain aspect of her life.

 

Best of luck to you with those goals. I think she'd be a great subject for both a new book and a biopic.

 

Is her daughter Charlotte (Lola) still alive?

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TB,

 

I've always thought that a number of stars are not now given their due because when the wave of filmographical volumes on Hollywood stars, be it Citadel Press or the little Pyramid books, they were overlooked. For whatever reasons, this semed especially true of Fox stars: sure Power and Faye got theirs late in the cycle, and Shirley Temple and Marilyn Monroe were each a phenomenon, but what about Don Ameche, Loretta Young(admittedly only a short time at Fox but a star nonetheless), Betty Grable, Gene Tierney, Jeanne Crain and Linda, among others. So subsequent generations have had no clue as to their actual popularity back in the 30s, 40s etc.

 

And when the nostalgia wave of the 70s focused on fabulous female faces, seems that Young, Tierney and Darnell should have been prominent in that pantheon. So the search has been frustrating for long stretches.

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Carl Rollyson just published the first biography of Dana Andrews. You're right, many of these great stars were neglected.

 

Don Ameche is one I would buy a book about in a heartbeat. Celeste Holm is another one.

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*Don Ameche is one I would buy a book about in a heartbeat.*

 

I found one on Ameche recently on-line, called "The Kenosha Comeback Kid". Its a slimvolume, but packs a lot of information. Apparently, It was published by a new publishing house focusing on Hollywood (or so it seems), BearManor Media. I also found an excellent biography they published on Lynn Bari, Fox' own Queen of the Bs (once Claire Trevor left in the late 30s), "Foxy Lady". The author of the Ameche book is Ken Ohmart, I believe and Bari's is Jeff Gordon.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 8, 2012 7:44 PM

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>With November being the 100th anniversary of the birth of Burt Lancaster, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone else come along and promote that.

 

I think we are waiting for misswonderly to compose a fresh batch of new poems for that. She may be hard at work on them now as I write this.

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*You have my support, so between the two of us, we've got September (I'm touting Alan Ladd in a thread that has dropped back a page or two) and October covered.*

 

Thank you clore for your support. here's hoping that Ladd and Darnell each get a near future SOTM tribute, and we get to see many Paramount and Fox classics, respectively, that have not yet graced the airwaves of TCM.

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I TRIED & ORDERED THE DANA ANDREWS BOOK, BUT AFTER A MONTH WAS TOLD THERE WERE NO MORE BOOKS. THAT'S WHY I STILL THING THAT TURNER OUGHT TO CLOSE FOR AWHILE, SO THEY CAN GET THEIR ACT TOGETHER!

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If and when there is a Linda Darnell SOTM tribute on TCM, I am hoping they will show her debut film, HOTEL FOR WOMEN (1939), which had been on an early schedule for her SUTS day last year. After a false start in the film capital, when a horrified Darryl F. Zanuck sent her home when he found out her true age of 14, a year later she returned to Fox, where with a couple of weeks of her arrival in Spring 1939, she was given the lead in HFW. She played a prospective model coming to New York, and acquitted herself well. Her age of 15 was publicly changed to 17, so she could more believably play a romantic lead.

 

Zanuck was so pleased with her in this that he quickly cast about for another role for her; he found one in an epic about to begin production, John Ford's DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK. She was given the supporting role already assigned to starlet Dorris Bowden, and went on location to Utah. When she returned to Hollywood, Zanuck was more convince that he had a star-in-the-making, and decided she would be wasted in DATM. So he took her out, and Bowden was given back the role. However, the part was sharply curtailed, as the studio would not refilm those scenes done on location. To this day, Linda is in some of the long shots where her face is not recognizable.

 

Zanuck next cast Linda to costar with the top male star on the lot, on then one of Hollywood's biggest stars, Tyrone Power, in DAY-TIME WIFE. Loretta Young had balked at being cast in this screwball comedy, and left the studio around this time. Fox then cast their (hopefully) new star Nancy Kelly, who had been Power's costar in JESSE JAMES earlier that year. She was removed from this, and given another screwball, HE MARRIED HIS WIFE, with Joel McCrea. Darnell and Power proved to be a popular twosome, and the studio would soon re-team them three more times.

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Nancy Kelly is one that tends to be forgotten. Not many people discuss her around here. Was she friends with Linda?

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*Nancy Kelly is one that tends to be forgotten. Not many people discuss her around here. Was she friends with Linda?*

 

Well< I don't know if they were friends, but soon enough, it must've been obvious to Nancy that she was being bypassed for roles originally announced for her. She had started off promisingly at 20th in 1938 at the age of 17, after a child actress career, and the studio saw her as a successor to Loretta Young, who was adamant that she would not sign another contract at Fox. However, Nancy's roles demonstrated a variable acting quality, and by the end of 1939, the studio no longer were sure if they saw her as star material. After a couple of loan outs in 1940, she was reassigned to Fox' B Unit, where she pretty much remained for the duration while under contract. By 1943 or so, she was dropped, and did whatever B movie roles she could get. There was a gap where she worked on stage, and in the 50s scored a huge hit as the mother of "The Bad Seed", a role she recreated for the movie version, earning a Best Actress nomination. She did some more stage venues, but the oscar nomination did not lead to the expected revival of her film career.

