Hollywood Beauty, Linda Darnell and the American Dream

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Lately, many of us (thanks to reality TV) now believe the American Dream (whatever that is) can be ours by winning a singing or dance contest or picking the right Bachelor or storage locker full of antiques. Suddenly, as TV confirms, we’re rich or famous or hopefully both.  It looks so easy now, doesn’t it? Well, maybe that’s how it seems today, as so much reality TV is, in reality,  scripted. But the route to the American Dream was much rockier in the 1930s and ’40s, when young girls dreamed of  movie stardom in Hollywood – a place, for some, that is still the epitome of greatness.

Hollywood Beauty, is the biography of Linda Darnell, the late, ill-fated film star of the 1940s. It is surely as riveting and striking as any book of fiction I’ve read of late. Here, the truth is Stronger than fiction, tracking the life of “a naive teenager from a dysfunctional middle-class family” as she lands in Hollywood during its glory days and big studio star-making machines.Image

Darnell’s life is not strictly a rags to riches story. As it unfolds, it becomes a cautionary tale about Hollywood’s single-minded focus on fame, and how quickly the star-makers can build you up and tear you down, seemingly at will. This is how dreams become nightmares.

And, speaking of nightmares, although little is made of it in this book, shortly before she died at the age of 41, Darnell told her brother about a scary dream she had about dying in a fire. Days later, she was dead, the result of extensive burns suffered in an accidental fire at a friend’s home.

Linda Darnell’s most famous movies can still be seen, and they include Star Dust (1940), Blood and Sand (1941)  Forever Amber (1947) and A Letter to Three Wives (1949). She also appeared on TV and on stage in the 1950s and ’60s. Her biography was written by Ronald L. Davis, 1991. The copy below is a First Edition.Image

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