Arturo

LINDA DARNELL for Star of the Month October 2013

860 posts in this topic

*Interesting that Zanuck was concerned about making Darnell too sexy in the eyes of the film going public. Compare that to what Warner was trying to do with someone like Ann Sheridan with his Oomph girl PR stunt.*

 

Well, her image up to then had been of the girl next door. After SUMMER STORM (actually before its release, as Zanuck had seen a rough draft), Linda had this new image, and Zanuck went along with it, especially as he now had Jeanne Crain and others for girls next door. Linda's first movie at her home studio with her new image would be 1945's HANGOVER SQUARE, where she played a sexy singer working her wiles to get songs from smitten composer Laird Cregar, who unfortunately for her, was deranged.

 

And in keeping with the topic of my earlier post, Zanuck had first considered this role for Marlene Dietrich. And as a followup of sorts to the previous year's THE LODGER, that movie also was cast using a borrowed star, Merle Oberon, instead of one of his own.

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*Thus while I have seen some fine movies with Darnell none smack me over the head like a movie and associated role like Gilda (for example), did for Rita. Of course I'm willing to be educated.*

 

James,

 

With Linda specifically, her big chance came and went with FOREVER AMBER. This should have made her a superstar, but the role didn't offer much opportunities for big acting scenes, and the censors of the day crippled the reason people wanted to see the movie, namely Amber's promiscuity as her door to upward mobility. Possibly due to its mixed critical reception, Zanuck didn;t really try to build vehicles for her after this. She begged that he star her in a biography of Lola Montez, which would have been a perfect role for her, but he wouldn't. In 1949, the studio announced a costarring vehicle for her and Cornel Wilde (her Amber costar), WALTZ INTO DARKNESS, a story by Cornell Woolrich published under his pen name. Obviously, it was never made, but as a mysterious mail-order bride in Ante-bellum New Orleans, it could've been a strong role and movie for her. Zanuck refused to consider her for PINKY, because as screenwriter Phillip Dunne said "She had the taint of the adventuress, and Pinky had to be purer than pure". I already mentioned that roles in ROAD HOUSE and I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE would have been perfect for her, but Zanuck borrowed outside talent for these. Another potential vehicle, LYDIA BAILEY, which would have reunited her with Tyrone Power, was placed on hold when Power refused another swashbuckling costumer. Later, Linda became ill from recurring jaudice, and the studio cast newcomer Anne Francis. Or RUBY GENTRY could have been a good part for her, but again the studio borrowed Jennifer Jones (and Selznick's meddling). And the arrival of Susan Hayward made it much more difficult, as they would be considered for the same roles, and Linda, never a favorite of Zanuck, would lose ground,

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Linda Darnell's early career peaked with BLOOD AND SAND. After she completed it, she didn't get any assignments fro Fox for awhile; the reason (or reasons) for this is unclear. Her mother Pearl, vicariousy living through Linda her own dreams of stardom, had made herself a pest at the studio to the point of being banned. Her meddling may have helped alienate Linda from Zanuck and the producers at the studio. Along with this, new starlets were being signed and competing for parts. Roles she really wanted, and for which she had been announced, were reassigned to others. One in particular she had hoped to get was in SWAMP WATER. The studio decided against it, feeling she was too beautiful for the role of a backward bayou girl. Anne Baxter was cast instead, in her first lead role. Linda had wanted this part, feeling it would have given her an acting challenge, allowing her to grow in her craft. Most likely, the studio was smarting from the drubbing they had just gotten by casting the beautiful Gene Tierney as another backwater beauty in TOBACCO ROAD, and didn;t want to repeat that with Linda in SW.

 

When Linda did finally get her next assignment, she was very disappointed. She was in a college football musical, RISE AND SHINE, also with George Murphy and Jack Oakie, for which she felt unsuited, correct age notwithstanding. She did it, but felt that it was a come-down for her. More disappointments were to follow.

 

Linda turned 18 in October 1941, and almost immediately the protective producers, the"kindly uncles" started making passes at her, with Zanuck first in line. He called her into his office, ostensibly to discuss a role she coveted, when he made a move on her. She reportedly turned him down; needless to say, she didn't get the part, nor anythig worthwhile, for a couple of years.

