Only a real movie buff would remember her name today, but in the forties everyone knew Linda Darnell. Her beauty and talent made her one of the top female stars at Twentieth Century-Fox.

Sadly, her personal life was less successful than her professional one. Born in 1923, she was pushed to perform from infancy by an obsessive stage mother from hell.

Fox first showed interest in 1937, until they learned that Linda was only 14. It would take two more years before the studio agreed to sign her, and she was playing romantic roles at 17.

Barely a decade later, her movie career was on the wane. She was reduced to doing regional theater when she was barely thirty.

Linda could not bear children, and had three unsuccessful marriages. She battled alcoholism. She went broke after several business managers absconded with funds. The married director Joseph L. Mankewicz became the love of her life, but would not leave his wife for her.

There were few bright spots.

Yet in the face of all this bad fortune, the actress once known as “the girl with the perfect face” never gave up. In 1964, it seemed like Linda was on the verge of a comeback in films.

Then tragedy struck once more: on the evening of April 9th, 1965, Linda was visiting friends in Chicago, and the house where she was staying caught fire. She was trapped inside. Linda died of her burns thirteen hours later. It was an agonizing end to a short life that had already brought too much pain.

Like too many other stars, Linda Darnell seemed happiest and most fulfilled in front of the camera. And the camera loved her right back, as the photos below attest.

Oh, and by the way, we loved her too.

A stunning Linda, just starting out.

With frequent co-star Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro.” 

The smile that enchanted us all.

A statuesque pose.


In John Ford's My Darling Clementine,”  one of her best pictures.

Saucy and scrappy.

Could you refuse her anything?

Channeling Cleopatra.

Look who we found in the hayloft!

With her hair up, men were up for anything.

Linda in A Letter to Three Wives, directed by the love of her life, Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Play me a tune, honey.

Trying out a blonde look, but we prefer the raven-haired Linda.

No wonder she stole our hearts.

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