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LINDA DARNELL for Star of the Month October 2013


Arturo
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Yes, Linda looks great in this movie. Too bad that they didn't have her doing a number onstage, since she was playing a showgirl, but I guess the town where they waited for the stagecoach was too small to support entertainment of this sort.

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Linda Darnell had an important year in 1956, for a number of reasons. That summer she was seen on the big screen at the nation's movie theaters, in DAKOTA INCIDENT, for the first time since late 1954, when her last movie released here (THIS IS MY LOVE) made the rounds. A movie she made in the interim in Italy, GLI ULTIMI CINQUE MINUTI, would never be released in the US. Linda had also ventured into doing TV programs, initiating this new phase with two TV movies she made back to back in late 1955, and shown in March 1956 (DECEPTION, ALL FOR A MAN).

 

Also in March 1956, Linda was the mystery celebrity guest on WHAT'S MY LINE, taped in New York. This video is available on Youtube, and shows Linda as beautiful, sexy, chic, glamorous and vibrant. Sorry about constantly referring to Linda's looks, but I had long ago accepted the official line that Linda was away from Hollywood for nearly 3 years, due to marriage and filming abroad (that part is mostly true), and when she came back in late 1955, she could not find much film work because her drinking had made her overweight, puffy and bloated, and looking prematurely matronly. Well some of the publicity still released in the late 50s seem to bear this out; however, it seems that Linda would exaggerate and thicken her eyebrows for these stills, partially due to the fashion of the time (see the comments re: Dorothy Malone and this trait in the Sirk thread), and partially because I believe she was trying to subjugate as much of her beauty as possible to be taken seriously as an actress. Anyway, she did have an ongoing battle with her weight, but that had been going on since the mid-40s. But not in the WML video appearance. She looks thinner than she had in either DECEPTION or DAKOTA INCIDENT, and looks great in general. She may have worked on losing weight for the Academy Awards telecast, which would have been at around the time of this taping, with the goal of impressing producers and discounting any rumors (assuming that there were rumors). So at least for the moment, the prematurely matronly look and bloatedness are not factors in Linda's lack of viable offers.

 

Needing money and not having sufficient work, Linda laid new ground for herself early in 1956. She decided to do stage work for the first time. She signed on to do the recent Broadway hit, A ROOMFUL OF ROSES, playing the role Betty Field had initiated. However, she wasn't quite sure of herself, and decided to have her stage debut far from the media centers on both coasts, in Phoenix Arizona. She needn't have worried. Word got out and the reviews praised her. She signed to next perform in Miami Florida, in TEA AND SYMPATHY, and again got great reviews. More importantly, she enjoyed this challenge, finding the stage rewarding, and would tour in TEA AND SYMPATHY during the summer.

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For anyone interested, I am reposting this info re: Linda's appearance on WHAT'S MY LINE: I posted this on the Classic Movie Actors on Episodic TV thread awhile earlier this evening, but seems to be just as appropriate here: I recently came across a series of videos on Youtube that shows the mystery celebrity clip segments on "What's My Line". I found this while looking for whatever clips were available for Linda Darnell. Hers is a good one, done in march 1956, talking in a good Italian accent, and looking glamorous and beautiful. of course in the comment segment I obviously didn't know Youtube etiquette, and being me, posted 1500 characters, when most had brief comments. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cef-S3oXSuA There are many more movie star clips you can access, most are quite entertaining Edited by: Arturo on Mar 7, 2013 because this link did not paste on here.

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FYI:

 

Linda Darnell will be featured in a couple of movies in the next 2-3 days:

 

On TCM, Friday 3/08 AT 3:30 pm eastern, 12:30 pm pacific: SECOND CHANCE (1953), thriller set in Mexico, with Robert Mitchum and Jack Palance.

 

On Fox Movie Channel, Sunday 3/10 at 6 am eastern, 3 am pacific: FALLEN ANGEL (1945): small-town siren Linda is courted by Dana Andrews, who plans to fleece rich spinster Alice Faye and run off with Darnell. Compelling noir imho.