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I'm not sure that Bergman's reinvention in Italy was a direct result of any falling out with Selznick. She was overwhelmed after happening to see Rosselini's OPEN CITY, and things took off from there.

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>I'm not sure that Bergman's reinvention in Italy was a direct result of any falling out with Selznick. She was overwhelmed after happening to see Rosselini's OPEN CITY, and things took off from there.

 

I think her feelings for Rosselini were the deciding factor, but she and Selznick were at an impasse which did not help her in Hollywood. In the book Memo from David O. Selznick, there is a scathing letter that pretty much shows she was done working for him. So even if there had been no relationship with Rosselini, her career was at a crossroads. After UNDER CAPRICORN, she was off to conquer Italy.

 

I did not mention some other key Selznick players in the previous post. Joseph Cotten was retained by Selznick for awhile, mainly to costar with Jennifer Jones in new productions. And so was Louis Jourdan. Cotten would become a freelancer in the 1950s and work at a variety of studios. Jourdan's career had ups and downs, but he seemed to hit his peak at MGM in the mid-to-late 1950s where he was now under contract.

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*Wasn't Ginger Rogers' mother also a meddler? THat didn't seem to hurt HER career any.*

 

Studio heads were only too familiar with pushy stage mothers. Some could be controlled, others co-opted. This is what happened at RKO with Lela Rogers, she got a job with the studio (as a coach), so her meddling was put to use in developing new talent. Linda's mother Pearl was a stage mother from hell. She is the reason that Linda went into show business, having been singled out since a young age that that was her destiny. She was quite an eccentric, flamboyant character. She would show up at the Fox studio in wild getups, often drunk and with a boa constrictor around her neck and the family pet rooster "Weedy". She would spout about all the **** and degenerates working in Hollywood, not exactly the stuff to endear her to Linda's bosses. The more she felt she was losing control over her daughter and her career, the worse her tirades became. She got banned from every one of Linda's film sets, and eventually, from the studio. So quite a contrast from Ginger;s mom, wouldn't you agree?

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Topbilled,

 

Thank you for your cogent articulation on some of the ways 20th Century Fox would borrow stars from other studios, or that were freelancers, for some of its productions. Yes at the beginning of the merger in 1935, Zanuck had the need to borrow name players while he built his own stable of stars. By the 40s, however, he had some names that were registering with moviegoers, for which he could have devoted more effort to maximize their careers; however, he continued to fall on borrowed talent for some of the more prestigious productions of his. Even iconic roles for some of his stars were often shortlisted with names of non-20th stars:

 

LAURA: Zanuck wanted to borrow Jennifer Jones for this. She turned it down, thinking the part was not big enough.

 

FALLEN ANGEL: Initially, Zanuck wanted to borrow Olivia DeHavilland to play June Mills. He later backed off from the idea, feeling that it was secondary in interest to the role of Stella (already cast with Linda Darnell), and that no top ranked star would therefore want to play June. He was going to have Anne Baxter do it, when Alice Faye expressed interest, feeling that this was the dramatic role for which she had been holding out.

 

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: Zanuck very much wanted to borrow Judy Garland for the part of Sophie, which garnered a Best Supporting Oscar for Anne Baxter.

 

FOREVER AMBER; Of course Zanuck had wanted a British star, and offered it to Vivien Leigh and Margaret Lockwood, who turned it down.

 

These are some roles associated with Fox stars that, had Zanuck acceded to his first instinct, or if the loans had been feasible, would have been more Fox movies starring non-Fox stars.

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*Another kind of multi-picture deal Zanuck did was he would hire someone who was already established in Europe to promote his international marketing campaigns. Michelle Presle (billed Prelle in America) is one such example. She would costar with Tyrone Power in AMERICAN GUERRILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES*

 

Interesting you should mention AGITP. This was originally to have ben produced in 1945,and was to have starred John Payne and Linda Darnell. The end of WW2 caused the cancellation of a number of war pictures, including this one. When it was resurrected a few years later, it made an ideal vehicle for Power, then in the midst of his 18 month minimum staying out of the US for tax purposes. By then, Italian neo-realism had set the stage for wholesale importing of foreign actresses to more closely portray foreign characters, as opposed to American actors portraying same,

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Linda Darnell went into 1942 an 18 year old adult. She had moved out of her home to get away from her volatile mother, which caused mother to rant and fulmainate ever more with her pent up, seething anger.

