Monetta Eloyse Darnell, who would later become known professionally as Linda Darnell, was born on October 16, 1923 in Dallas, Texas. One of six children (two of whom were half-siblings), Monetta’s mother had bigger dreams for her than the other children and was sure she had the potential to make it in show business.
By the time she reached her teens, Darnell was working as a model and actress, often performing in beauty pageants. Her goal was to act on the stage, but when she was discovered by a talent scout and invited to Hollywood for a screen test, she set her sights on the big screen.
After a few bumps in the road, Darnell was signed to a Fox contract by the end of the ’30s, and her career began with 1939’s Hotel for Women.
Darnell’s home life during her childhood was tumultuous, and she would continue to experience personal struggles throughout her career until she passed away at only 41 years of age. But she proved to be quite a talented actress, and her talent continues to be appreciated by classic film fans.
Today, TMP celebrates Linda Darnell on what would have been her 90th birthday. The following are four of my favorite of Linda’s films/performances!
Blood and Sand (1941)
Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth and Tyrone Power — what a cast! This film won an Oscar for best color cinematography and was also nominated for its art direction, and rightfully so. It’s a beautiful film, visually. This remake of a 1922 Rudolph Valentino film has Power taking over Valentino’s role. Darnell and Hayworth compete for Power’s affections. As pretty as it is, I’ve never considered this film a favorite, but I do think that Darnell gives one of her best performances here. She evokes a lot of sympathy for her character.
Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
I reviewed this film with a 4/5 rating last year. Darnell’s performance is perfect here because she gives multiple sides to the character. On one hand, she seems like a sweet and loyal wife. On the other hand, she has a less-innocent quality of charm and seductiveness that makes the audience question whether her husband’s paranoia over her faithfulness is warranted. Preston Struges’ original screenplay is the film’s strongest asset, but it contains a number of great performances and Linda’s is one of them.
A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
Another Oscar winner from Darnell’s filmography, A Letter to Three Wives took home awards for directing and screenwriting (Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s work on both counts), and was nominated for best picture. Darnell’s role is that of Lora Mae Hollingsway, a woman who married her boss. Lora Mae and two other women (Ann Sothern and Jeanne Crain) receive a letter addressed to them from a woman named Addie, who says she’s just left town with one of their husbands. Lora Mae’s marriage is an unhappy one, and though all of the film’s couples are interesting to watch, Darnell and Paul Douglas are the most fascinating as the mismatched Hollingsways.
No Way Out (1950)
Yet another fantastic film made by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and co., No Way Out follows a black doctor (Sid Poitier) who must treat two highly bigoted robbery suspects. Darnell’s character is Edie, the wife of one of the robbery suspects. Poitier and Richard Widmark are the real focus of the film, but Darnell’s role is an interesting one, as she seems incredibly conflicted when it comes to the issue of race relations. The character’s changing perspectives offer a microcosm of the complicated, often perplexed attitudes with which Americans regarded race during the period in which the film was produced.