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LINDA DARNELL for Star of the Month October 2013


Arturo
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I have read that Howard Hughes tinkered greatly with SECOND CHANCE (as he was wont to do), and reshuffled the order of the scenes. I don't know if much was cut out, but there are publicity photos from this shoot showing Linda with a camera at the outdoor laundry area, obviously as a tourist (she later passes through this area fleeing Jack Palance, as does he). Others I've seen have her in a chapel, and one at the bullfights in Mexico City (this one was probably not from a scene for the movie, but you never know). Anyway, I don't know if these shots of Linda around Taxco were part of early scenes where she takes in the local sights, before the arrival in town of the menacing Palance. Other indications of missing/rearranged scenes are when Linda and Mitchum are first seen together, on the elevator, he asks if their date is still on for later. So an earlier meeting might have been filmed. Also, in the marketplace, Linda moves away from a vendor whose lips are moving totally independently from what he is saying in Spanish (although in this case, it was probably a need to redub the dialogue in the studio, but it could be a case of HH tampering with the storyline during postproduction). It owuld be nice, as mentioned here, if a restored version could be released, and maybe deleted scenes included, or better yet, the Director's cut (or the 50s equivalent) showing how the movie was supposed to be structured (of course, if all this footage exists still, plus the notes to be ble to re-create this). Here's to hoping...

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*I didn't see the TCM print, but I know I've seen a decent print on TV. Maybe it was on FMC*

 

SECOND CHANCE was made by RKO, so it couldn't have been FMC. Maybe the old AMC, which did show it on occasion. But I'm almost sure TCM has shown it prior to Linda's SUTS in 2011.

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*It would be nice, as mentioned here, if a restored version could be released, and maybe deleted scenes included, or better yet, the Director's cut (or the 50s equivalent) showing how the movie was supposed to be structured (of course, if all this footage exists still, plus the notes to be ble to re-create this). Here's to hoping...*

 

As if.....I'm sure that if an RKO movie were to be reassembled and made available in a 'Director's Cut", the likes of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSON would take precedence over a potboiler like SECOND CHANCE. But hey, in a perfect world (or alternate universe), there is room for everything.

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Linda Darnell completes filming of SECOND CHANCE late in the Spring of 1953. She is now a freelancer, in the hectic, panicky world that is Hollywood at this time. Linda, as with many other veteran stars, would see that they were being overlooked for many roles that they were suited for; one of the studios' strategies was that new names were being promoted to the public. As mentioned, Linda could have done several roles at this time at her old studio, Fox, like PICK-UP ON SOUTH STREET (for which she had been considered), GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, THE PRESIDENT'S LADY or WHITE WITCH DOCTOR, among others. But that was not to be. So Italy was next......

 

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Linda Darnell prepared to go to Italy in mid-1953, to make films with Giuseppe Amato. She anticipated this trip highly: She was bored with the Hollywood scene, from which she had been shying away due her bouts of depression and fluctuating weight; she wanted some serious prospects of a livening of her love life-she had dated somewhat since her divorce two years previously (and had had an affair the year before in Italy with Amato), but there was no real excitement (and Joe Mankiewicz had been busy in New York on JULIUS CAESAR); but mostly, she was excited about the prospects of the new Italian Neo-Realism, and was convinced she would be in some worthwhile projects. She would be starting with the oft-postponed DONNE PROIBITE, but she had also been in discussions over a filmed version of CAVALLIERE RUSTICANA, to be done shortly thereafter.

 

So off Linda went, and rented a villa not far from the Cinecitta Studios. She took her daughter Lola with her, and apparently resumed her affair with Amato. The movie was about three prostitutes, who lived in a brothel scheduled to be torn down. Also starring was Linda's friend from her early Fox days, Anthony Quinn, and two names already known to American audiences (Valentina Cortese) or soon to be known (Giuletta Massina). Linda filmed throughout the Summer of 1953, and would really enjoy the experience. She also became aware of a group of orphan girls staying near her rented digs, and became interested in helping them with a Girl's Town.

 

 

More to come......

