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LINDA DARNELL for Star of the Month October 2013


Arturo
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In 1964, Linda Darnell slowly picked herself up from the wreckage that was her career and her life. In the previous two or so years, she had divorced Robby Robertson, her third husband and then business manager. Her finances ashambles, she had lost her mansion, and was looking at the prospect of filing for bankruptcy. She had tried to commit suicide at least once, as her drinking was way out of control. Daughter Lola, unable to deal with her mother's drunken tirades, moved in with her father, Linda's first husband, Pev Marley. He had also got Linda situated once she lost her house. But shortly thereafter, he died, leaving Linda feeling more alone than ever; she had always been able to count on him. Meantime, Linda went back to work, resuming regional theater and even TV; she had been a guest star on "Burke's Law", in an episode that aired early in 1964. Most gratifyingly for LInda, Lola expressed a desire to go on tour with Linda during the summer of 64. She was amazed at the reception her mother received, realizing that she was still loved and remembered. Lola also realized how good an actress her mother was, and her professionalism at all times. They grew close that summer, and it was capped off with Linda being offered the first featured film role that she accepted, in several years. They excitedly returned to CAlifornia to prepare for this movie, BLACK SPURS. More to come......

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I agree with you that Jurado and Darnell look similar. Jurado looks more ethnic but with the right make-up Darnell would of fit the part. But at that stage of Darnell's career would Darnell have taken the secondary female role? Of course with all actors careers what roles they are offer and or accept (e.g. Raft being the prime example of foolish choices, Novak's interesting comments in the interview TCM just had on etc..), is key to their legacy.

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Linda Darnell could've pulled off the roles mentioned that were played by Katy Jurado. She did quite well over the years playing an assortment of ethnic roles; it was thought that 20th Century-Fox changed her first name from Monetta to Linda to evoke the latin-esque qualities her coloring suggested. They even used her one-fourth (?) Cherokee blood to advertise her playing an Indian maiden in BUFFALO BILL. Whether Linda would've taken a secondary role at this point in her career is not clear; later maybe, but possibly not in the early-mid 50s.

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In September 1964, Linda Darnell, fresh from doing stage work around the country, reported to Paramount Studios to take her first feature film role in over 6 years; she had not been seen on the big screen since 1958, as ZERO HOUR! played itself out (and in some markets, the made-for-TV drama HOMEWARD BORNE). She looked forward to the part of a madam in BLACK SPURS, to be done for producer A.C. Lyles; it was one of his economical programmers he did 2-3 times a year, crowded with many big names of yesteryear. Linda would costar with Rory Calhoun and Terry Moore. She enjoyed reporting to the movie set, as she always enjoyed and partook of the convivial ambiance during the shoot. She handled herself like the professional that she was, and although she may have appeared rather stout around the middle, she was still beautiful, and there was no signs of her drinking, if any, affecting production. Linda had no illusions as to the quality of the movie ("A two week quickie that no one will see"), but enjoyed the work, and more importantly, needed the money. Probably most significantly for her future, AC LYles received many calls from other producers, enquiring about her. Soon, he would be feielding a number of concrete offers of more film roles for Linda. More to come.....

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Linda Darnell apparently had several movie offers to choose from after she did BLACK SPURS in the fall of 1964. One of these might be a phantom credit which used to appear in her filmographies (unlike THE CASTILIAN, this one doesn't seem to be listed anymore). This would be for the 1965 film BOEING BOEING, with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis, a straight man role. I don't known if she was offered this part, but then unable to make it due to her demise in April of that year (it seems to have filmed later that spring, mostly in Paris). Not sure what part Linda would've had in this sex farce; don't think it was that of the maid, played (in her last film) by Linda's old costar, Thelma Ritter.

 

 

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Here is another link to a youtube video I came across of another TV show Linda did, Ford Television Theater's episode entitled "Fate Travels East". It was broadcast in March 1957, and taped sometime in late 1956 or early 57. Despite, as Gary Merrill said about Anne Baxter in ALL ABOUT EVE, "Makeup's a little heavy", Linda looks noticeably less heavy than in ZERO HOUR, filmed around April 57, or in the link I posted recently for 'Trial By Fire" (which since it was 'live', was probably done at the time of broadcast in September 57; this demonstrates her fluctuating weight problem, which continued to go up and down rather substantially over the next few years.
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TB:

 

Thanks for the info. I've yet to enter the Netflix world (I feel like I have too many options already with Directv). I have DAKOTA INCIDENT on DVD, which I taped off of Encore Westerns (I think, although not sure if TCM has ever played it) a few years back. I'm not sure if BLACK SPURS is available on DVD. Both of these would be good ones to show if Linda is ever given the SOTM treatment. Here's hoping.

 

 

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just a reminder: This Saturday evening, tCM will show three movies that feature Linda Darnell. It starts with ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM, where she is billed third after Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison, and has the peripheral role of Tuptim, the King's favorite new concubine. It seems that much of some 25 minutes or so that were excised from the already long film might've had Linda's character; there is no other way to explain the brevity of her role. Next comes UNFAITHFULLY YOURS, also costarring with Rex Harrison. This black comedy again had some 30+ minutes cut out, a preamble in Linda's hometown. Lastly, the taut race drama NO WAY OUT, where Linda holds her own in this searing film.

