Linda Darnell was certainly one of the most beautiful women to hit Hollywood, but when she first came on the scene, she was just a girl. This Biography episode covers the actress' tragic life, using home movies, film clips, and interviews with family, friends, and costars.
Linda Darnell's story is compelling and quite sad: Chaotic home, absent father, pushy stage mother, and a Hollywood contract at 14 after a series of beauty pageants. When Zanuck found out her age, he sent her back home, only to sign her again while she was still a teen, when he realized that RKO was going to give her a contract. She was put into adult roles immediately and soon became a huge success in Stardust, The Mark of Zorro, Blood and Sand, and many others. When she married cinematographer Peverell Marley, many years her senior, Zanuck fired him and put Linda on suspension because she wasn't a sweet virgin anymore. She came back, and when she did, she was hotter than ever as a sultry beauty, and some of her best films followed: Unfaithfully Yours, Letter to Three Wives, My Darling Clementine, No Way Out, etc. But a volatile marriage, alcohol, bad investments, and a devastating affair with Joseph Mankiewicz left her bloated and broke. Bad marriages and a bad nightclub act followed.
Stage work brought Linda the confidence she had lost and also reconciled her with her adopted daughter Lola, and when she made her first film in 7 years, the offers started pouring in. Unfortunately, Linda's third go in the movies was not to be. After watching Stardust at her former secretary's house in Chicago, the house caught fire, and Linda died after suffering burns on 90% of her body. She died beautiful, excited about the future, and with the memory of the earlier teen Linda with her whole life ahead of her.
This is truly a heartbreaking story, very well told, and one not to miss.
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