 

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Linda Darnell spent the summer of 1956 touring in TEA AND SYMPATHY. It seems that her reviews were heartening, so much so that Linda searched for a vehicle to make her Broadway debut. In July, she signed to appear in a drama HARBOR LIGHTS, to be financed by Columbia Pictures, with the idea of making a motion picture if it was successful. In September, Linda started to rehearse this play. Her original costar was to have been Dana Andrews, but he was drinking heavily, and was replaced by Robert Alda.

 

The drama, set on Staten Island, dealt with a young wife having marital problems and two men to choose from. The script was going through constant revisions, and in the end was a mess. The tryouts in New Haven and Boston were none too successful, and called for more wholesale revisions.

When it opened it New York in October, it received poor reviews and closed after only a handful of performances. Linda's chance on Broadway did not work out for her.

 

Despondent, she returned to Los Angeles, where pal Ann Miller introduced her to a pilot, Merle Robertson, a handsome bachelor, who became a frequent companion. She was forced to audition for a role for THE WAYWARD BUS, to be filmed at her old studio, 20th Century Fox, but contractee Joan Collins was cast instead. Linda felt her options vanishing, with her new beau the only bright spot at this point.

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1956 had started out promisingly for Linda Darnell, who was again actively working on her career. She had done live theater for the first time, and really enjoyed it. She got good reviews overall, although her Broadway debut was a flop (the film Columbia had planned to make of HARBOR LIGHTS fizzled with the play). Linda continued to do television, appearing that summer in an episode of the Screen Actor's Playhouse, WHITE CORRIDORS, where she is a nurse menaced by an unknown person.

 

On the big screen, she was in DAKOTA INCIDENT that summer, and late in the year, a dubbed version of her first Italian film venture, DONNE PROIBITE, was released belatedly some three years after its completion as ANGELS OF DARKNESS. It got poor reviews and few bookings outside of some metropolitan areas. More ominously, she had been made to do a screentest, for THE WAYWARD BUS, at her old studio, and didn't get the part. She felt that her movie career was about to slip away, and continued to rely on TV and the stage into 1957.

 

On the personal front, she was seen frequently with Merle Robbie Robertson, attending premieres together. They seemed to be getting serious about each other. But Linda's frustrations with her career led to her drinking more and more, and this had the side effect of causing her to gain more weight, which was the last thing she needed as she was searching for work. She continued to have financial troubles, as she owed several years back taxes to the IRS, and property taxes on her mansion in Bel Air; she had again had a financial manager that embezzled funds meant for these.

 

 

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1957 turned out to be a busy year for Linda Darnell. Early in the year she married her third husband, Merle "Robbie" Robertson. He was an airline pilot, tall and handsome, and she fell madly in love with him. He had a beach house in Redondo Beach, as well as a sailboat. He helped her stabilize her drinking, partially caused by loneliness. She had been filming a TV movie for Playhouse 90, HOMEWARD BORNE, when they married early in March, so they took a honeymoon later that month. Daughter Lola felt that she was part of a real family for once, since they did things together.

 

On Linda's career front, she was busy in the Hollywood social whirl, being accompanied by Robbie to premieres and awards shows. This was the first time since the beginning of the 50s that she did this consistently, and it may have paid off in her increased television work. She did several TV programs that year, besides the Playhouse 90 already mentioned. Most were dramas done for the various anthology series, including the Ford Theater, Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars, Studio 57, and the unfortunately named episode of Climax, "Trial By Fire", in which she is the mother of a troubled boy setting fires.

 

Linda also continued to tour in "Tea and Symapthy" during that year. In fact, enjoying live stage work so much, she had turned down an offer to co-star with old costar Jeff Chandler in a western movie, DRANGO. One movie role she did accept was in ZERO HOUR, and economical film done for Paramount studios, also starring Dana Andrews and Sterling Hayden. In the well-known plot (AIRPLANE spoofed this film, using the dialogue almost line for line), Linda is the wife of Dana Andrews, a WW2 pilot who crashed then, and can't get over it, so she is at the point of taking their son and leaving him. He catches up with her aboard the plane; later, he has to fly it after the pilot and copilot get food poisoning. Linda didn't have much to do, but does what little there is quite well. This movie has become something of a camp classic, as people cannot hear the dialogue with the straight faced delivery, as originally intended.