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Linda Darnell completed filming DONNE PROIBITE (which translates as PROHIBITED WOMEN more or less) at the end of the Summer of 1953. During her time in Italy, she had continued her affair with her director, Giuseppe Amato. It had grown increasingly contentious, as he felt she was too liberated, and she wouldn't take orders from a chauvinistic man. As she was drinking steadily, their evenings would usually end in a argument, since her resentments would come out as her inhibitions went down, and he knew exactly what to say to push her buttons.

 

After the filming was done, she stayed on a bit to try to set up a Girl's Town of Italy, after seeing some unkempt girls daily as she traveled to and from Cinecittá Studios on the outskirts of Rome. She flew back to the States to try to get financing for this project. Landing in New York, she spent some time with Joseph Mankiewicz, with whom she'd been having an affair on and off for about 5 years. While with him, he was working on the script for his next project, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, and apparently told her she would be the lead.

 

Linda then returned to California. She had some talks with director David Miller, over a film he was planning on filming on the French Riviera, BEAUTIFUL STRANGER. These talks did not pan out; apparently he wanted Linda to invest some of her money in the project, but she was either unwilling or unable; two years earlier, she had used most of her savings to pay her ex-husband Pev Marley $125,000 so as not to contest their divorce. So she may not have had the cash to invest in this film. Somewhat later, Ginger Rogers became an investor in, and star of, BEAUTIFUL STRANGER (which woudl be released in the US as TWIST OF FATE). She did so on the condition that her new husband, Jacques Bergerac, be assigned a costarring role.

 

Linda had started dating Phillip Leibmann, an executive with Rheinhardt Beer, even before having gone off to Rome. The relationship had started when some commercials for the beer were done at her mansion. Upon returning to LA, they would be seen around town, since his company was setting up a West Coarst presence, and as he continued to tryto woo her. She denied that she had any plans to marry him, especially since she wasn't really attracted to him. He continued to pursue her nonetheless.

 

With no other film offers, Linda went to New Mexico to visit friends. She had earlier expressed a desire to live there, saying that the altitude was good for her low blood pressure. This time around, she found a nearby sheep ranch that she wanted to buy. Since she did not care much for the Hollywood social whirl, she felt that she could live on the ranch and go to Hollywood only for filming a movie. As with most every decision or happenstance with Linda during these years, the timing would prove to be fateful to her long-term career plans; all Hollywood producers knew was that she had dropped out of sight, and so she wasn't considered for too many roles at this crucial time, when filmmaking was being cut back significantly as the threat of TV continued to haunt the industry.

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> {quote:title=Arturo wrote:}{quote} *It would be nice, as mentioned here, if a restored version could be released, and maybe deleted scenes included, or better yet, the Director's cut (or the 50s equivalent) showing how the movie was supposed to be structured (of course, if all this footage exists still, plus the notes to be ble to re-create this). Here's to hoping...*

>

> As if.....I'm sure that if an RKO movie were to be reassembled and made available in a 'Director's Cut", the likes of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSON would take precedence over a potboiler like SECOND CHANCE. But hey, in a perfect world (or alternate universe), there is room for everything.

 

Arturo, it has long been my understanding that the studio deliberately destroyed all of the elements they removed from Welles' cut of *The Magnificent Ambersons*, so that the film could not be restored. Indeed, Criterion did what they could to restore *TMA* on laserdisc, using stills, and the shooting script, because nothing else exists.

 

Edited by: ValentineXavier on Feb 16, 2013 9:58 PM

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Linda Darnell ended 1953, her first year without being under long-term contract, with two films completed: SECOND CHANCE and DONNE PROIBITE. The first had come out in the summer, and had been a hit. The second, filmed in Italy, would see a release there, and elsewhere in Europe, in 1954. It would not be released in the US until late 1956, and then poorly dubbed and with spotty distribution (and rechristened ANGELS OF DARKNESS). No matter. It received poor reviews here when it did get released, and sank rather quickly. She never made the second film in Italy at this time.

 

1954 saw Linda continue the pattern of late 1953, spending time away from the film capital in New Mexico. She had continued to date Phillip Liebmann, an executive at Rheingold Beer, and he continued to work on making her his trophy wife. In an effort to do this, he bought Linda the ranch that she had been eying in New Mexico. Although she was not attracted to him, she finally capitulated, and they married secretly in February 1954. As a wedding present, Liebmann and his father gathered approximately $45,000, as per Linda's request, to serve as seed money for Linda's pet project, founding the Girl's Town of Italy. Liebmann also gave Linda a diamond engagement ring insured for over $40,000. Shortly after the marriage, in which Liebmann wanted Linda to retire from movie-making, she returned to Hollywood to film another movie for Stuart Heisler, her director in 1952's ISLAND OF DESIRE.