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THE GREAT JOHN L. (Sullivan), is a movie I have also been trying to get my hands on for many years. This 1945 biopic has one of Linda's earliest portrayals in her new image of siren. It seems to be the only movie released by UA that is not out on DVD. Wish the Crosby estate, or whoever holds the rights, would put it out.

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Leo, I have never heard this. Maybe some scenes were done for her two Italian ventures (one of which was never released in the US) which were meant for European audiences only. But if that had been the case, this would have certainly been widely reported. While some of her films and some of her producers had her expose fair amounts of cleavage, she seems to have been more reticent in this than some of the other sex bombs of the postwar era. Certainly at Fox they didn't have her push this too much; in fact, in FOREVER AMBER, they refilmed some scenes to deempahsize her "heaving bosoms" (as per objections by the Legion of Decency). It wasn't until the arrival of Marilyn and, and a bit later, Jayne Mansfield that the studio expoited this more fully.

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In another thread, some people seemed to have taken exception with ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM being the Essential choice for this week, preferring UNFAITHFULLY YOURS over it. Personally, I think AATKOS was a commendable choice, and of the other two films Linda was in yesterday evening, either would have been good choices as well, UY, but especially NO WAY OUT.

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Linda Darnell's life came to an end unexpectedly on April 10, 1965. She had suffered major burns over 90% of her body in a house fire in the early morning hours the previous day. She had been staying with friends in Chicago, and was the only one seriously burned in the fire. I won't go into detail here, as there seem to be several versions on how and what happened. Suffice to say that stories that she the fire started when she fell asleep while smoking, or that when she awoke to the blaze she was so disoriented due to being drunk, that she couldn't find her way out, have pretty much been disproven; they live on as ugly rumors.

 

Anyway, Linda died relatively young; she was 41 years old. She had lost much in the previous several years: husband, home, some of her dignity. But she was slowly pulling the pieces back together, as she was again making movies, filming TV shows, and working onstage. Whether she could have pulled off a full-blown comeback had she lived is debatable; most likely she would have continued doing the same, with an occasional movie or TV role to augment the stage work she so enjoyed.

 

She was not a forgotten star when she died, as had been portrayed. True, she hadn't done much that was widely seen for a few years, but her old movies were then played constantly on TV stations, and she was an occasional talk show guest. A host of magazine articles appeared in the months after her death, both in this country and abroad, chronicling her life and career. As her daughter Lola had discovered the previous summer, when she toured with her mother, Linda Darnell was loved and remembered by the many fans she still had.

 

 

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Linda Darnell, imho, is an good example of "What if?". If only one or a few factors had been different, what would the outcome have been? It wouldn't have taken much to change the resultant career trajectory, as well as how this affected her personal life, and vice versa (or as Billie Dawn said it, "Vice-A, Voice-A". Of course, this speculation is fruitless and frustrating, but it can be done for almost any Hollywood personage.

 

For instance, had Darryl F. Zanuck been more sympathetic towards Linda's career, especially immediately after FOREVER AMBER poised her on the verge of potential superstardom, and maybe given her a few more roles that were either in important pictures, or that were tailored expressly to her strong traits, or that offered her stronger acting opportunities, would her movie career abruptly peter out as quickly as it did within a few years of once she started freelancing? Or might she have soared higher in popularity, to the point where Fox would have gladly re-signed her instead of letting her contract lapse? This, in turn might have made her command a higher salary, both under her contract, as well as in the freelancing mid-50s. She would not have had the chronic and acute financial situation, which caused no end in stress, and forced her to have to accept some offers that she might've more profitably (in the long run) declined. All this in turn, might have kept her less stressed to the point of not drinking as much as she did, which contributed to her prematurely aging looks and weight gain.

 

Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

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Arturo, that was a time when prople drank & smoked; and some to excess. Just look at BOGART, in films I'd watch him take a puff & when he spoke line thereafter I rarely seen smoke being exhaled. I'm a moderate smoker however I seldom puff it all into me. A woman said I smoke like a frenchman; letting most of smoke escape from my mouth. And, Artu ro, I reside in Sherman Oaks. U said U live in the LA area. Are you close by? If so it would be great if we could get together. Just a thought....

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Well like we discussed before Darnell just ran into something like the perfect storm as it relates to her career. Her contact was up at a time studios were facings financial troubles and for reasons know only to studio bosses at other studios no one wanted to sign her to another long term contact.

 

The actress similar to her in age, talent and beauty had signed their longer term contract right before these financial troubles or just had better agents or connections in the industry and thus were able to get work Darnell could of done well with given the chance.

 

Add to this the 'chicken egg' impact of her personal life and sadly she just didn't have a strong a career in the 50s as other in her 'class'.

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FALLEN ANGEL, Otto Preminger's 1945 interesting noir followup to his breakthrough hit of the year before, LAURA, will be on Fox Movie Channel Friday, April 26 at 6 am eastern, 3 am pacific. Starring Alice Faye, Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell, it's backstory is almost as intriguing as what's on the screen.PS-LAURA will be on FMC this Thursday morning.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Apr 22, 2013 10:21 PM

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