Arturo

LINDA DARNELL for Star of the Month October 2013

860 posts in this topic

>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.

 

Yes. AMBER's subject matter was a far cry from SUMMER's more nostalgic, family-friendly storyline. However, Otto Preminger was the director of both pictures, and he was known for testing the censors. The scene in CENTENNIAL SUMMER where Walter Brennan's respectable married character has very lustful feelings for his single sister-in-law, played by Constance Bennett, is a bit shocking and another instance where Preminger is pushing the proverbial envelope.

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Linda Darnell had a busy year on the screen in 1944, compared to the previous two years (of course some of this year's releases she filmed in 1943). With her career on slow-mo, the studio had no problem in loaning her out again, as they had no pressing roles for her.

 

She started off with a loanout to UA, IT HAPPENED TOMORROW. This enjoyable fantasy comedy had Dick Powell getting next day's headlines today. He figures out he can get rich by seeing the horse racing winners and betting on them. It comes crashing in on him when he reads his own obituary. Try as he might to avoid the place where he dies, circumstances compel him to his destiny. Linda as a magician's assistant, Jack Oakie, her uncle, all help in making this movie a lot of fun.

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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.

 

During the time of the filming of the second version AMBER (late 1946-early 1947), the fate of THE OUTLAW was in the courts as one local censor board after another banned its showing, garnering much publicity. Also, DUEL IN THE SUN (aka LUST IN THE DUST) was sending the censors into overtime. So when FA comes along, the Breen office wanted to dictate everything, effectively trying to have complete control,on how that salacious book could be interpreted. Beginning with changing the title. Zauck said no. "Wihout the title we have nothing", he said.

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I think IT HAPPENED TOMORROW as well as her work in the 50s after Fox says that she really didn't need Zanuck to make her a star. She does very well in non-Fox pictures.

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I just made two rare DVD purchases online. I bought THE 13TH LETTER and HOTEL FOR WOMEN. I am excited to watch these...!

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I've seen it and it's a terrific and well-written film, one of the earliest to deal with the issue of racism. Darnell plays a mixed race character.

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*I just made two rare DVD purchases online. I bought THE 13TH LETTER and HOTEL FOR WOMEN. I am excited to watch these...!*

 

I'd puchased both titles from ioffer awhile back, although neither was of the best quality. HOTEL FOR WOMEN (1939) of course was Linda's film debut, cast in the lead within a couple of weeks after arriving in Hollywood at age 15. It is an enjoyable movie, with Ann Sothern, Lynn Bai and Elsa Maxwell among others, and Linda already showing poise and great beauty.

 

THE 13TH LETTER (1951) I saw on the big screen a few years back in a film festival honoring the director; it was the last of four films Linda did with Otto Preminger. She was not happy to work again with this director whom she abhorred, but liked her part of a cripple. A remake of a French classic, LE CORBEAU, it tells the story of a flurry of poison pen letters implicating various individuals in a small Quebec town. Although topbilled, Linda's role is rather small, as the movie has the various individuals' storylines to explore. Filmed on location, it is quite atmospheric; I believe Hitchcock got the idea from this movie to do I CONFESS in Quebec. Also featuring Charles Boyer, Michael Rennie, and Constance Smith, among others.

 

I wish both of these films will be coming out soon on the new Fox Archive Classics. I believe THE THIRTEENTH LETTER, like Linda's 1952 film NIGHT WITHOUT SLEEP, was probably going to be released as part of the Fox Film Noir series before the series got suspended.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 22, 2012 1:51 PM

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*I think Linda Darnell was in a film called "No Way Out" with Widmark and Poitier. Has anyone mentioned this film?*

 

It was mentioned early on by Lori13. I mentioned it when I stated that I felt that Linda could've been nominated for an Oscar, had that year been not so noteworthy with female performances, and 20th Century Fox not put all its resources behind ALL ABOUT EVE in the oscar sweepstakes.

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*I've seen it and it's a terrific and well-written film, one of the earliest to deal with the issue of racism. Darnell plays a mixed race character.*

 

NO WAY OUT is a terrific and well-written movie, but Darnell is "white trash". You are thinking of PINKY, where Jeanne Crain is a light skinned black girl.

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I think we may be buying from the same seller on ioffer. LOL

 

NIGHT WITHOUT SLEEP seems like a fairly routine thriller, but it is one I have not seen yet.

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*NIGHT WITHOUT SLEEP seems like a fairly routine thriller, but it is one I have not seen yet.*

 

NWS is routine, and to me, annoying. The focus on a generally unpleasant guy, in the guise of Gary Merril, makes me wonder what these three women see in him, especially Darnell as a movie star. I got the same feeling from her SLATTERY'S HURRICANE; why would she want to be with ex-flame Widmark, at his most annoyingly abrasive, when she seems to be happily married,

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*Darnell was also in a thriller called 'Hangover Squar' with music by B.Herrman & stared Geo.Sanders plus Raymound Burr's brother, Lariad Gregar.*

 

Yes, this is one of my favorite of her movies. Since I am discussing Linda' films chronologically, I will get to it soon, as I am in 1944,and HANGOVER SQUARE came out in 1945.

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Linda Darnell's second film released in 1944, BUFFALO BILL, was actually filmed before IT HAPPENED TOMORROW, even though the latter was released first. BB was the first movie Linda had completed in over a year at her home studio, 20th Century Fox, other than her unbilled cameo in SONG OF BERNADETTE. This film made it clear she was still on the outs with the studio heads, because her role as an Indian maiden was a decidedly supporting one. Starring Joel McCrea as the title character, and Maureen O'Hara as his refined bride, it also featured Anthony Quinn as a Native American. Directed by William Wellman,this technicolor film played loosely with the historical facts, but was an entertaining yarn.