 

More to come......

 

 

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ISLAND OF DESIRE has a 6.6 rating on the IMDB; while THIS IS MY LOVE has a 5.7 rating. One user review labels the script for THIS IS MY LOVE as 'tepid.' I think this is the reason her film career is in significant decline at this point...she seems to be accepting jobs in mediocre productions. She no longer has the benefit of men like Zanuck and Preminger guiding her and she is starting to sink. She should've gone off and tried to reinvent herself on Broadway, or taken a few years off and then come back as a character actress. She is valiantly hanging in and trying to keep her Hollywood career going as a leading lady, but things are not what they once were.

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*ISLAND OF DESIRE has a 6.6 rating on the IMDB; while THIS IS MY LOVE has a 5.7 rating. One user review labels the script for THIS IS MY LOVE as 'tepid.' I think this is the reason her film career is in significant decline at this point...she seems to be accepting jobs in mediocre productions. She no longer has the benefit of men like Zanuck and Preminger guiding her and she is starting to sink. She should've gone off and tried to reinvent herself on Broadway, or taken a few years off and then come back as a character actress. She is valiantly hanging in and trying to keep her Hollywood career going as a leading lady, but things are not what they once were.*

TB, nice summarizing, but you getting ahead of the story lol. It is only in retrospect that we can say her career is "in significant decline at this point", because it wasn't quite just yet, but would be shortly. Actually, taking a few years off would be part of her problem. But all in due time.
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One of the reasons that Linda Darnell agreed to marry Phillip Liebmann (albeit secretly) in February 1954, was that she broke for good from Joseph Mankiewicz after more than five years of their having an affair. The reason for this was that Mankiewicz, who had promised Linda the lead in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (even writing some of it in her hotel room), gave the role to Ava Gardner. Linda, heartbroken, read about it in the trade papers that Ava had been cast. So Liebmann, who had been courting her, finally got a "yes" to his proposals. TBC was a strong role in an important film, and would have helped keep Linda's career afloat, at a time when she needed something like this movie.

 

Soon after her marriage, Linda returned to Hollywood to film THIS IS MY LOVE for RKO. Actually, this movie was done on the Republic lot, as RKOs soundstages were all apparently busy. This was another movie done under the guidance of Stuart Heisler, and Linda relished the role of the neurotic sister to Faith Domergue, another former Howard Hughes girlfriend. The cast was actually a strong one; besides the two female stars, Dan Duryea played Domergue's crippled husband, and newcomer Rick Jason the drifter that sets the plot (and hormones) going. Again, as in her other collaboration with Heisler, Linda had a hand in selecting her costar Jason. He wrote later that the problem with the movie was that Heisler tore out pages of dialogue wholesale as he filmed, and the resultant film was given poor reviews.

 

However, the cast was a powerhouse one, and while the script was a mess, they rose to the occasion. This is arguably one of Linda's two best performances in movies IMHO, and more than justifies this film's viewing. The others don't do badly either. Linda is made to play extended scenes in a black slip; she obviously was still quite attractive and voluptuous. Be she enjoyed the part of the love-starved spinster, especially as it downplayed making her glamorous. She got very good reviews for her efforts.

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*Topbilled wrote:*

*I think this is the reason her film career is in significant decline at this point...she seems to be accepting jobs in mediocre productions.*

 

Well Linda had serious money issues from the beginning of the 50s, when she turned over most of her savings to Pev Marley so he could divorce her quietly. She renegotiated her contract with 20th Century Fox in early 1951, allowing her to do outside films. Unfortunately, the 50s was not a good time to become a freelancer, as every studio was downsizing production as a result of diminishing audiences, and as a consequence, many contractees were let go, since fewer were needed for the reduced number of movies. EVERY studio was doing this; many people found themselves on the market scrambling for the fewer and fewer movie roles available.