 

Linda looked like she was putting on some weight, in this film and in publicity photos, including those of her wedding. Later that year, she seems to have lost some of it, as she continued to battle this problem. She continued to work wherever she could, as she had some daunting financial problems. Movies, which paid best, were not being offered to her as they once had been, but she continued to work at it by playing the publicity game, and continued to be seen rather frequently out on the town. She was still a viable commodity, still had many devoted fans, but the new Hollywood no longer saw her as such, and were not beating down her agent's door with movie scripts. Movie roles that could have restored more of her popularity, that she could have still received had she remained under contract at her old studio, 20-th Century Fox. Besides not getting a top part in THE WAYWARD BUS, she could have been considered for roles in THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER, HILDA CRANE, THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR, THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE, TEENAGE REBEL, THE SUN ALSO RISES, even THE THREE FACES OF EVE. But by then, even Zanuck was not at Fox anymore.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Mar 13, 2013 8:12 PM

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Linda Darnell's most recent movie, ZERO HOUR, was released in the fall of 1957. It was her first movie in theaters since DAKOTA INCIDENT over a year earlier (other than the spottily released ANGELS OF DARKNESS). She had turned down at least one other movie role because she was enjoying the live stage, and felt that movie making took up too much time. Plus she continued to work in the faster pace of television. One of these projects, a rare filmed episode of Playhouse 90, HOMEWARD BORNE, would see it released on a limited basis in movie theaters in 1958.

 

Other TV programs she did, with broadcasts in 1958, included the western series "Wagon Train" and "Cimmaron City". In the former program she did two episodes, both playing the same character: 'The Dora Gray Story" and "The Sacramento Story". The first had Linda playing a woman who is tagging along with gunrunner John Carradine when Robert Horton comes upon them. When Horton realizes that Carradine is not selling blankets, he arrests them both. Linda helps Carradine escape, but Horton takes her to the nearest fort to have her locked up. She warns him not to go there; unbeknownst to him, she had come from there, having been involved with the officer in charge, Mike Connors, who is also involved in the gunrunning. Anyway, Linda offers to help Horton escape, but he refuses. Later she saves him from an attack by a band of Native Americans.

 

This is a strongly written episode of WT, and could have been expanded to a feature film with a little effort. Linda's second show for the series, was the first season finale. She is seen briefly, reprising the character, in a coda to the earlier episode. Linda still looks great; in fact, she had lost some weight from her appearance in ZH. She also wears a peasant blouse that exposes quite of bit of cleavage for television in the 50s. However, the second episode has Linda somewhat heavier, but still alluring nonetheless.

 

 

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Wagon Train is no longer airing on the Encore Westerns channel, but when it did, the Darnell episodes were particularly fun to watch.

 

I like how Linda was playing well-written dramatic parts on television. When a lot of big-name film stars went to TV, they invariably guest starred as themselves on sitcoms or variety shows, but Linda actually finds very challenging roles in the new medium and does well with them.

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*Wagon Train is no longer airing on the Encore Westerns channel, but when it did, the Darnell episodes were particularly fun to watch.*

Well, at least here in LA, "Wagon Train" is on every Saturday at noon on METV. Of course you have to deal with the commercials.

*I like how Linda was playing well-written dramatic parts on television. When a lot of big-name film stars went to TV, they invariably guest starred as themselves on sitcoms or variety shows, but Linda actually finds very challenging roles in the new medium and does well with them.*

TB, I totally agree with you there. And that's actually all that Linda really wanted in her career: challenging roles for her to do. When she saw that she was not getting them in the movies, she found them on TV and doing stage work. So this phase of her career was fairly satisfying from an artistic standpoint, although not considered nearly as prestigious as film work, and financially it was not enough, as she received substantially less for this work than for feature film roles. But she persevered, especially as she had a loving husband to support her in her endeavors.