 

Linda's career was suddenly sagging at 20th Century Fox, most likely for refusing advances from studio mogul Darryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck now was promoting Gene Tierney as the replacement for Loretta Young he'd been looking for since Young left in 1939, and to which Linda had once been considered. Anne Baxter was now also getting better parts at Fox. Additionally, the studio had signed several new players, who provided further competition for roles that Linda might have been assigned to. Most formidable competition was provided by Maureen O'Hara, whose contract Fox shared with RKO; Linda could easily have assayed the parts Maureen was assigned that year: TO THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI, TEN GENTLEMEN FROM WEST POINT or THE BLACK SWAN. The studio also frequently borrowed IDA LUPINO and JOAN BENNETT a number of times each during this time. Likewise, theirs roles could have been assignments for Linda: MOONTIDE and LIFE BEGINS AT EIGHT-THIRTY for the former, or CONFIRM OR DENY and GIRL TROUBLE for the latter. Even 20ths Queen of the B's, Lynn Bari, was suddenly promoted, if temporarily, to better parts, including the female lead in THE MAGNIFICENT DOPE.

 

All of these roles Linda could've done, and might've been offered, had she played along with certain demands from the male hierarchy at Fox. They were definitely better than what she did get offered, THE LOVES OF EDGAR ALLEN POE. Although top-billed,Linda went to 20ths B movie lot to make this poor biopic. That she looked beautiful in the period costumes was little consolation for the lifeless and static movie. Also in it was Sheppard Strudwick as Poe, and Virginia Gilmore as his true love that got away. Linda played his cousin he marries.

 

After this movie, Linda was cast in the female lead in ORCHESTRA WIVES, which had her back in an A picture. She was one of a large cast of women, including Lynn Bari, Carole Landis, and Mary Beth Hughes, in a sort of THE WOMEN on the road. Also featured was Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, and some marvelous music. However, after filming for a couple of weeks or so, Linda was yanked out of the production, and Ann Rutherford took over as the guileless wife of band member George Montgomery. After this, no more roles at the studio for the rest of the year for Linda.

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*Drunk I can take. The boa constrictor, though, would give me pause.*

 

LOL. Well Pearl Darnell was far from a happy drunk. She would rage against the machine, and everything else, with little provocation.

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After the success of SONG OF BERNADETTE, which was overseen by William Goetz when Zanuck was off at war, I think it became clear that deals with Selznick utilizing Jennifer Jones' talents would be in everyone's best interest. This arrangement would continue until 1962's TENDER IS THE NIGHT. Some of Jones' films at 20th Century Fox were big hits, others were misses. Personally I think Jones would've been very good in LAURA; she could project sexuality and fragility simultaneously and that would've made her very interesting prey for Webb's character to covet.

 

I think FOREVER AMBER should've been cast with Rita Hayworth. It should've been remade in the 1950s with Lana Turner. Instead of THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR, they should've tried doing AMBER again. This is just my opinion, but it needed someone whose provocative sex life and countless marriages made Hedda's column on a weekly basis.

 

I think Barbara Bel Geddes would've worked in Faye's role for FALLEN ANGEL. Faye is almost too attractive and too much competition for Darnell's character. It should've been someone who was a bit more matronly looking or tomboyish, so there was a bit of a contrast, showing how different Andrews' passions and women could be.

 

If Judy had been cast in RAZOR'S EDGE, it would have changed her entire career. Of course, we probably would not have gotten EASTER PARADE.

 

I think I read somewhere that Jeanne Crain was Zanuck's favorite actress. But mine, from this studio during the classic era, is Anne Baxter. I don't think there was any kind of role she couldn't do. She was the most chameleon-like actress on the lot.