 

Linda originally tried to be able to pick and choose roles for their intrinsic value; to this end she had wished to purchase the ranch in New Mexico, feeling that the low overhead would allow her to hold out for better offers. But it didn't work out this way, since being away from the Hollywood scene meant she wasn't seen at functions, and therefore not considered for potential roles. As she no longer had that sizable weekly paycheck from the studio, she ended up taking much of what did come along just to keep afloat financially. Not that she would accept just anything; she felt that the movies she chose had some value, at least in the early conception or script. She had chosen THE LADY PAYS OFF because she had worked with Douglas Sirk in her transformative role of SUMMER STORM, plus she liked the change of pace of playing a schoolteacher. Likewise, in BLACKBEARD THE PIRATE, she got to work with important director Raoul Walsh, plus it let her return to her early 'damsel in distress' image. Both movies she did with Stuart Heisler, were more promising originally; he made a mess of both, especially THIS IS MY LOVE. And SECOND CHANCE was another promising movie that was tinkered with, in this case, by Howard Hughes; who rearranged and cut out scenes, and generally retooled it before release. Linda was also very hopeful about her film ventures in Italy, having fallen in love with Italian Neo-Realism; who knew that only one of the two she made would be released in the US, and 3 years later at that?

 

Now, had she remained at Fox, she might've gotten some good roles. Every movie made by Susan Hayward at this time Linda could've done just as well: WHITE WITCH HUNTER, DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS, GARDEN OF EVIL, UNTAMED, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE. Or she could've been seen to good effect in movies where the studio again borrowed outside players: DESIREE, THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR, THE MAGNIFICENT MATADOR, THE TALL MEN, THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR, THAT LADY, THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER, THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE, among others. Even LOVE IS A MANY-SPLENDOURED THING, where she could have returned to her early image of exotic (Eur)asian.

 

Of course, the one movie loss that really hurt Linda was not getting the lead in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, after her lover Joe Mankiewicz had promised it to her. Mank probably went with Ava for this because of her name constantly making headlines at this time, what with her and her husband Frank Sinatra fighting and making up publicly on three continents: North America, Africa and Europe. So her name in the headlines was making her an even hotter commodity than ever before. In any case, it dealt a blow to Linda's ego, as well as to her relationship with Mank.

 

And as I said, only in retrospect can we say that her career was in significant decline at this time. She had 3 movies released in 1951, another three in 1952, but only one in 1953; it was known that she had gone to film in Italy, so that one was assumed to be imminently released. In early 1954, she was back in Hollywood starring in another role, so it wasn't obvious to casual observers that her career was nosediving. And of the four of her movies released in 1952 and 1953, three of them were solid hits.

 

*She no longer has the benefit of men like Zanuck and Preminger guiding her and she is starting to sink.*

 

Well it is dubious as to the benefit that Zanuck actually provided Linda, as he was intent on guiding her to production after production in roles where she only had to look beautiful, glamorous and/or sexy, and with no acting challenge to speak of. This is why she clashed repeatedly with Zanuck in the late 40s/early 50s, because she wanted roles that were a challenge for her. She wanted to stretch her abilities, but as usual, Zanuck could not see a woman known for her looks as being able to carry off certain roles, and he would usually borrow an outsider for some of the studio's more important female roles. This becomes more complicated in the 50s, with the arrival of Susan Hayward on the lot, and her quick ascent to top stardom. She started getting the best roles, many of which would have been suitable for Linda. So Linda is seen as no longer necessary, as Susan was now Zanuck's "Million Dollar Baby", and was let go after nearly 14 years at Fox.

 

Preminger and Linda had not gotten along in the 4 movies they made together, and while they were good movies overall, and she was good in all of them, Linda was not his first choice (as she was seldom Zanuck's) when he was considering filling a role; usually, Linda was foisted on her by the studio. So with Preminger starting to do his independent productions from 1952 onward, Linda was not someone he would consider for say, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM or ANATOMY OF A MURDER, either of which she could've done imho.

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What would be an interesting type of study would be to look at actresses and the movies they made when they were in their late 20s early 30s (what I'm calling their peak period) and the time period this occured iin.

 

For example, Olivia DeHaviland; She was born in 1916 and thus she turned 30 in 1946. That was the start of her best run of pictures. Once the 50s hit she did less pictures but that was generally by choice.