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In 1958, Linda Darnell continued much the same type of work that she had the previous year. As no viable movie roles were being offered, she made more TV dramas and did live stage work around the country. Already discussed were her appearances in WAGON TRAIN; she also did episodes in the dramatic anthology series STUDIO 57, PURSUIT and CIMMARON CITY. In this last one, she starred as a suddenly widowed woman in that frontier Oklahoma town. The episode is titled KID ON A CALICO HORSE, and refers to young Dean Stockwell, who rides into town and is accused of killing her husband. It transpires that he did not do it, but that Linda had once been in love with his father, and accidentally killed him. Mayor George Montgomery saves the kid from a lynching mob, and later proves his innocence.

 

Linda continues to look fetching in this, and her weight is once again noticeably less than in had been in the second episode of WT. She also has a more prominent role than in that show, if not quite as dominant as in her first episode of WT. She does well by this part, if she seems more of a victim than she had been as Dora Gray in Wagon Train. But as in that series, she leaves town at the end, to start a new life elsewhere.

 

Linda continues to be seen at industry functions with her husband, working on getting more work. She is always glamorous, and there are some publicity stills with her with a new look, that poofed out teased hairdo popular in the late 50s-early 60s (think Liz Taylor's coif in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF). But offers of movie roles that interest her are not forthcoming; her only release this year in movie theaters is with the limited release of HOMEWARD BORNE, a drama she had filmed for PLAYHOUSE 90 the previous year. Here she stars as a housewife who adopts a child, which causes strife with her husband Richard Kiley when he returns from war. Also featured was Linda's costar from BLACKBEARD THE PIRATE, Keith Andes.

 

 

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I would like to see HOMEWARD BORNE.

 

I just checked and UCLA has a print of this film. It was produced by Columbia/Screen Gems.

 

I wonder when it was last seen on television...? This is something that TCM could possibly show, with UCLA's help, if they featured Linda as SOTM.

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*I would like to see HOMEWARD BORNE.*

*I just checked and UCLA has a print of this film. It was produced by Columbia/Screen Gems.*

*I wonder when it was last seen on television...? This is something that TCM could possibly show, with UCLA's help, if they featured Linda as SOTM.*


TB, that would be great if tCM could show it, especially as part of a SOTM for Linda. Just one question: What does "has a print of this film" mean? Is this actual film on reels, or something transfered to tape, or DVD, or...? Can a copy be rented, borrowed or bought from them? Thanks.



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Regarding UCLA: I live in Arizona now, but when I lived in the L.A. area, I would go to Westwood and put in requests to view certain films the Film and Television Archive had. As long as you are a California resident/taxpayer, because UCLA is a state university, you are allowed to visit and view materials at no cost. I also happen to be an alumni of USC, so I can view materials there, too.

 

You can probably make the requests over the phone or online, but I would always go in person, schmooze a few of the employees, and then turn in my requests (there is a form that must be completed). Sometimes it takes a few weeks for them to process the requests. They usually make a copy of the original print that will play on one of their machines. You do not get to touch the actual original film, because it is being stored/preserved.

 

If someone else had previously requested a viewing of the title you want to see, it may already be transferred over for viewing, and you will not have to wait as long. But if you have more than request, that adds to the waiting time. I would usually ask for two or three films or television episodes, then go over on a Friday or Saturday, and spend the entire day watching what I needed to watch. There are private screening rooms.

 

HOMEWARD BORNE is available, according to the UCLA catalogue. That means someone has donated a copy, and it may or may not be in good condition. But you should be able to see it.

 

Oh, another thing I just remembered, is that you have to get a UCLA library card, if you are not a student or alumni. There is a small fee for the card, but you need it to get into the screening rooms. Some of the policies may have changed, but if you look for a number on the website then you can call and ask.

 

And if I'm not mistaken, I think the library card also allows you to request scripts from the special collections, which is in a different building. Special collections has its own procedures for requesting materials, because I think most of those items are stored at a warehouse somewhere, and they have to arrange for someone to bring them over to the campus. The scripts are non-circulating, but you can photocopy pages. I don't remember what they charge for that.

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Thank you so much for this great resource. UCLA is on the other side of town from me, and gas and parking aren't cheap, but the subway/bus is a doable alternative. I will try to take advantage of this information soon, and often. Thanks again for sharing.

