Linda Darnell

  1. Dorris Bowdon,  Drums Along The Mohawk, 1938.       The Miss Memphis 1937, with two rs  and 16 years, arrived at Fox with Darnell. Head Fox Darryl Zanuck was so high on Linda’s debut  (Hotel For Women, 1938) that he expensively pulled her from  John Ford’s settlers’ saga to make her Tyrone Power’s Daytime Wife, and gave Dorris to Ford – she  had,  meantime, married top scenarist Nunnally Johnson, 18 years her senior, and stayed wed up to his death 36 years later.
  2. Dorothy Lamour, Johnny Apollo, 1939.      Although only 15 at the time, Darnell posed as being 17, was listed as 19 on the Fox contract books and really fancied Tyrone Power. Darryl Zanuck didn’t want her in Power’s boxing saga. “It’s a man’s part,” she understood, “the girl’s role is only incidenta.,” Alice Faye also lost out as Lamour was loaned from Paramount.  “Yeah you can have her if we can have Don Ameche!”  (Darnell and Lamour co-starred in the following years’ Chad Hanna). Zanuck had his own plans for Linda (sex, included) and matched her with Power in three films: Daytime Wife, Brigham Young, The Mark of Zorro, Blood and Sand.   But not…
  3. Lynn Bari, Sun Valley Serenade, 1940.       Or Passport to Life when Fox first announced Darnell and Tyrone Power as the lovers – the singer and pianist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, no less – in Sonja Henie’s favourite icecapade. Bari’s fella was John Payne“At first, everything was like a fairy tale,” said Linda. “Overnight, I was a movie star… You waltz through a role, and everywhere you hear that you’re beautiful and lovely, a natural-born actress… [But then], right under your very nose someone else is brought in for that prize part you wanted so terribly.” Or put it another way. She fought off Darryl Zanuck’s advances… and paid the price with a run of trivial roles. Before being allowed such winners as Anna and the King of Siam, My Darling Clementime, Forever Amber, Hanover Square, etc. 
  4. Anne Baxter, Swamp Water, 1941.         Darnell was livid at being replaced as Julie in Jean Renoir’s first US film since fleeing his Nazi-occupied France. As usual, Hollywood had scant respect for anyone who was better than Hollywood. Head Fox Darryl F Zanuck dared complain that the master réalisateur of La Grande Illusion, La bête humaine La règle du jeu – revered as the greatest film-maker by Chaplin and Welles – was too slow!! He was fired, then asked to stay. Soon as the film was finished, Renoir quit Fox. “He’s not one of us,” said DFZ. Dissolve. On the Oscar night of April 8, 1975, Renoir received an honorary Academy Award for his career. One of his stars, Ingrid Bergman, picked it up for him. I know because I was there.
  5. Betty Grable, Song of the Islands, 1941. Once Joan Davis and Alice Faye were bypassed (in ’37 and ’38), it was always going to be Betty Grable as Eileen. Although for a wee while, Darnell was in the cat bird seat for the musical on the tropical isle of Ahmi-Oni.
  6. Ann Rutherford, Orchestra Wives, 1942.   “My first seven years in Hollywood were a series of discouraging struggles for me…”  Zanuck kept dumping her in garbage – The Loves of Edgar Allen Poe!!! Until he understood (but never admitted) his error and replaced her after a  dozen days with Rutherford. Maureen O’Hara was also passed over for marrying into the Gene Morrison band… played by… the Glenn Miller band. 
  7. Betty Grable, Pin Up Girl, 1943.       It was a Fox film. It was made during WWII.  So who else could the title role  go to but the US forces’ favourite  pin-up. Meanwhile on April 18, 1943, at age 19, Darnell eloped with 42-year-old cinematographer (134 credits)  Peverell Marley   in Las Vegas.
  8. Alice Faye, The Gang’s All Here, 1943. She escaped the Busby Berkeley musical by eloping with  cinematographer P Peverfell Marley. Zanuck was furious and  he put her under suspension.
  9. Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette, 1943.   Darnell, Mary Anderson, Anne Baxter, Lillian Gish,  Beatrice Pearson, Ruth Quigley, Gene Tierney, Teresa Wright were all in the frame for the French girl who had a vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes in 1858. On December 9, 1942, Jones won “the plum role of the year” – and Darnell became her vision.  A controversial choice As her reputation was hot, to say the least. She was also pregnant!  Immediately, Franz Werfel, author of book being filmed, threatened to remove his name and support from the project. Head Fox Darryl Zanuck said, OK,  an unknown would have the role. He lied. Darnell was The Lady. In a bright light. Making her anonymous. 
  10. Joan Blondell, Don Juan Quilligan, 1944.   Flashing her showgirl  legs  in The Great John L (she actually had top billing in the boxer’s biopic!) must have turned Zanuck on because he suddenly, readily agreed to her desire to film Patrick (Gaslight) Hamilton’s Hanover Square novel.  It was such a success that DFZ  also relented and took her out of this loopy William Bendix comedy.  

  11. Cathy Downs, My Darling Clementine, 1945.  Baxter, Vanessa Brown,  Jeanne Crain and Linda Darnell  were shoo-ins for the girl Doc Holliday left in Georgia when he went West in 1873 and took over Tombstone.  No, no, no cried head Fox Darryl F Zanuck. Their fans will be upset because Clementine is a small role and he gave John Ford a total unknown… previously credited as Clothes Model, Girl on Carousel and Miss Cream Puff, etc.   Clementine Carter is not as real as Holliday and Wyatt Earp (who advised Ford on Western gun-play). She was based on Doc’s lovin’ cousin, Mattie, who gave up men after Doc and became a nun. Linda was made Doc’s hooker-lover, Chihuahua. Downs won 45 other screen roles. Nothing memorable.