 

Susan Hayward, who was mentioned was born in 1917 and thus she turned 30 in 1947. She also had a great 'run' prior to the downsizing and even after that in the 50s.

 

Linda Darnell was born in 1923 and thus she turned 30 in 1953.

 

While only a 7 year difference or so between Darnell and the two above, was it because of studio downsizing that this was just a poor time for actress to reach her peak period?

 

Ava Gardner was born in 1922 so she was only one year older than Darnell. But studio downsizing didn't impact her 50s career as far as I can tell.

 

So it would be interesting to find out what other actresses were born around the same time as Darnell and if they experienced a similar career impact due to the timing of the studio downsizing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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*What would be an interesting type of study would be to look at actresses and the movies they made when they were in their late 20s early 30s (what I'm calling their peak period) and the time period this occured iin.*

 

jjg:

 

While it would be interesting comparing from a certain standpoint, there are so many other factors involved besides age that influenced a movie actress' career during the golden age, and this "one-size fits all' general type approach doesn't really able one to come to hard and fast conclusions. But in the specific instances you mentioned:

 

Olivia DeHavilland had been a popular leading lady and star since the mid-30s. Coincidentally, she was able to break free from her WB contract in 1946, when you mention she turned 30. She was able to pick strong roles from those submitted to her, as her name retained the lustre of the fight she had just won; rather surprisingly, she was not blackballed by the majors, since she had already started making movies, on the dl, even before her suit had concluded. Right off the bat she gets nominated, and won an Oscar, which only engendered more of the best roles around being offered to her, including two more nominations (with another win) in the next 3 years.

 

 

 

Both Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner achieved stardom at a later age than did Linda Darnell, who had become a leading lady at age 15. True at age 20, she radically shifted her image successfully, which led to a renewed vigor in her career. But at the time Linda turned 30, in 1953, newly free from her long-term contract at Fox, the studios were in crisis, and movie production was in freefall, and freelancing in this atmosphere was a difficult and crowded endeavor. Linda, around for nearly 15 years as a star, was quickly seen as passé by the new breed of filmmakers, as well as older ones, all trying to cater to young audiences by providing fresh new personalities for their movies.

 

By contrast, both Susan and Ava achieved real stardom in the last half of the 40s. Susan would become one of the industry's top stars in the 1950s, at her new berth at Fox, where she was an unwitting factor in Linda's displacement there. Ava, who finally got star parts at the very end of the 40s, also had a long-term contract, at MGM, for most of the 50s. So this is how Susan and Ava better weathered this than Linda, becoming stars at a much later age than Linda, and still having security from their long-term contracts.

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Linda Darnell had spent the first couple of months or so after her second marriage away from her new husband filming THIS IS MY LOVE in Hollywood. Afterward, she joined Phillip Leibmann at his family mansion outside of New York City. She did not love him, and was not attracted to him physically. Their marriage was one of convenience; he saved her from serious debt, as well as hepled with the money for her Girls Town charity project; he got her as a trophy wife. Aalthough he had agreed that it would be a marriage in name only, he wanted Linda to be at his side as he traveled the world on business. To this end, he wanted her to give up her career and retire as his rich society wife. Linda, who preferred an unpretentious existence, did not take to this too well. At every opportunity, she would take off to her ranch in New Mexico to spend time there painting, loafing and/or drinking.

 

In July 1954, Linda and her husband announced to the press that they had been married secretly for several months. This revelation came about as they were at the airport in NYC, about to embark on a long-postponed honeymoon, to Venezuela and Europe, among other places. This trip was cut short, where Linda was photographed at the airport in Rome in tears, as the man who had discovered her had died, and she was returning to the States for the services. The press played it that the marriage was in trouble, but Linda denied that to be the case. She also grew bored flying around with him promoting Rheingold Beer; Joan Crawford she was not.

 

Back in the US, she again spent time at Liebmann's mansion in Rhy, NY, and had access to his wealth and society connections. She didn't really care for this marriage, where she was just a bauble on display, feeling cheapened by this. She also felt guilty about not loving him, and the reasons why she agreed to the marriage. All this added to her drinking heavily, and terrific arguments all the time. She knew the situation was untenable, and longed to be making movies again, feeling useful. However, she had pretty much cut off ties from connections in Hollywood for the duration, and therefore, movie offers were drying up.