 

As for Darnell, I think she needed earthier roles. She should have been allowed to play more ethnic types. It is clear that they didn't always know how to cast her. Especially when she bounces from FOREVER AMBER to CENTENNIAL SUMMER.

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For the record, I had an error in an earlier post. I was referring to Micheline Presle, not Michelle.

 

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*I think FOREVER AMBER should've been cast with Rita Hayworth.*

 

I highly doubt that Zanuck would have cast Hayworth in FOREVER AMBER. Once it was obvious he couldn't get the British stars he offered it to, he decided it would be one of his own. Early on, the front-runner was Gene Tierney, his top dramatic actress, who had just scored the studio's biggest grossing hit up to then, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN. Additionally, this success had resulted in DFZ assigning its director, John M. Stahl to AMBER, So it would have reunited this winning team in the studio's biggest production. But Zanuck decided to hold out for a British actress, and awarded the plum role to his just signed contract player, newcomer Peggy Cummins. She proved to be inadequate when it came to portray a full grown woman, looking like a young girl playing dress up. Zanuck closed down production, removing Cummins and Stahl in the process.

 

Tierney would not considered doing AMBER at this point, feeling snubbed and not willing to play second fiddle. Zanuck appointed his most appropriate star, IMO, Linda Darnell. She had been suggested early on as such (with her hair dyed a reddish-blonde of course), but initially overlooked. She had the voluptuous figure the role called for, as the costume designer Rene Hubert acknowledged when he joyously returned to his original designs.

 

When production resumed, Otto Preminger was at the helm. He had not wanted Linda (they had not gotten along while doing FALLEN ANGEL and CENTENNIAL SUMMER). He preferred Lana Turner, and even engineered a dinner party to have Lana flirt shamelessly with Zanuck in order to be cast. Zanuck would not cast her, saying he wasn;t going to do another studio a favor by giving one of their stars this part. So as I said, Hayworth would not have been considered for this reason.

 

*It should've been remade in the 1950s with Lana Turner. Instead of THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR, they should've tried doing AMBER again. This is just my opinion, but it needed someone whose provocative sex life and countless marriages made Hedda's column on a weekly basis.*

 

The 50s would have been the wrong decade for a remake IMHO. The production code and watchdog groups, which had crippled the original movie, were still strong. AMBER did get re-released in 1953, just ahead of the studio's immersion in CINEMASCOPE. The studio did have a similar story they planned to produce around 1953-54, MOLL FLANDERS, the classic Daniel Defoe story. It would most likely have been assigned to Susan Hayward, as was intended THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR. That one went to Lana Turner when Hayward was loaned for I'LL CRY TOMORROW. Again, this is another example when a borrowed actress got a part instead of a homegrown one. Gene Tierney would have been perfect for TROR, but her mental illness might've been too advanced at this point. Or Linda Darnell, who was back at the studio about this time to do the TV movie, DECEPTION.

 

20th Century Fox resolutely turned down all proposals to do a remake, including the idea of a mini-series, where all the storylines could have been given justice, and when the censors of the past were a thing of the past, even on TV. As for an actress making headlines continuously due to her marriages being appropriate for the role, well during the making of AMBER, Linda separated from her first husband, and the studio publicized this, hopefully drawing comparisons with the wanton Amber. Back then, both Lana and Rita had only married two men each; their reputations regarding this was something in their futures.

 

 

*As for Darnell, I think she needed earthier roles. She should have been allowed to play more ethnic types. It is clear that they didn't always know how to cast her.* *Especially when she bounces from FOREVER AMBER to CENTENNIAL SUMMER.*

 

Well, actually in the words of Judy Holliday's Billie Dawg, "Vaisa-voisa"...lol.

 

Zanuck did try to give her more earthy roles, if not consistently. She played Chihuahua in MY DARLING CLEMENTINE around this time (1946). She was also cast as the earthy Spanish gypsy Catana in CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE, which would have been a perfect role for her image, and would have reteamed her with Tyrone Power. Unfortunately, the delay between the production stop and restart of FOREVER AMBER precluded her doing this, as AMBER's resumed production overlapped with that of CFC. As I mentioned, she begged Zanuck to cast her in the earthy part of Lola Montez, but he wouldn't budge. Chihuahua, Catana and Lola were three ethnics she was offered, as was Tuptim, her curtailed part in ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM.

