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LINDA DARNELL for Star of the Month October 2013


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Ronald L. Davis's Hollywood Beauty: Linda Darnell and the American Dream (U. of Oklahoma Press) came out in 1991, and there are now 33 copies listed on abebooks, ranging from $7.14 to $75.00.

 

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?bi=0&bx=off&ds=30&recentlyadded=all&sortby=17&sts=t&tn=HollywoodBeauty%3ALindaDarnellandtheAmerican+Dream&x=0&y=0

 

 

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Linda Darnell was having a good year in 1946, and it was about to get better. However, there were some clouds on the horizon. Linda had three movie released that year: ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM, CENTENNIAL SUMMER and MY DARLING CLEMENTINE. She was next assigned to do CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE, from a popular novel. This was to be Tyrone Power's second film after returning from the war, after the yet to be released THE RAZOR'S EDGE. It would also reunite him and Linda for the first time since 1941, and would be his first swashbuckling role since 1942's THE BLACK SWAN.

 

Linda would play Catana, a Spanish gypsy who falls in love with Power's conquistador, accompanies him to the New World, Mexico specifically. This Technicolor epic was slated to be a big success, and Linda, now physically matured since her last teaming with Power, would get to play another sexy, earthy ethnic character, like the ones she played in SUMMER STORM and MY DARLING CLEMENTINE. It was a part perfectly suited for her, and Zanuck had earmarked it for Linda since the studio bought this property. Linda looked forward to the filming, which would be done on-location in Mexico.

 

Meanwhile, Linda had found herself being pursued by Howard Hughes. She had rejected his advances and overtures, since she was still married. She further reasoned that she didn't need to know him, because she had several more years on her contract. Hughes found out that Linda was taking golf lessons, and signed up to finagle his was to pairing with her on the course. She began to be impressed and won over by this, more so as she and husband Pev Marley were increasingly having vicious fights. She and her husband were passengers on a cross country flight on Hughes' Constellation. Soon, the papers reported that Linda and her husband had separated.

 

Hughes continued to sweep Linda off her feet, quite literally in fact. Besides showering her with expensive gifts, he picked her up for a lunch date, flew her to San Francisco, where they had an orchestra play as they ate a banquet at th Fairmont Hotel. Linda, a simple naive small-town girl at heart, was overwhelmed by this attention, and soon found herself falling in love with Hughes. Hughes gave her flying lessons, and she was reportedly the first to arrive to the hospital when Howard crashed his plane in Beverly Hills.

 

Problems arose with Pev Marley, Linda's estranged husband. He reputedly told Hughes he would allow Linda to divorce him if Hughes gave him $25,000 a year. At a meeting between all three, Linda yelled, "You're discussing me like I was a ham" and left in disgust. Thereafter, Hughes cooled his attentions to Linda, who really thought she would marry the eccentric tycoon.

 

While all this was going on, Linda got the news that she would replace Peggy Cummins and star in FOREVER AMBER, which had shut down production after nearly six weeks of filming. Linda was thrilled, but as the director newly assigned to FA, Otto Preminger, demanded re-writes to the script, resumption of filming would not start for three months. This meant that it would overlap with that of CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE, so Linda was removed from that cast. Zanuck then offered the role of Catana to Jennifer Jones, but that didn;t work out. Eventually a newcomer, Jean Peters, would get the part. Ironically, it would be Peters who would eventually marry Howard Hughes.

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*I think the one I read was named after her first movie, or was similarly worded..........*

 

AndyM108 is correct. Well, it probably couldn't have been named after her first movie (I don't think), HOTEL FOR WOMEN (1939). You are probably thinking of her third movie, STAR DUST (1940), which was actually semi-biographical; it was based on Linda's discovery by a talent scout, premature Hollywood screen test, and eventual successful contract player. Linda's segment of the "Biography" series is named after another of her films, FALLEN ANGEL (1945).