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It looks like there are 64 holdings for Linda at UCLA. One of them is WALLS OF JERICHO. HOMEWARD BORNE is there, too, plus obscure items like an appearance she made on This Is Your Life in 1957 (she was in the audience when they were honoring Jesse Lasky).

 

I also see an all star bond rally produced by Twentieth Century-Fox for the Office of War Information. It's a short film from 1945. What a time capsule that must be!

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1959 was a year when Linda Darnell's output began to slow. She had no featured films that she filmed or were released this year. She did continue to perform around the country onstage in various plays; this she really enjoyed. There was an instance in Chicago, doing the play "Late Love", where she became anxious and she couldn't remember her lines. Prior to the night's performance, she was hypnotized and given the suggestion that she did know her lines. Reputedly, she did the performance perfectly, and a reviewer (from Variety) stated, "Miss Darnell was entrancing, rather than in a trance".

 

Linda also continued to do some TV, but not as much as in the previous 2-3 years. This included an episode of the hit show "77 Sunset Strip". She also did a pilot, an hour-long drama about a woman who raises horses on her ranch, but it did not sell. Ironically, as her recent episodes on TV Westerns had demonstrated, Linda was willing to work on a weekly series, as well as on series episodes, in a genre she didn't care too much for, due to her being allergic to horses.

 

Linda took up a new charity cause this year. While in Chicago doing "Late Love", she met a young boy who had kidney failure and had a short time to live. The always kindhearted and generous Linda (she had been instrumental in founding the Girls' Town of Italy a few years back) flew him to LA, and showed him Disneyland. Later that year, she received a call that his time had come, and Linda flew to Chicago immediately, but he had passed by the time she arrived. She was distraught, and threw herself into fundraising for the Kidney Foundation, becoming first the president of the LA chapter, later of the national chapter. So she busied herself with this cause, as well as her stage work. But by the end of the year, after the pilot did not sell, and with the bills piling up, her husband coaxed her into a new career endeavor, in an effort to make more money.

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*It may be that the credits are missing. It does say 2 reels, and I would imagine that is most of it. If you get the chance to view it, you will have to let us know.*

 

Well, the movie is about one hour and twenty minutes long, so if there are only two reels, it seems most of it is missing. Hopefully, i'll find out soon.

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Linda Darnell's big screen movie roles had slowed to non-existent by the end of the 50s. There are several reasons for this. First of all, film offers had obviously dropped, more so as her weight seemed to fluctuate more and more, some of it due to drinking. But she still looked good overall. She may have gotten the reputation of having this drinking problem, although that probably didn't come until later; in any case, her drinking never interfered with her professional demeanor on the set or elsewhere. More likely, the lessening of roles was more due to her age; she had turned 35 in October 1958, a difficult enough age under the best of circumstances for women actresses, but even more so with the ongoing retrenchment of the film industry. She did turn down some roles that were offered, either because she didn't care for it, or the movie, or both; others because she wanted to do stage work, which she found she really enjoyed. She also liked the TV dramas that she had been doing for the past several years; both of these outlets offered her better roles than what she was being offered for the big screen.

 

Linda had some potential movie projects that might have been viable screen entertainment. While still married to Phillip Leibmann, in 1955, he had purchased a script for her, "Constantia", a romantic drama about a crippled girl, which was to be filmed in Portugal. Linda, by this time set on divorcing Liebmann, would not take his last-ditch offer, which also included her as producer. Later, a drama was postulated for Linda by Columbia Studios of her Broadway debut, HARBOR LIGHTS, but that play's flop spelled finis to that venture. In the early 60s, another venture by Linda as an independent producer, this time with current husband Robby Robertson, was a European love story called "The Virgin Heart", but plans to film it in Greece were aborted by the couple's ongoing financial crisis.

 

Robby dabbled in real estate, and borrowing on Linda's name and credit, soon found himself overdrawn. He also failed to pay property taxes on her mansion for several years. At the end of the 50s, he convinced her to give up her manager, with him taking over the running of her career. He had her turn down offers to appear on stage at different venues around the country, as he tried to steer her in a new direction, a nightclub act.

 

More to follow......

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