  12. Jean Peters, Captain From Castille, 1947.       Peters won her screen debut due to a Fox test she made one week before shooting started on the Tyrone Power swashbuckler. She replaced Linda Dartnell, suddenly switched to rescuing Forever Amber from the inexperienced UK import, Peggy Cummins.  Peters’ second husband, 1957-1971,  was Howard Hughes,  no less. Not that you knew it from  her. “My life with  Howard Hughes,” she decreed in 1972, “was and shall remain a matter on which I will have no comment.” Just plenty of money.

  13. Jeanne Crain, Pinky, 1948.    
    The year is important… Almost makes what follows undestandable. Almost… Cid Ricketts Sumner’s book was about a black nurse passing for white and falling for a white doctor. Perfect for Dorothy Dandridge who auditioned or Lena Horne who pushed hard for the rôle. No, no, said the Fox suits, the great US public would not stand (or pay) for inter-racial love scenes. So they went with a white actress passing for a black nurse passing for white… Stupido!   Darryl F Zanuck also thwarted Darnell’s hopes by saying it was too much like her Forever Amber which was far from being about a black nurse passing for white and falling for a white doctor. As a favour to DFZ, Elia Kazan agreed to take over the film – script unseen – from John Ford, fired for being unable to work with veteran black actress Ethel Waters (Oscar-nominated for her performance). Waters was not Kazan’s problem. That was Crain. “A good soul, a pretty girl, obedient, gentle, yielding and as, I suspected, catechism schooled. She defined the word ‘ingenue,’ yet had four children, was to have two more – conceived I wasn’t sure how for she gave the impression of being forever 15 and intact… There were days when I longed for a bitch!”

  14. Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1948.  Cinemperor Cecil B DeMille’s 1935 plan had been had Henry Wilcoxon with Joan Crawford, Larraine Day, Dolores Del Rio, Paulette Goddard, Jane Greer or Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious.  He sought a mix of Vivien Leigh, Jean Simmons and “a generous touch of Lana Turner” from among… Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Rhonda Fleming (the Queen of Babylon, 1954), Ava Gardner, Greer Garson (Mrs Miniver!!), Susan Hayward (1951’s Bathsheba), Rita Hayworth (the future Salome), Jennifer Jones (St Bernadette in 1943), Patricia Neal, Maureen O’Hara, Nancy Olson (too demure), Jean Peters, Ruth Roman, Gail Russell, Ann Sheridan, Gene Tierney… even such surprises as comical LucIlle Ball (!) and song ‘n’ dancer Betty Hutton.  Plus the Dominican Maria Montez (perfect!), Italian Alida Valli and two Swedes: Viveca Lindfors and Marta Toren.  But CB had already fancied Lamarr for his unmade epic about the Jewish queen Esther (played by Joan Collins in 1960).  Here’s a Samson review signed Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”  
  15. Paulette Goddard, Anna Lucasta, 1949.  Future movie scenarist and producer Philip Yordan wrote his play about a Polish family in 1936 – and could never get it produced until it staged by the American Negro Theater in the basement of the 135th St. Library in Harlem with an a Black cast.. Five years on, the family became Polish again  with  Linda Darnell, Susan Hayward and Rita Hayworth battling for the teenage  Anna – won by Godard at 39… Variety said, as only Variety could, it was “no bowl of wheaties for the kiddies.” Eartha Kitt headed the Black movie in 1958 opposite Sammy Davis Jr.’s first  Dramatic role. Both stars had helped finance e the production
  16. Micheline Presle, An American Guerrilla in the Philippines, 1949.       Legal problems in 1945 over  portraying the Filipino wife of the  story’s true  hero delayed production. Fox made the wife American for Darnell…  ultimately French, with poor Presle having to be re-billed, phonetically, as Micheline  Prelle.   She was wed to LA producer William Marshall, former husband  of another  French cinema icon, Michèle Morgan.
  17. Gene Tierney, Secret of Convict Lake, 1950.       For the weak Western opus, Darnell and Dana Andrews were churned into Tierney and Glenn Ford. The horses remained the same.
  18. Evelyn Keyes, 99 River Street, 1952.   Producer Edward Small (terrible name for a producer – a Small production!) changed his mind about having one Linda playing another Linda and signed up Keyes for John Payne’s ex trying to get him off a murder rap in another superior B from Payne and director Phil Karlson. Payne was the Hollywoodian who tried to be James Bond…007 years before Sean Connery was chosen.
  19. Ava Gardner, The Barefoot Contessa, 1953.        Linda  was Forever Amber.  Never Maria Vargas.
  20. Yvonne De Carlo, The Ten Commandments, 1954.
  21. Joanne Dru, Drango, 1956.     Darnell was ill. Or so she said in quitting the debut offering from Earlmar Productions, formed by Major Clint Drago himself (Jeff Chandler) and his (and Lee Marvin’s) agent, Meyer Mishkin. In truth Darnell was Fast-forwarding into (weighty) obscurity.
  22. Jayne Mansfield, The Wayward Bus, 1957.  When Marilyn Monroe , so  cruelly scorned by her studio, astounded us in Bus Stop, Fox dusted down John Steinbeck’s busload of Chaucerian passengers to do the same for Jayne Mansfield. (Hah!).   Darnell would have been  stag-party babe Incidentally, Marilyn’s bus driver, Robert Bray, turned up here as a chopper pilot hovering around Collins. (He then blew his career by refusing South Pacific).


 Birth year: 1921Death year: 1965Other name: Casting Calls:  22