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*The late 1940s/early 1950s is certainly the best part of Linda's career at Fox...at least in my opinion. One classic hit after another.*

 

I agree. She did manage to get herself in a number of very good films, and this despite Zanuck's indifferent (on his part) handling of her career. His dislike of her had him make shortsighted decisions; instead of trying to build on her fan base by carefully choosing appropriate vehicles for her, he tossed her into whatever was available. Worse, he had her idle for long stretches at this time.

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Note: I have reposted, and edited and added to, an earlier post on FOREVER AMBER.

 

FOREVER AMBER was one of Fox' most important productions as WW2 was ending. Based in the biggest selling book of the 1940s, by first time author Kathleen Winsor, it tells the story of Amber St. Claire, a beautiful country girl in Restoration England of the 1660s. Unknowingly born into nobility, as an infant she was deposited on the doorstep of a Puritan couple in a country village. She yearns for the excitement of London, and the restored court of King Charles II, and achieves these goals through a succession of marriages and other relationships with a dozen men, as well as varied adventures.

 

Darryl F. Zanuck intended it to be the biggest and most successful epic ever. Many young actresses, both on and off the Fox lot, coveted what was considered the most prized female role since Scarlett O'Hara. Zanuck tried to get a British actress, and offered it to both Vivien Leigh and Margaret Lockwod, who both turned it down. 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. When filming began, she seemed to do well as the innocent teenager of the early scenes, However, she proved to be inadequate when it came to portray a full grown woman, looking like a young girl playing dress up. After FA had been in production 39 days, and nearly One million dollars spent, Zanuck closed down production, removing Cummins and Stahl in the process.

 

Tierney would no longer consider doing AMBER at this point, feeling snubbed and not willing to play second choice. 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 was initially overlooked. She had the voluptuous figure the role called for, as the costume designer Rene Hubert acknowledged when Linda did get cast, and 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.

 

Thrilled as Linda was in getting the coveted role of Amber, she was upset that this meant she would no longer be able to play the role of Catana, the earth gyspy she had been assigned in CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE, due to the overlapping production schedules of both films.

 

More to come.....

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FOREVER AMBER's troubled production had shut down at the end of April 1946. Removed were star Peggy Cummins and director John M. Stahl. 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck asked Otto Preminger to step in as director, review the footage shot thus far, and make whatever changes he felt were needed. Preminger stated he would have to reshoot everything; Peggy Cummins was in almost every scene. Preminger also decided to have the script rewritten. No announcement was made for a couple months on who would replace Cummins, although Zanuck had already decided on Linda Darnell; Linda's performance in the just-completed MY DARLING CLEMENTINE having swayed the mogul on casting her. Likewise, names like Henry King were floated in press releases as the replacement director, despite the fact that Zanuck had settled on Preminger. In July, it was finally announced that Darnell and Preminger would take over, and the filming would resume that October,while another script was readied. Preminger, who had not wanted Linda, reluctantly announced to the press, "She's got the animalistic quality we need".

 

The male star, Cornel Wilde, Fox' biggest except for Tyrone Power, had already had enough, and did not want to return. Playing hardball with the studio, he was able to get a huge salary increase in order to have him remain in AMBER; however, a vengeful Zanuck would give him mostly poor roles in the future. Other major cast changes happened due to actors going to other films during the hiatus; these included the loss of Vincent Price as Lord Almsbury, and Reginald Gardner as King Charles, replaced by Richard Greene and George Sanders, respectively. Richard Haydn, playing the stern Earl of Radclyffe, requested that he be allowed to return in this atypical role; the studio had flirted with the idea of Clifton Webb in the part. Haydn came back as the earl.

 

The script, already pared down as to the number of husbands, lovers and out-of-wedlock children, still manage to touch on most of the main events in Amber's saga: including being sent to debtor's prison, becoming part of a den of thieves, being responsible for a deadly duel, surviving both the London Plague and the London Fire, and becoming mistress to the king. It still had to get the Production Code seal (again); as expected, cuts and changes were stressed.

