Linda Darnell and the American Dream
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 Warm, richly researched life of dark-haired, limpid-eyed Linda Darnell, who made her first picture at 15 playing an adult and seemingly kept her face-in-the-twilight flawlessness fresh forever. Darnell was the daughter of hard-drinking, part-Cherokee Pearl Brown Darnell, who was set like steel on making her daughter a movie star. Even as a child, Darnell was so forbiddingly beautiful that she seemed set aside by nature and had few friends. Mother had her out singing and dancing all over Dallas andthough the child did neither wellwinning prizes largely on sheer looks. A screen test at 15 eventually landed her the lead in Hotel for Women (1939), and her third picture, Star Dust (1940), was autobiographical, about her discovery by Hollywood. Still in her teens, she played against her idol, Tyrone Power, making some of her best films with him while going to school on the Fox lot. Whether this forced bloom was the cause or not, she never had a menstrual period throughout her life, and felt her beauty was a fraud. Her first husband, a 42-year-old cameraman she married at 19, taught her to knock back whiskey and by her early 20s she was an alcoholic, as tough and hard-swearing as her outrageous mother. Her greatest successes were Forever Amber, A Letter to Three Wives, and Preston Sturgess's original Unfaithfully Yours. Her big love was for Joseph L. Manckiewicz, who wrote and directed her best worka six-year affair, although Joe was married, as was Linda. By 31, she'd been cast aside by Hollywood. She spent her last decade in ever more desperate show- biz turns, went broke, never rose above the bottle battle, died in a housefire at 41 just after watching a midnight rerun of Star Dust on TV. Well done, quite believable, in some ways a model celebrity bio in its method, although the writing is not distinguished and any study of Darnell's acting talentslimited though they wereis scanted.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8061-2327-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991


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