[Ronald L. Davis]Hollywood Beauty Linda Darnell and the American ...

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At fifteen, Linda Darnell left her Texas home and normal adolescence to live the Hollywood dream promoted by fan magazine and studio publicity offices. She appeared in dozens of films and won international acclaim for Blood and Sand (playing opposite Tyrone Power), Forever Amber, A Letter to Three Wives, and the original version of Unfaithfully Yours.

Driven by a stage mother to become rich and Famous, but unable to cope with the career she had longed for as a child, Darnell soon was caught in a downward spiral of drinking, failed marriages, and exploitive relationships. By her early twenties she was an alcoholic, hardened by a life in which beautiful women were chattel, and by the time of her death at age forty- one, she was struggling for recognition in the industry that once had called her its "glory girl.”

Hollywood Beauty begins in the Southwest during the Depression, when Pearl Darnell became obsessed by the glitter of the movie world that would dominate her children’s lives. We follow Linda’s path from her Texas childhood and first public success–during the state centennial, in 1936–through her contract work with Twentieth Century-Fox in the heyday of the big-studio system. Film historian Ronald L. Davis documents Darnell’s discovery and marriages, the adoption of her daughter, the marking of many well-known films, and her emotional difficulties, leading up to her tragic death by fire.

This is the story of a native teenager from a dysfunctional middle-class family thrust into the golden age of Hollywood. Hollywood Beauty examines America’s public worship of movie stars and superficial success–its motives and consequences–and the addiction to escapism that this worship represents.

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (31 July 1991)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0806123273
ISBN-13: 978-0806123271

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Wonderful 24 December 1998
By A Customer -
Ronald L.Davis' study of the beautiful 'Fox Girl', Linda Darnell is one written with great kindness and respect to this most wonderful lady. This book does not delve into the trash and gossip that often is cruelly and unnecessarily found in film star biographies. Davis looks at Linda with a caring pen and writes about her fairly. Although he writes about her personal troubles he does so gently with heart and understanding. He spent many hours interviewing her daughter Charlotte, her sisters Undeen and Monte, her brother Cal and numerous friends. This helps to give the book a personal feel that is not found in those written from archives and second hand news. I adored Linda before reading this book and when I finished he cemented my adoration of the Lady forever.

The Curse of Beauty 5 February 2002
By Ilona Novotny -
I always liked Linda Darnell. My mother had told me about her when I was in my early teens, saw some of her films, and was quite taken by her. She wasn't a great actress, but she certainly wasn't a bad one, either. But when you look like that, who cares? Linda, born Monetta Eloyse Darnell in Texas, was blessed, or cursed, with a strikingly beautiful face. Pushed by her volatile, ambitious mother, Linda was signed to a contract at 20th Century Fox at the age of 15. Touted as Fox's "Glory Girl", she was featured in several films as a decorative brunette. With her lovely "Latin" looks (her grandfather actually was part Cherokee) and voluptuous figure, she adorned the screen in films such as "The Mask of Zorro" and "Blood and Sand", playing "good girls". When her box-office appeal started to wane, she was still barely over 20 years old. Her personal problems began to mount, dealing with her overbearing mother, a mounting drinking problem that began when she was married to her first husband, (who was some twenty-odd years older), and the fact that she could not bear children. Ms. Darnell's career picked up, however, when she started playing gorgeous "bad girls" in films such as "Fallen Angel", "Hangover Square", and the overblown costume epic "Forever Amber", in which she played an upwardly mobile woman of ill repute. Her best role, as the golddigger with a tender heart in Joseph Mankiewicz's "A Letter to Three Wives", came in 1949, but from then on it was pretty much downhill. Ms. Darnell's personal life became a series of unhappy marriages, exploitative relationships, a spotty career, alcoholism, and ultimately ended in a spectacularly awful way: she was horribly burned in a house fire in 1965, with 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 90% of her body,lingered for about 33 hours, and died, aged 41.
The book is a quick, albeit depressing read. Ronald Davis, also a native Texan, writes with compassion for his subject. Several interviews with her siblings, friends, and adopted daughter give a sympathetic portrayal of the "Fallen Angel". To put it in a nutshell, Ms. Darnell wasn't tough enough to handle the ups and downs of show business. Her tale isn't the first nor the last about the cruel world of showbiz, but it just seems even more depressing, when one thinks of the beauty with the face of a Madonna, going downhill at such a young age, and dying so horribly. I may add that there are eerie foreshadowings of her demise in three of her best known films. In "Hangover Square", she is strangled by Laird Cregar, who places her body on a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Day; in "Anna and the King of Siam", Linda, playing the runaway concubine Tuptim, is burned at the stake; and in "Forever Amber", she bears witness to the Great Fire of London. Creepy, isn't it?
Just a word of warning: Don't read this book if you're depressed!


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