 

With the resumption of filming, the brunette Darnell had dyed her hair a reddish blonde. She was required to lose weight and maintain a rigorous diet. Actress Constance Cummings was hired to coach her on an appropriate accent. The studio seemed happy to publicize Linda's separation from her husband, hopefully tying this in the public mind with Amber's amorality. The filming lasted over five months, none too smoothly. Preminger again tormented Linda, who felt that he didn't care if he got a good performance out of her. Linda fainted more than once on the set, possibly because of the strict diet. She was also ill and missing for several days. Many in the cast got the runs when a substitute used for fog, Nujol, turned out to be a diarrhetic. Filming finally ended in March 1947, the most expensive and one of the longest shoots in the studio's history.

 

 

More to come.......

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The completion of principle photography on FOREVER AMBER, in March 1947, was not the end of the process. Zanuck and/or Preminger had come out with some new scenes and filming these proceeded in April. Additionally, studio heads and the director had some more skirmishes with the ever-vigilant production code. It was claimed that the script as filmed had not gotten their seal of approval, since there had been some changes. Further, there was objections to some scenes, and what was referred to as Linda Darnell's "heaving breasts". All of this demanded refilming, including cutting out any passionate kissing between Linda and Cornel Wilde, editing those scenes to not actually show them kissing.

 

Zanuck also cut out some scenes, even storylines and characters, in order for the movie's running time be no more than 2 and a half hours. This seemed to be the upper limit to the length of his epics.

The movie was roadshown in major theaters in large cities,beginning in October 1947 through the end of the year. I did landslide business everywhere. However, the Catholic Legion of Decency gave it a C rating, and stated that the movie was "Morally objectionable for all". Boycotts of the movie sprang up outside some of the theaters showing it. The studio panicked, and sent studio mogul Joseph Schenck to try get the Catholic organization to reconsider this. He reputedly got down on his knees and begged the emisaries to lift the rating. They agreed to reconsider it, if the studio would make some changes. Chiefly, they wanted a prologue and epilogue added stating that Amber must suffer the wages of sin, or something to that effect. The studio obliged, and recalled all the prints to make these changes. The Legion of Decency changed its rating to the less severe B grade, to the studio's relief, especially since the boxoffice had begun to slip due to the boycott.

 

Critics gave the film, and Linda's performance, mixed reviews. Most felt that she was physically the Amber of the novel, and that the production was visually stunning, with the sets and costumes getting raves, and correct in details, but that the plot was bowlderdized and ruined by censorship. They felt there were some outstanding sequences, and with a supeb score, but overall that it didn't live up to the hype. With a gross of $8 Million, it was one of the top hits of the year, but didn;t quite meet expectations, especially since the final cost was over $6 Million dollars, including costs for the aborted version.

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After the long, exhausting filming of FOREVER AMBER, including retakes and additional scenes, Linda Darnell took a well-deserved rest by vacationing in Europe. Accompanying her was her estranged husband, Pev Marley. After the fiasco with Howard Hughes, Linda and Pev attempted to resolve their issues and try again. However, cinematographer Marley was soon summoned back by his studio, Warner Brothers, to shoot LIFE WITH FATHER. Linda remained in Europe, resting, shopping, sightseeing, but also promoting FA in the different cities and countries she visited. Although she didn't like maintaining the blonde hair coloring done for AMBER, she was ordered by Fox to remain a blonde until after the rounds of premieres for this movie.

 

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, Preminger and Zanuck and his minions were working on getting the Production Code and the Legion of Decency to relent in their objections, and mollified them to a fault, i order to get their potential blockbuster released. Zanuck, unsure of the impact FA would have on Linda's career, remained undecided as to what to next cast her in. She would have been well cast in THE FOXES OF HARROW, a costume epic set in early 19th Century New Orleans, with a Scarlett O'Hara-like heroine. Both Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney had turned down the top roles; the part of Stephen Fox had then been assigned to Rex Harrison. However, it would start filming with the first FA director, John M. Stahl soon after AMBER wrapped, and Linda needed a rest. In any event, Maureen O'Hara played the tempestuous heroine. As mentioned before, Zanuck cast actresses he borrowed for some movies that could have been offered to Linda: Joan Crawford in DAISY KENYON, Dorothy McGuire in GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT. Zanuck bid his time for several months while he decided what was next for Darnell.