 

She had a reprieve from this at the beginning of 1954, when she flew to Rome to make another movie for Giuseppe Amato, the director-producer of her earlier film done in Italy in 1953, DONNE PROIBITE, which had yet to be released in America. It is doubtful they resumed their earlier affair, as she was now a married woman (nevermind that it was in name only). Her new movie was based on a popular Italian stage success, GLI ULTIMI CINQUE MINUTI (THE LAST FIVE MINUTES). Costarring with Linda would be Rossano Brazzi, Vittorio de Sica, and French actress Sophie Demarest. Happily, she returned to the land she felt she should live in, and stay away from her husband Phillip.

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So just based on the actresses listed, especially those in her age group (Ava Susan) is it fair to say that Darnell's career started on a downturn mostly because of her poor choices? (please note mostly).

 

I mean Darnell still had the looks (I would say one of the top 2 - 3 best looking actresses at the start of the 50s) and had now learned the craft (which is where age is often relevant).

 

Note that I'm not trying to put Darnell down but only reacting to your comment about the 50s and the studios trying to trim cost. In your view what was the main factor for Darnell? To me it starts to look like her choices since other actresses her age were able to 'make it big' even with the studios cutting back.

 

But don't get me wrong I agree there are so many factors that any comparisons are difficult and thus can become very complex. I say the same thing when someone here asks 'why didn't XYZ become a bigger star' (e.g. this came up in a Ralph Mecker thread, and it his case it was because he refused to sign a studio contract).

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Well the main difference between Linda on the one hand, and Ava/Susan on the other, is that the latter each had long-term contracts to a particular studio for most of the 50s, MGM and 20th-Century Fox, respectively. So they had the leisure of waiting for their assignments being handed to them, and then doing them (or sometimes rejecting them). In any case, unless they were suspended, they got paid by their studio, either weekly or per movie.

 

Linda, once she was dropped by Fox in late 1952, no longer had this luxury. While she was initially relieved, since it was by then for only one movie per year, and she no longer had to answer to Zanuck, whom she loathed, it took out that cushion of security in terms of salary. She now had to depend on outside offers to choose from. Since her financial situation was in a bad way, she tried to economize by buying a ranch in New Mexico, thereby hoping to hold out for good movie offers, but being away from the Hollywood scene backfired, in that she was "out of sight, out of mind". Plus, she was competing for movies with many other actresses also suddenly "free" from their secure studio berths. In the end, she took some offers more out of necessity than anything.

 

This trend would increase once Linda remarried in early 1954. Her new husband wanted her to retire, and lead a life as a wealthy Park Avenue society matron; this she attempted to do for awhile. But she was even more out of touch from Hollywood, and what movie offers there were she turned down. During the nearly two years of this marriage, she did one role (THIS IS MY AFFAIR) in 1954, which she had already signed for before tying the knot; and another nearly a year later in early 1955, in Italy with Giuseppe Amato; this was another commitment she had signed on for a couple of years earlier. In all, she was away from the Hollywood social and casting swirl for nearly three years.

 

I agree that Linda was still very beautiful, and had proven herself capable as an actress. This is why I feel the downward curve in which she now found her career was unfortunate. Some of her choices, in marriage, living situations, roles etc, and some things beyond her control; the cumulative effect, was that her career would lose its promise, before its time imho.

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Thanks for all the great feedback. So to kind of sum it up it looks like Darnell kind of ran into the perfect storm; i.e. a combination of events, some due to her choices, that lead to pre-mature downward spiral.

 

Compare that to DeHavilland; She ended her WB contract and came into the perfect sunshine (sorry for being corny!). Paramount was glad to utilize her (I wonder if some of their motive was to stick it to Jack), as well as 20th Century; great roles as well as high quality production backup. As you noted she was a major WB star but if Olivia didn't have that post WB post WWII run today I think she would only be known as Melodie in GWTW and for the Flynn movies. When the 50s started Olivia wanted to start a family and live in Paris and thus she willingly did only a movie every other year or so. Thus any so called downturn was welcomed.