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I posted this on the Classic Movie Actors on Episodic TV thread awhile earlier this evening, but seems to be just as appropriate here:

 

 

I recently came across a series of videos on Youtube that shows the mystery celebrity clip segments on "What's My Line". I found this while looking for whatever clips were available for Linda Darnell. Hers is a good one, done in march 1956, talking in a good Italian accent, and looking glamorous and beautiful. of course in the comment segment I obviously didn't know Youtube etiquette, and being me, posted 1500 characters, when most had brief comments.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cef-S3oXSuA

 

There are many more movie star clips you can access, most are quite entertaining.

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m4B79myCE1MnBrEdSSqwlag.jpg

 

Here's a picture of Linda from a scene that was deleted from the released print of FOREVER AMBER. I first saw this still around 1980, in a Life magazine article on that movie dating from the time of its release in the fall of 1947. I marvel at what can be found on the internet these days.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 11, 2012 2:19 AM

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Yes. I would say THE BAD SEED is Nancy Kelly's most-played film on TCM. I found her to be a very good actress, but it is clear that she found her niche on stage. Usually they go from stage to screen, but in her case, she went from screen to stage.

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*Yes. I would say THE BAD SEED is Nancy Kelly's most-played film on TCM. I found her to be a very good actress, but it is clear that she found her niche on stage. Usually they go from stage to screen, but in her case, she went from screen to stage.*

I agree she was very good in TBS, but as I said, she was variable while under contract at Fox in the late 30s-early 40s. I think she was good in costume films (JESSE JAMES, STANLEY AND LIVINGSTONE) and seems she would have continued to be so in some films earmarked for her but didn;t do (SWANEE RIVER, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES). I think that she was then not adept at playing comedy; she was derivative and very unsubtle (HE MARRIED HIS WIFE), and this may have helped the powers that be determine that she was not the all around player they were looking for (additionally, her turning 18 around this time might have had the men in charge there lining up...and she may not have been forthcoming, to the detriment of her career. This is all speculation on my part, but during this period, one promising starlet after another at that studio got strong roles initially, these then tapered off to supporting parts or B films...just saying).

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*I hope so! (Amber finally popping up on TCM...)*

Yes, but even better would be a fully restored and released DVD, with deleted scenes as bonus material. The 65th anniversary just passed, but maybe for the 70th?

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Linda Darnell's second movie role (not counting the aborted DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK) was in DAYTIME WIFE, where her name was above the title with that of co-star Tyrone Power. This lightweight entry proved popular upon release for the 1939 holiday season. The studio got plenty of fan mail requesting that the photogenic duo be reteamed. They thought of doing so in Power's next feature, JOHNNY APOLLO (1940), then known as DANCE WITH THE DEVIL. Also being considered was another promising ingenue, Nancy Kelly. 16 year old Linda would have played a gangster's moll. Since she wasn't trained as a singer or dancer, the studio thought better of casting her; for these same reasons, Fox also decided against Kelly. Director Henry Hathaway suggested Dorothy Lamour, with whom he had previously worked, and she was borrowed from Paramount to lend her sultry presence to this crime drama. Ironically soon after this, 20th signed to a long-term contract another player who had been at Paramount, but was only now making it big on Broadway, Betty Grable. A hoofer who could sing a bit, she would have fit the bill perfectly. Her starmaking turn would have to wait until later in the year, replacing Alice Faye in the technicolor confection DOWN ARGENTINE WAY.

 

Anyway, Linda was then cast in the story based loosely on her discovery and arrival in Hollywood, STAR DUST (1940). This movie did well upon release, and during the premiere, Linda (with sole billing above the title) committed her prints into the cement in the forecourt of Graumann's Chinese Theatre, just as in the movie. She was on her way up.

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I've been trying to cut and paste here stills of Linda to illustrate the movies I am discussing, but am unable to do so. If anyone here would like to help me out with this, I'd be very appreciative, and would be a nice complementary service for those who visit the thread. Thanks in advance.

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After the semi-autobiographical STAR DUST, the studio was going to cast Linda in PUBLIC DEB NUMBER ONE (1940), which like her debut HOTEL FOR WOMEN, is also known by the preface ELSA MAXWELL'S . . . The studio did not cast her in this screwball comedy, but gave the role to Brenda Joyce, another Fox ingenue then enjoying her 15 minutes in A films; like Nancy Kelly, she would be relegated to B-films within a year or so.