 

Linda finally returned home from Europe in early Fall 1947, for the premiere of FOREVER AMBER. She was to remain a blonde for awhile longer, until after to London premiere. She found out that Zanuck had decided to re-team Linda with her AMBER co-star, Cornel Wilde, in a vehicle designed to take advantage of its success, THE WALLS OF JERICHO, to be directed by Stahl. Linda would go into this new assignment as a blonde.

 

More to follow......

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Linda Darnell started filming THE WALLS OF JERICHO in late 1947. 20th Century Fox had decided that this would make an ideal followup vehicle for the stars of FOREVER AMBER, as the melodrama offered Linda another opportunity to play a scheming woman chasing after a reluctant Cornel Wilde, who had been her one true love in AMBER.. Darryl Zanuck included a strong cast for this tale of a small town in Kansas a century ago, including Anne Baxter, Kirk Douglas, and Ann Dvorak.

 

The story concerns Wilde, unhappily married to dipsomaniac Dvorak, as a lawyer in Jericho, Kansas. His friend Kirk Douglas, who is publisher of the town newspaper, moves back to Jericho with a new wife, Algeria Wedge, played by Darnell. She realizes that Wilde is unhappy with his wife, makes a play for him, who spurns her. She then tries to get back at him by manipulating her husband to write unflattering articles and editorials about him, as Wilde's character becomes a politician, even convinces her husband to become a politician and run against Wilde, especially when Algeria realizes that Wilde is involved with a female lawyer, played by Anne Baxter. Algeria also manipulates Dvorak's character to shoot husband Cornel. In the ensuing trial, with Baxter as the defense lawyer, Darnell's machinations are revealed.

 

This melodrama is interesting, if rather slow, with some strong acting from its cast, especially from the women. Linda again was convincing in her smiling malevolance, Anne Baxter and Ann Dvorak were their usual standouts. Although the tight period outfits flattered Linda's figure,THE WALLS OF JERICHO appealed mainly to Linda's female fans, with its women's melodrama subject matter, and as such, was not as big of a hit as it could have been. It seems that the studio waited awhile before releasing it, finally coming out in August 1948, some ten months after FOREVER AMBER. This wait, plus the movie's moderate success, did not noticibly help nor hurt Linda's career.

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The start of 1948 was a momentous time for Linda Darnell. On the career front, FOREVER AMBER was making the rounds, no longer in roadshow engagements; it had not quite made her the superstar that had been anticipated, but it did raise her profile sufficiently. and she was one of the top sex symbols of that period. The followup movie, THE WALLS OF JERICHO had completed filming, and was being edited. She was getting ready to start filming a black comedy with comedy genius Preston Sturges, UNFAITHFULLY YOURS, with her hair cut short and back to its brunette coloring. This would be her first picture with a contemporary setting since 1945's FALLEN ANGEL.

 

 

 

On the home front, Linda and husband Pev Marley had decided that a child might help their marriage. Since Linda was unable to have children, they had decided to adopt. Soon a blonde baby girl, Lola, joined the household. Linda's family believed that Lola was Pev Marley's biological daughter, although this has never been publicly confirmed by the involved parties. The existence of Lola was made public a couple of months later, with Linda declaring that they hoped to adopt a baby boy in the near future. Linda would be given a surprise baby shower on the set of UNFAITHFULLY YOURS once word got out.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Jan 9, 2013 2:35 AM

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Darryl F. Zanuck was not working overtime to come up with vehicles for Linda Darnell in 1948. A part that would have been perfect for her imho, would have been the sexy singer in ROAD HOUSE. She had already done a few roles where she sang, and she definitely would have been someone Richard Widmark and Cornel Wilde might have tussled over. And the scenes with her in short shorts and a makeshift bikini would definitely given her male fans an eyeful. But Ida Lupino, straight from the expiration of her long-term contract with WB, was borrowed for this noir. Linda wanted to do a biography of Lola Montez, feeling the part of the fiery dancer out in the old west would've made an appropriate vehicle for her; Zanuck would not contenance the idea. And so on.