 

 

 

 

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*She had a reprieve from this at the beginning of 1954, when she flew to Rome to make another movie for Giuseppe Amato, the director-producer of her earlier film done in Italy in 1953, DONNE PROIBITE, which had yet to be released in America.*

 

I just noticed this, but could no longer edit it....that first line should read "...at the beginning of 1955....",not 1954.

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Linda Darnell had spent most of 1954 relatively idle, by her standards. She had gotten married in February (although she wouldn't announce it to the press until July). She had spent the early spring in Hollywood making THIS IS MY AFFAIR (RKO) for director Stuart Heisler; it would be released in the fall of 1954. She received good reviews, but the film didn't, and didn't do well at the boxoffice. In the summer, she started traveling with new husband Phillip Liebmann, to South America, Europe and elsewhere, both to celebrate their honeymoon, as well as to promote his company's product, Rheingold Beer (he wanted Linda to be the public face of this promotional push, to which she strenuously resisted). Other times she spent at his mansion or townhouse in New York, from which she would flee periodically to her ranch in New Mexico. Here she felt free, to paint portraits or landscapes, sculpt, hang out with her friends, and to drink. Her husband would occasionally fly in on his private jet to meet up with her. However, she was not happy in this marriage, feeling she had entered into it for the wrong reasons, and her drinking would unleash her anger over this onto her hapless hubby. Of course, the fact that he didn;t want her to work anymore also began to wear her down, as she felt she needed to DO something.

 

A reprieve came in early 1955. She flew to Rome to make another movie, GLI ULTIMI CINQUE MINUTI, again for Giuseppe Amato. As before, she enjoyed her stay there immensely, desppite her volatile fighting in public with Amato. The filming was done by March of 1955, nearly a year since her last movie, but she stayed on until June in Rome. This was to finalize the establishment of her pet project, GIRLS' TOWN OF ITALY, to take care of homeless young girls. Her husband joined her for this, as both he and his father had provided some of the financing for this endeavor.

 

Linda returned to the States at the end of June, aboard the Queen Elizabeth, and reluctantly resumed her role as a wealthy NYC wife. She quickly grew bored, and her fights with Liebmann intensified. She sent out feelers through her agent in Hollywood that she wanted to go back to work, and since she had been away for awhile, was even willing to lower her price in order to receive movie offers. Her husband, in last ditch efforts to salvage the marriage, bought a script for LInda, and said they would produce it, giving her complete creative control. He even had them adopt another baby girl. Linda did not want another baby at this time, and it was agreed that he would keep her if and when they divorced. She also felt his efforts to produce a movie for her was a case of too little, too late.

 

In the meantime, she looked forward to going back to work. GLI ULTIMI CINQUE MINUTI, based on a hit stage comedy, was filmed with the main players each saying their lines in their native language: English, Italian and French. It would later be dubbed in one language for distribution; while released in Europe and parts of Latin America, it never seemed to have reached US shores. From snippets viewed recently on youtube (its one of the few of Linda's movies I have not seen), it seems interesting enough. The story is about an arrangement between Linda and Vittorio de Sica, who, sharing an apartment, decide to marry, but each is free to date others. Linda starts going with Rosanno Brazzi, and de Sica soon realizes he is jealous. A typical romantic comedy, with a roman flair. Linda looks beautiful in this. This, along with her earlier movie with Amato would make a great twofer release on DVD (of course with some made to be played on DVD players here in America).

 

 

 

 

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Linda Darnell, bored with life as a rich housewife, returned to Hollywood to go back to work in August 1955. She had been away for a couple of years, and increasingly under the radar, had seen vivable movie offers peter out. In order to get some work, she cut her asking price; this led almost immediately to a flurry of offers, but for TV shows. Linda, wanting to get back to work again, was delighted to do some of these; by 1955 the stigma of movie stars doing TV shows had worn off somewhat from what it had been only 2 years earlier. There were a few main reasons for this: one, the continuing erosion in the number of big screen movies Hollywood was producing; two, the arrival of critically acclaimed dramatic anthology series, such as SCREEN DIRECTORS' PLAYHOUSE and PLAYHOUSE 90; and three, the entrance into these anthology series by big movie stars like Loretta Young. Soon many movie names could be seen on the small screen as guest stars.