 

As for CENTENNIAL SUMMER, this had originally was to have been a melodrama. Linda Darnell's role is not out of place for her at this time; she plays a scheming woman, just as she had in HANGOVER SQUARE and would in FOREVER AMBER and THE WALLS OF JERICHO right after that. Her character was probably toned down once CS was revamped as a musical at the last minute to capitalize on the massive success of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. So I don't feel that the role was incongruous for her.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 19, 2012 12:45 AM

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REMINDER: One of the movies Linda Darnell made for RKO soon after leaving Fox will be featured on TCM. SECOND CHANCE (1953) will be tomorrow 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.

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I think Zanuck should've hired Lana for AMBER. I feel Linda is slightly miscast. But the real issue was the production code. They could've had Sarah Bernhardt doing it or the real-life Cleopatra, and it still would've been a compromised production. KINGS ROW was similarly ruined.

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I just re-watched CENTENNIAL SUMMER thanks to this thread, and I am going to post on it in a new thread I have planned. I felt Linda did a very good job, even though she is upstaged by Jeanne Crain. I did not feel Crain was convincing; it felt like she was still playing Margie and had not fully matured. Linda is very mature and does a great job with William Eythe. I would like to have seen them in their own picture together as the leads.

 

In fact, a lot has been made of CENTENNIAL SUMMER being a carbon copy of MGM's MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. But I think its flavor is more like Warners' FOUR DAUGHTERS productions. I would like to have seen some sequels to CENTENNIAL SUMMER. It also reminds me of LIFE WITH FATHER. It is one of my favorite Fox films from the late 1940s, and it is one of my favorite Darnell performances.

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I don't know why CENTENNIAL SUMMER is not available. I also recently re-watched my VHS recording of it, which I recorded off of AMC back in the day. I have also seen it on the Hallmark Channel some years back (in the 90s?). It doesn't seem to have ever been released in a manufactured VHS or DVD, which is surprising, because though it's reviews have been mixed, it is quite enjoyable with a stellar cast. Maybe there is a rights issue, but if not, 20th Century Fox should release it posthaste IMO. Or if TCM does have a Darnell SOTM tribute in the future, maybe they can get it shown.

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I have a DVD recording of CENTENNIAL SUMMER, which was a gift from someone who had recorded it from AMC. Constance Bennett steals the show, and this film should have been included during her recent SOTM tribute on TCM.

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*After the success of SONG OF BERNADETTE, which was overseen by William Goetz when Zanuck was off at war, I think it became clear that deals with Selznick utilizing Jennifer Jones' talents would be in everyone's best interest.*

 

Everybody's but the homegrown stars, and in the long run, the studio. The stars because 20th was not fully backing them in providing the basis for sustaining a long term career, namely choice roles in vehicles to increase and prolong their fan base; the studio because it was not wholeheartedly making its stars more bankable for longer. Other major studios routinely did this; Fox did so inconsistently at best. Instead it sought out other talent for roles that could have been very beneficial for its own stars.

 

*I think Barbara Bel Geddes would've worked in Faye's role for FALLEN ANGEL. Faye is almost too attractive and too much competition for Darnell's character. It should've been someone who was a bit more matronly looking or tomboyish, so there was a bit of a contrast, showing how different Andrews' passions and women could be.*

 

Bel Geddes was not working in movies in 1945. I don't think it's a question of Alice Faye being too attractive or too much competition, because we get the impression that even though she's supposedly in her mid-20s, she's on the road to spinsterdom. I think the contrast is conveyed well in the way each female is handled, with Darnell's dark looks and knowing glances movie shorthand for a femme fatale, and Faye falling asleep at the beach a sign of the dull life her character has led. Dana Andrews passion towards Faye is strictly about her bank account, at least at the beginning.