 

Zanuck did cast her, at the last minute, into UNFAITHFULLY YOURS. The role of the beautiful young wife had been meant for Gene Tierney, but she bowed out (i believe she was pregnant, although later miscarried). So Linda excitedly went to work for Preston Sturges, and sang his praises far and wide, "At last, a real director". She even made the cover of either Time or Newsweek with a shot of her being directed by the fez-wearing Sturges. Linda was surrounded by a mix of Fox contractees: Linda, Rex Harrison, Barbara Lawrence, Kurt Kreuger; with Sturges' stock company players: Rudy Vallee, William Demarest, etc.

 

The story was a screwball comedy blacker than any previously released. Rex Harrison is a middle-aged conductor with a beautiful young wife (Linda, natch). He begins to suspect her of having an affair with his male secretary. During a concert, Harrison begins to fantasize how he is going to get his revenge. During three different pieces of music, each music segment sets the mood on how to do his wife and her lover in. After the concert is over, bungling as he sets about to try to recreate each of the fantasy sequences, to comic effect. He is unable to carry any out, and all is cleared up at the fade out.

 

Although this is Harrison's tour-de-force, the cast in general is excellent. Linda, while early on having too good to be true dialogue, really sparkles in each of the three fantasy sequence. She is subtly different in her playing for each, mirroring the different tones set by the music. The film is on the long side for a comedy, but holds up quite well imo.

 

The studio previewed UY in June 1948. However, the scandal that rocked Harrison's Hollywood career, Carole Landis' suicide, happened over the 4th of July weekend. She had been unhappy about her affair with "Sexy Rexy' (as the press dubbed him), since he wouldn't get the divorce he had apparently led her to believe he would. So the release of the film was postponed until late in the year, since a comedy about Harrison fantasizing about killing his wife was seen to not be kosher at that moment. To little avail. Despite mostly positive reviews, it failed to attract an audience. It did next to nothing at the boxoffice in all but larger metropolitan areas; even there, people gasped in dismay when Rex slashes his wife in the first fantasy scene. While the laughs were there, word of mouth was not good. Today, of course, it is considered a classic, and Sturges' last classic. So maybe, as the saying goes, it was ahead of its time.

 

 

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The studio previewed UY in June 1948.

 

 

 

 

 

I forgot to mention that after the early previews of UNFAITHFULLY YOURS, Zanuck had over 20 minutes cut out of the film. From what I remember reading, the excised scenes had to do with when Harrison first met his young wife, and they take place in Linda's, and sister Barbara Lawrence's, hometown. While this movie as released has a long playing time for a comedy, it would have been interesting to see these early developments, not least for Sturges' writing. I wonder if the footage still exists in a tin can somewhere.

 

 

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Linda Darnell went from UNFAITHFULLY YOURS into another comedy, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz. Before the start of shooting in mid-1948, the storyline had been whittled down from five, to four, to the final three wives, so as to better focus on each of the wives' stories. Besides Linda, Zanuck favorite Jeanne Crain and freelancing Ann Sothern played the other wives. The husband's included former WB leading man Jeffrey Lynn, a still under the radar Kirk Douglas shortly before his starmaking performance in CHAMPION, and fresh from Broadway Paul Douglas, who had scored in the tycoon role of 'Born Yesterday".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The movie started location shooting in New York state along the Hudson river, upstream from NYC. Rain kept cast and crew from working a number of days, and trips to New York City occupied them during those times. The film fell behind schedule due to the weather. After several weeks, once all the necessary footage had been complete, filming resumed back in Hollywood, on the 20th Century Fox lot. By the end of summer, the film had completed filming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While on location, Linda and Joe Mankiewicz, both married, started an affair. Early on, he had endeared himself to her by using a photograph of Otto Preminger, in a frame that supposedly had a picture of Addie Ross, the villainess who wrote the letter to the others, in order to elicit the proper look of contempt from Linda (Mankiewicz knew she grew to despise Preminger). Linda fell head over heels for Joe, and the affair would continue when filming resumed back at the studio; it would last for some six years. Soon, the papers reported that Linda had again separated from husband Pev Marley. Despite the euphoria Linda experienced with the man she would forever after consider the love of her life, in time Linda realized that the situation was hopeless; Mankiewicz would not leave his wife. Linda also returned to her husband; the adoption of Lola was not yet final, and the adoption agency would not look favorably on the parents being separated. The state of affairs over this affair would cause her much heartache over the years, and even had her contemplate suicide on more than one occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More to come.....