 

Instead of PDNO, Linda was reteamed with Tyrone Power for the historical epic BRIGHAM YOUNG. When the studio decided to feature a relative unknown in the title role (Dean Jagger), they felt they needed boxoffice insurance in the form of Power and his popular new costar Darnell. They played young lovers in the westward trek of the Mormons. This was Fox' most expensive film up to then, and while it proved to be popular, it found it difficult to recoup its huge costs in the deteriorating boxoffice situation of 1940, with the threat of the then European-only WW2 looming.

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*I dont understand why it hasnt been already (Amber/dvd).*

 

Hibi,

 

Neither do I. This colorful epic, with its starry cast: Darnell, Cornel Wilde, Richard Greene, George Sanders; excellent visuals, exciting action sequences, engrossing storyline, is an outstanding example of the studio-era movie making at its best. And, while I'm not enamored of the concept as others are, it even has a renowned director, Otto Preminger. While on first glance this movie is atypical for Otto, it does have many touches that aficionados can point out as classic Preminger. In fact, in a recent biography, the writer states that this is one of his best movies.

 

All in all, I would have thought Fox would have released this long ago as part of its Cinema Classics DVD series.

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Immediately after BRIGHAM YOUNG, 20th Century-Fox cast Linda Darnell once again with Tyrone Power in THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940). This remake of a Douglas Fairbanks silent, it became an undisputed classic upon its release, One of the all-time great swashbuckling movies, it has a fun performance by Power as a fop by day, Robin Hood-type by night, trying to right injustices in early 19th Century California. Linda is luscious as the beautiful niece of the corrupt mayor, repulsed by the fop and in love with her hero, the mysterious Zorro. The rest of the cast is first rate.

 

Under the working title of THE CALIFORNIAN, TMOZ was originally conceived to be shot in Technicolor; it was one of a number of productions in 1940-41 that were so conceived, but ended being Black and White. Nonetheless, director Rouben Mammoulian masterfully used the colonial California ambience in his filming of this classic.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 12, 2012 11:15 PM

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A head's up for next week: One of the movies Linda Darnell made for RKO soon after leaving Fox will be featured on TCM. SECOND CHANCE (1953) will be on December 19 at 3:15 PM EST, as part of showing of several early 50s Robert Mitchum films. In this Linda plays a gangster's moll in on the run south of the border from Jack Palance. Taut and suspenceful, it has an exciting climax on a stranded cable car dangling high over a ravine. Originally released in 3-D.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 13, 2012 9:44 AM

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Linda Darnell's first full year in Hollywood, 1940, ended when 20th Century Fox released CHAD HANNA on Christmas Day. This colorful film, which deals with circus life in 1840s Upstate New York, was based on the novel "Red Wheels Rolling" by Walter Edmonds, the author of "Drums Along the Mohawk". And like the movie version of that frontier story, CHAD HANNA starred Henry Fonda. He played a small town boy beguiled by a horse rider with a traveling circus (Dorothy Lamour-again borrowed from Paramount). Fonda schemes to get $5.00 to see her show, and decides to raise it by disclosing the hiding place of a runaway slave, on the underground railroad,to a slaver. He then helps to slave to flee, then runs away with the circus to escape the wrath of the slaver. Darnell, playing the daughter of the slaver who believed Fonda and gave him the five dollars, also runs away to the circus. They both find success there, Fonda as an emcee, Darnell as a horseback rider.

 

While slow-paced for today's audiences, it is an interesting look at the daily running of a small circus outfit nearly one and three quarter centuries ago, and features a wealth of familiar character actors: among them, Guy Kibbee, Jane Darwell, and John Carradine.

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Linda Darnell started out 1941 as 20th's most popular ingenue. Ranking higher than her in the studio hierarchy were the musical blondes for which Fox was becoming known for: top star Alice Faye, new sensation and rival Betty Grable, skating star Sonja Henie; plus the moppets, although Shirley Temple was leaving the studio just then, and Jane Withers was entering an awkward adolescence.

 

Linda did have a new rival, Gene Tierney, who was proving popular since arriving in mid-1940. Around that time Anne Baxter had also been signed to Fox, but as yet she was still getting supporting roles. Certain roles announced for Linda might be given to Gene or Anne, or other female players, and vice versa. Among these was SONG OF THE ISLANDS, which ended up being made in 1942 with Betty Grable. In the meantime, Linda was making her fourth film with Tyrone Power, BLOOD AND SAND, which like THE MARK OF ZORRO, was a remake of a silent classic (in this case starring Rudolph Valentino), and also directed by Rouben Mammoulian. It featured Power as a rising bullfighter, with Linda as his loyal wife. Coming between them is Rita Hayworh, playing a wordly temptress (in her breakout role). The back story behind the casting of Rita's part is quite interesting, but will be left for another post.

 

BLOOD AND SAND emerged a visually sumptuous classic, with a beautiful color palette. Linda did her finest acting to date, as noted by the critics. The strong supporting cast included Anthony Quinn, Laird Cregar, Nazimova and Lynn Bari.

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