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Linda Darnell (October 16, 1923 – April 10, 1965) was an American film actress.

Darnell was a model as a child, and progressed to theater and film acting as an adolescent. She made her first film in 1939, and appeared in supporting roles in films for 20th Century Fox. She played the lead role in Forever Amber (1947), and received positive reviews for her work in Unfaithfully Yours (1948) and A Letter to Three Wives (1949). Although she continued acting throughout the 1950s, she never again achieved the same success.

Early life and career

Born Monetta Eloyse Darnell in Dallasmarker, Texasmarker, as one of five children, to Calvin Darnell and Pearl Brown, Darnell was a model by the age of 11, and was acting on the stage by the age of 13. She was chosen by a talent scout to go to Hollywood, and by age 15, she was signed to a contract at 20th Century Fox. She featured in her first film Hotel for Women in 1939, followed by roles in The Mark of Zorro, Blood and Sand, Hangover Square and My Darling Clementine. In 1943, she was cast, uncredited, as the Virgin Mary in The Song of Bernadette.

In 1947, Darnell won the starring role in the highly anticipated movie Forever Amber, based on a bestselling historical novel that was denounced as being immoral at that time. The character, Amber, was so named because of her hair color, and this is the only major film in which Darnell — normally known for her raven hair and somewhat Latin looks — appears as a redhead. Publicity at the time compared the novel Forever Amber to Gone with the Wind. The search for the actress to portray Amber, a beauty who uses men to make her fortune in 17th-century Englandmarker, was modeled on the extensive process that led to the casting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. But the film did not live up to its hype.

The following year, Darnell portrayed Daphne de Carter in the Preston Sturges' comedy Unfaithfully Yours (1948), also starring Rex Harrison, and as one of the three wives in the comedy/drama A Letter to Three Wives (1949). Darnell's hard-edged performance in the latter won her the best reviews of her career. She was widely tipped to win an Academy Award nomination for this part, but, when this did not happen, her career began to wane. Aside from her starring role opposite Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier in the groundbreaking No Way Out (1950), her later films were rarely noteworthy, and her appearances were increasingly sporadic thereafter. Further hampering Darnell's career was the actress's alcoholism and weight gain. Darnell's last work as an actress was in a stage production in Atlantamarker in early 1965.

Personal life and death

Darnell was married to cameraman J. Peverell Marley (1943-1952), brewery heir Philip Leibmann (1954-55), and pilot Merle Roy Robertson (1957-1963). Darnell and her first husband adopted a daughter, Charlotte Mildred "Lola" Marley, the actress's only child.

Darnell died on April 10, 1965, at age 41, from burns she received in a house fire in Glenview, Illinoismarker. She had been staying there with friends while preparing for a stage role in the Chicagomarker area. Her 1940 film, Star Dust, had played on television the night of the fire, and it was widely reported that Darnell had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette while watching it. But biographer Ronald L. Davis, in his book Hollywood Beauty, wrote that there was no evidence this was true, or that Darnell was in any way responsible for the blaze. By his account, Darnell was burned over 90 percent of her body because she ran into a burning area trying to save her friend's child, not knowing that the young girl had already escaped.

Her ashes are interred at the Union Hill Cemetery, Chester County, Pennsylvania, in the family plot of her son-in-law. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Linda Darnell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 1631 Vine Street.

Filmography

Film
Year Film Role Notes
1939 Day-Time Wife Jane Norton
1940 Star Dust Carolyn Sayres
1940 Brigham Young Zina Webb - The Outsider Alternative title: Brigham Young: Frontiersman
1940 The Mark of Zorro Lolita Quintero
1941 Blood and Sand Carmen Espinosa
1941 Rise and Shine Louise Murray
1942 The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe Virginia Clemm
1943 City Without Men Nancy Johnson Alternative title: Prison Farm
1944 Buffalo Bill Dawn Starlight
1944 It Happened Tomorrow Sylvia Smith/Sylvia Stevens
1944 Sweet and Low-Down Trudy Wilson
1945 Hangover Square Netta Longdon
1945 Fallen Angel Stella
1946 Anna and the King of Siam Tuptim
1946 Centennial Summer Edith Rogers
1946 My Darling Clementine Chihuahua
1947 Forever Amber Amber St. Clair
1948 Unfaithfully Yours Daphne De Carter
1949 A Letter to Three Wives Lora Mae Hollingsway
1949 Slattery's Hurricane Mrs. Aggie Hobson
1950 Two Flags West Elena Kenniston
1950 No Way Out Edie Johnson
1951 The 13th Letter Denise Turner
1951 The Guy Who Came Back Dee Shane
1952 Saturday Island Lt. Elizabeth Smythe
1952 Blackbeard the Pirate Edwina Mansfield
1953 Second Chance Clare Shepperd, alias Clare Sinclair
1954 This Is My Love Vida Dove
1955 It Happens in Roma Renata Adorni Alternative title: The Last Five Minutes
1956 Dakota Incident Amy Clarke
1957 Zero Hour! Ellen Stryker
1965 Black Spurs Sadie
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1956 The 20th Century Fox Hour Lily Martyn 1 episode
Screen Director's Playhouse Ellen 1 episode
1958 Playhouse 90 Meg Lyttleton 1 episode
Climax! Helen Randall 1 episode
Wagon Train Dora Gray Fogelberry 2 episodes
1959 77 Sunset Strip Zina Felice 1 episode
1964 Burke's Law Monica Crenshaw 1 episode


References

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