 

Edited by: Arturo on Jan 11, 2013 12:38 AM

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A LETTER TO THREE WIVES would be released in January 1949. Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the film dealt with a woman, Addie Ross, writing a letter stating she has run off with the husband of one of three friends, all of whom have no access to a telephone, being on an all day picnic river cruise for underpriviledged children. The wives reflect on their marriages, and any reason why their husband might have left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeanne Crain, as the unsophisticated country girl, remembers gow she embarrased new husband Jeffrey Lynn in their first social event after both returned from the war married. Ann Sothern is the main breadwinner of he family, writing radio dramas, considered drivel by her underpaid husband, high-school teacher Kirk Douglas. Linda, as a beautiful scheming golddigger from the wrong side of the track, sets a trap to ensnare her boss Paul Douglas. They settle for a loveless marriage arrangement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides the principles, the supporting cast included supporting players Barbara Lawrence, Thelma Ritter, Connie Gilchrist, and Florence Bates. Celeste Holm was the voice of the unseen Addie Ross.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Jan 12, 2013 1:34 AM

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A LETTER TO THREE WIVES is a movie that I never get bored watching. It has so many different facets to it and keeps you guessing throughout the movie.

 

Thelma Ritter is underated as the comical maid/housekeeper and keeps you in stitches.

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Twinkee, i totally agree. I recently watched it over the holidays, as some of the scenes in the last segment, with Darnell and Paul Douglas take place around Christmas and New Year's. Ritter is priceless. Also superb are Connie Gilchrist and Florence Bates IMHO.

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>I forgot to mention that after the early previews of UNFAITHFULLY YOURS, Zanuck had over 20 minutes cut out of the film. From what I remember reading, the excised scenes had to do with when Harrison first met his young wife, and they take place in Linda's, and sister Barbara Lawrence's, hometown. While this movie as released has a long playing time for a comedy, it would have been interesting to see these early developments, not least for Sturges' writing. I wonder if the footage still exists in a tin can somewhere.

 

I am pleased to see that UNFAITHFULLY YOURS will air on TCM on April 13th.

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Do you think the Ann Sothern Kirk Douglas paring works in 3 Letters? Something just doesn't feel right about it. I just don't see Douglas as a school teacher. Then there is the age difference. But maybe this is what the producers wanted to communicate. i.e. that this marriage was working despite that vibe I was getting?

 

 

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Jamesjazguitar wrote:

 

 

Do you think the Ann Sothern Kirk Douglas paring works in 3 Letters? Something just doesn't feel right about it. I just don't see Douglas as a school teacher. Then there is the age difference.

 

 

 

 

 

James,

 

 

I actually do think it works. The trick is not to think of the pugnacious in-your-face Kirk that became his image once he achieved fame. Although this he would achieve later in 1949, at this time his image had yet to jell. And anyways, he is just as intense and impassioned here, only its of an intellectual nature. I think the relationship with Sothern works, chiefly because I'm not aware of any age difference between them, whatever the actual difference may be in real life.

 

 

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images-3120.jpg

 

Sothern was almost eight years older than Douglas. I think their pairing works, but they do seem like an odd couple in some ways, because their styles are certainly different. Plus, they never worked together again, so we do not associate them with each other except in this picture.

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