 

*I think I read somewhere that Jeanne Crain was Zanuck's favorite actress. But mine, from this studio during the classic era, is Anne Baxter. I don't think there was any kind of role she couldn't do. She was the most chameleon-like actress on the lot.*

 

I don't know if she Crain was Zanuck's favorite actress, but in the 40s, she was his favorite contract star. He waited for her to give birth before PINKY started production, which is something he wouldn't normally do. She did have her share of frustrations with her assignments, especially after her Oscar nomination. Not only was she loathing her girl next door in pigtails image, but she hoped to be given more roles in musicals, and later in the 50s, she hoped for consideration for sexier types. This frustration is the main reason why Crain asked for release from her contract in 1954.

 

 

 

 

 

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HEAD'S UP (partially off-topic): For those of you that have it, Fox Movie Channel will show Linda Darnell's 1950 Western, TWO FLAGS WEST, as well as a couple of other (near) westerns, in the next several days:

 

 

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21:

 

8:00 am EST, 5 AM PST:

 

 

TWO FLAGS WEST

 

The commander of a cavalry fort in the West during the Civil War is forced to accept a unit of Confederate prisoners who have volunteered to fight Indians under Union command as an alternative to rotting in POW camps.

*Cast:* Joseph Cotten, Linda Darnell, Jeff Chandler, Cornel Wilde

*Director:* Robert Wise

1950

 

 

 

9:35 am EST, 6:35 AM PST:

 

 

SIERRA BARON

 

A gunfighter hired to intimidate a rancher falls for the rancher's sister.

*Cast:* Brian Keith, Rita Gam, Rick Jaso

*Director:* James B. Clark

1958

 

 

 

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23:

 

 

6:00 am EST, 3 AM PST:

 

 

THE PRESIDENT'S LADY

Romantic account of Andrew Jackson's (Charlton Heston) star-crossed love affair with his wife, Rachel (Susan Hayward).

*Cast:* Charlton Heston, Susan Hayward, John Mcintire, Fay Bainter, Whitfield Connor

*Director:* Henry Levin

1953

 

Edited by: Arturo for dyslexically typing Dec. 12 intead of 21.

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One of the things I noticed when I recently watched CENTENNIAL SUMMER, was that Linda was showing a fair amount of cleavage. The censors went back and forth on this back then, cracking down or loosening up. Later that year, when she did FOREVER AMBER, they made the studio redo some scenes, for showing too much cleavage, or as they put it, "her heaving breasts". The book's notoriety had them on hyper-alert over this film.

 

 

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Linda Darnell started 1943 with the release of he first film on loan, CITY WITHOUT MEN. She did this movie in the fall of 1942 for Columbia's B Unit, and deals with women renting rooms to be near their men, who are inmates in a prison. Even though this was a B which did nothing to help her stagnating career, Linda enjoyed the experience, feeling that the personnel at Columbia didn't treat her like a child, unlike at her home studio.

 

Her infrequent movie assignments in 1942-43 allowed Linda the opportunity to help with war related relief efforts, like touring the country selling war bonds, or volunteering frequently at the Hollywood Canteen. What film roles she did do were in B movies, and it seemed that she was following the career trajectories of other once promising Fox starlets,which included Marjorie Weaver, Arleen Whelan, Nancy Kelly and Brenda Joyce. They had started off getting decent roles in A films, then went to leads in Bs or supporting roles in A films. Linda's next assignment was a musical,the Busby Berkley directed camp-fest, THE GANG'S ALL HERE, which went into production as THE GIRLS HE LEFT BEHIND, Besides Linda, these girls included top-starred Alice Faye, and Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda, doing that Freudian field day, "The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat". But during the production, Darnell eloped to Vegas with cameraman Peverell Marley, over twice her 19 years of age. The studio was aghast, thinking she'd ruin her career. She was yanked off of TGAH (ostensibly due to spraining an ankle while working on a dance routine for the movie), but she was suspended.

 

The only other movie she appeared in that year was her cameo as the Virgin of Lourdes in SONG OF BERNADETTE (Gene Tierney got the female lead in HEAVEN CAN WAIT, which the studio had anounced for Linda). Linda had also hoped for the lead in SOB, but the studio decided against that. The supposed inside joke in Hollywood was that Zanuck's mistress was playing the virgin Mary. But it was precisely because of Linda having turned down Zanuck that was causing her career to slow down.

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