 

The first TV series Linda accepted was for her old studio, 20th Century Fox, who had a new series known as the 20th Century Fox Hour. It mostly featured made for TV movie remakes of some of its big successes from years back, featuring big names plus up and coming talent. Occasionally, an original script was used for one of the weekly episodes. Such is the case with Linda's. She starred in a TV movie known as DECEPTION, along with British actor Trevor Howard. In this episode, which filmed in August-September 1955, Linda played a Canadian widow working for a small British intelligence cell in London, during the time of the Blitz early in WW2. She is supposed to choose the ideal candidate from several volunteers for a mission over occuppied France. She is to determine that psychologically the chosen individual is the right fit; the person is supposed to be easily broken under torture, and reveal classified information to his torturers. The information he is given and which he reveals is false, thereby distracting the German's from the main objective, in this case D-Day. Linda not only chooses sensitive concert pianist Trevor Howard, but they fall in love. Of course after the war he resents her, thinking she knows he was a coward, but especially when he finds out that the classified information he revealed was false, and that she was in on this.

 

Linda does a great job in this, limited though it may be, so much so you wish that this had been a feature film. The only problems seem to be with the continuity, the lighting would fade suddenly; closeups would have her with different makeup, hair and even facial weight. She dominates most of the scenes, sporting different outfits and makeup; it does seem like it was a script that had been intended as such, then downsized to fit the hourly TV format. Several years later, in 1960, it would be made into a feature film, A CIRCLE OF DECEPTION, starring 50s supermodel Suzi Parker and her soon to be husband, Bradford Dillman. Linda's episode would air in March 1956, by which time she had done more TV shows, and filmed another feature film.

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Linda Darnell got a quickie Mexican divorce from second husband Phillip Liebmann in December 1955. She had come to loathe the marriage, and herself, feeling that she married for security instead of love. She also had longed to go back to work. She returned many of his gifts, including jewelry and the ranch in New Mexico. Linda now HAD to work, as her financial situation was dire: the IRS was charging her for back taxes, as well as property taxes on her Brentwood mansion. It seems that another business manager had embezzled thousands of dollars funds meant for these purposes.

 

Prior to her divorce, she had completed a second TV movie (the first being DECEPTION), ALL FOR (THE LOVE OF) A MAN. In this, its kind of a reversal of her dilemma in HER SECOND MOVIE, DAY-TIME WIFE (1939), where she suspected her husband cheating on her with his secretary. Here, she plays twins, and one that is a workaholic, thinking that hubby is interested in her twin, since she is so busy. NOTE: I have not seen this; I've only seen publicity stills for it. Curiously, both TV movies debuted a day apart, in early March 1956. By then Linda had also done her first feature film in nearly a year, DAKOTA INCIDENT, which she filmed on location in December 1955-January 1956. It also starred Dale Robertson (r.i.p.). John Lund and Ward Bond.

 

 

More to come......

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In December 1955, shortly after her divorce, Linda Darnell began filming DAKOTA INCIDENT for Republic Studios. This was her first Hollywood feature film she had done in over a year and a half; allthough she had filmed GLI ULTIMI CINQUE MINUTI in Italy earlier that year, and had done a couple of TV movies prior to the Republic film offer. Linda would go on location for this one, a western where she is one of several stagecoach passengers that are attacked by a band of Native Americans. Linda is a showgirl trying to track down the man that ran off with some $25,000 in her savings. The others include Dale Roberston, trying to find the man that left him taking the blame for a bank heist; John Lund, trying to bring Roberston in to clear his own name, and Ward Bond, a pompous senator convinced the Indians are getting a bad rap from the white man.

 

Things come to a head in a dry gulch, where they are forced to take shelter from the Indians, without water. Linda causes the emotions of the men to boil over, as they begin to try to win her over. Eventually all gets sorted out, with the two survivors, Darnell and Roberston, falling in love.

 

This western, shot in Trucolor, is interesting, with some thoughtful writing about the plight of the original settlers. Linda, wearing a tight-fitting red satin outfit throughout, looks the part of the woman the men would willingly fight over; she and the rest of the cast do a good job in the acting department. The location shoot which lasted until January 1956, was congenial, with everybody getting along quite well. The movie did brisk business upon release in July 1956, and while it wasn't the most prestigious film for Linda, she was happy to do it, especially after the long stretch since the last offer.

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