 

Linda enjoyed filming BUFFALO BILL, and her chance to play a Native American, since she had Indian blood, a fact which was played up by studio publicity for the movie.

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I really do like this version of BUFFALO BILL. I usually watch it as part of a double feature with Stanwyck's ANNIE OAKLEY. Very entertaining stuff!

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In 1944, Linda's stagnant career suddenly took an upward swing. Two things were responsible for this. One was the publicity generated by a Look Magazine story about the four most beautiful women in Hollywood. Linda was one of the four winners; the other three were Hedy Lamarr, Gene Tierney and Ingrid Bergman.

 

The other event was the July release of SUMMER STORM, a film Linda made on loan to United Artists. In it Linda played a temptress in rural Russia before the revolution. She had George Sanders and Edward Everett Horton, among others, lusting over her and throwing caution to the wind in the process. This moody film was based on a Checkov story. The publicity run-up for the movie's release had Linda posed among bales of hay, with tousled hair, a short tight slit skirt, and a tight unbuttoned blouse. People sat up at these provocative photos, and took notice at the fact that Linda was now grown up.

 

Linda had to fight for the role, as 20th Century Fox didn't want to loan her out. As mentioned earlier, the reason for this was that Darryl F. Zanuck felt that the image of Linda as a mantrap was to wild a swing from her girl-next door parts she had been playing till then. He relented, since he had new contenders for this type. He saw an early cut of this film, and began to look for a suitable role for Linda to focus on this sexy new image.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 23, 2012 12:52 PM

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I am no expert on United Artists, and I do think UA certainly evolved over the years. But in the 1940s, I think it was more of a distribution company. Smaller independent companies usually produced a film like SUMMER STORM and UA helped put it in movie houses. The TCM database lists SUMMER STORM as having been made by Angelus Pictures, but on the IMDB it is slightly different. It is listed as having been made by Angelus Productions in association with Nero Films. Maybe Angelus was a company Linda and her agent created for tax purposes, I do not know, but SUMMER STORM is its only production. Nero Films, though, had three other films after this, none of them starring Linda Darnell.

 

My guess is that Zanuck loaned her to Nero Films, Linda put up some of her own money to co-finance it, and UA distributed it. I could be all wrong about this, but I believe that SUMMER STORM was an opportunity that was probably developed by her agent or manager to reignite interest in her. If so, SUMMER STORM achieved all such goals.

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*I am no expert on United Artists, and I do think UA certainly evolved over the years. But in the 1940s, I think it was more of a distribution company. Smaller independent companies usually produced a film like SUMMER STORM and UA helped put it in movie houses. The TCM database lists SUMMER STORM as having been made by Angelus Pictures, but on the IMDB it is slightly different. It is listed as having been made by Angelus Productions in association with Nero Films. Maybe Angelus was a company Linda and her agent created for tax purposes, I do not know, but SUMMER STORM is its only production. Nero Films, though, had three other films after this, none of them starring Linda Darnell.*

 

*My guess is that Zanuck loaned her to Nero Films, Linda put up some of her own money to co-finance it, and UA distributed it. I could be all wrong about this, but I believe that SUMMER STORM was an opportunity that was probably developed by her agent or manager to reignite interest in her. If so, SUMMER STORM achieved all such goals.*

 

I don't know much either how UA functioned back then, but I do know that neither Linda nor her agent had anything to do financially with SUMMER STORM. She was not at liberty to initiate her own projects in the early-mid 40s, which would become a more common practice in the 50s. She did seem to be the one to approach the producers about playing the role, of which called a 'she-devil", knowing that something drastic, like a shake up to her image of this sort, is what her career needed at that point. She had competition for the part from Susan Hayward, then near the end of her contract as the other woman at Paramount, which she refused to re-sign. Ironically, at the end of the 40s, when Zanuck signed Susan to a contract at Fox, and into the 50s, Linda and Susan competed for many of the same roles at the studio. Earlier, Susan was one of the hopefuls wishing to play Amber.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Dec 23, 2012 2:21 PM

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*Ironic that they formed a lifelong friendship doing a film in which Widmark's character hated Poitier's character.*

 

What was really ironic, and commented upon, was that Richard Widmark was a really nice guy in real life, nothing like the psychotic characters he played early in is career. Nor was he a bigot, as was his character Ray Biddle was in NO WAY OUT.

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> {quote:title=Arturo wrote:}{quote}*Ironic that they formed a lifelong friendship doing a film in which Widmark's character hated Poitier's character.*

>

> What was really ironic, and commented upon, was that Richard Widmark was a really nice guy in real life, nothing like the psychotic characters he played early in is career. Nor was he a bigot, as was his character Ray Biddle was in NO WAY OUT.

>

I recall reading somewhere that Richard Widmark would apologize to Sidney Poitier after completing scenes in *No Way Out* where the former had to abuse the latter.

 

Edited by: LiamCasey on Dec 23, 2012 2:41 PM

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It's interesting to view Darnell's performance in Summer Storm for the transition that it takes within the film itself. (Aside from the impact that it had upon her screen image).

 

In the film's earlier scenes her character is still very much the innocent, a continuation of her Fox image. Darnell is quite convincing in that persona, as well as the seductress into which her character evolves. Not all actresses would have been as effective in that kind of dual characterization within one film.

 

I believe that Summer Storm was the first time that Linda Darnell attempted that. She's pretty darned good at it considering her inexperience with those kind of roles at the time.

 

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