Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deceased--Denise Darcel

Denise Darcel
September 8th, 1924 to December 23rd, 2012

Tarzan and the Slave Girl


Vanessa Brown [Jane], Denise Darcel, and Lex Barker

Not exactly a household name but she had a good career in the late 40s to mid 50s and when she left the movie business she continued in theater and even as an ecdysiast such as the famous Noel Toy and Sally Rand. In case you are wondering, an ecdysiast is a Burlesque stripper who performs a [stripping] dance routine set to music. It is more of an art form than the usual grind house strippers and crude stag films whose purpose is to go beyond good taste and indulge in titillation.

Denise Darcel with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Milton Berle

"Denise Darcel, Sultry French Actress, Dies at 87"


Margalit Fox

January 10th, 2012

The New York Times

Denise Darcel, a sultry French actress in Hollywood films of the postwar years who was known for her great beauty, heavy Gallic accent and unmistakably pneumatic figure, died on Dec. 23 in Los Angeles. She was 87.

Her son Craig told The Associated Press that she died from complications of emergency surgery to repair a ruptured aneurysm.

Ms. Darcel’s best-known films include “Battleground” (1949), a World War II picture starring Van Johnson in which she had a small role as a French peasant; “Westward the Women” (1951), in which she starred opposite Robert Taylor as one of a convoy of mail-order brides; and “Vera Cruz” (1954), in which she played a French noblewoman escorted through 19th-century Mexico by Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper.

On Broadway, Ms. Darcel appeared in “Pardon Our French,” a musical revue starring the vaudevillians Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, which opened in 1950 and played 100 performances.

Ms. Darcel, who made no films after the early 1960s, later sang in nightclubs and performed in regional theater and summer stock.

Denise Billecard was born in France in 1924. After a victory in a beauty contest garnered her the title “most beautiful girl in Paris,” she worked as a nightclub singer there before coming to the United States after the war.

During her vogue in the 1950s, American critics were inclined to look more favorably on her face and figure than on her dramatic skills. But the tabloid press made much of her off-screen life, chronicling her marriages and divorces (she had several of each) and the peregrinations of her hemlines and necklines.

In addition to her son Craig, Ms. Darcel’s survivors include another son, Chris.

Her other films include “To the Victor” (1948), “Tarzan and the Slave Girl” (1950), “Young Man With Ideas” (1952), “Flame of Calcutta” (1953) and “Seven Women From Hell” (1961).

On television, she had guest roles on “Naked City” and “Combat!”

In an interview with The New York Times in 1949, before “Battleground” opened, Ms. Darcel demonstrated a keen awareness of the irony that attended her passage to the screen.

“In Paris, I am a singer and glamorous,” she said. “I come to Hollywood and I am a peasant!”

"Denise Darcel obituary"

Actor who cheerfully exploited Hollywood's conception of French glamour


Ronald Bergan

January 13th, 2012

In the 1950s, Denise Darcel, who has died aged 87, profited from Hollywood's "ooh-la-la" conception of young, shapely French womanhood, generally inviting the adjective "sultry" and playing characters called Fifi, Gigi and Lola. In fact, her entire acting career was spent in America, cheerfully exploiting that image.

She was born Denise Billecard in Paris, one of five daughters of a baker and his wife. After studying at the University of Dijon, she returned to Paris, where she won the title of "most beautiful girl in France". Making the most of the publicity, she built up a nightclub act as a dancer and singer.

In 1947, in Paris, she met and married an American army captain, who returned to the US with her. The marriage lasted for less than a year. With her name changed to the easier-to-pronounce Darcel, she landed an uncredited spot in To the Victor (1948), set in postwar Paris, in which she made an impression with a rendering of Edith Piaf's signature song La Vie en Rose. This was followed, in the same year, by her role as a mail-order bride – sporting a beret and raincoat so that we know she is French – in Thunder in the Pines, causing two lumberjack friends (pre-Superman George Reeves and post-Dick Tracy Ralph Byrd) to fall out over her.

In her most prestigious film, William Wellman's Battleground (1949), a grimly frank second world war drama, Darcel is a Belgian woman who welcomes a platoon of GIs into her home. Despite being presented unglamorously, reflecting the realism of the film, she elicits wild whoops and wolf whistles from the soldiers and has a brief romance with a rifleman, played by Van Johnson.

At the same time, she showed a flair for comedy on Broadway, as a stooge to the zany comedians Olsen and Johnson in Pardon Our French (1950). On screen, Darcel considerably enlivened Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950), as a sarong-wearing nurse who makes a play for the monosyllabic muscular hero (Lex Barker), but has to tangle, literally, with Jane (Vanessa Brown).

Darcel then got top billing for the first time, in Wellman's Westward the Women (1951), co-starring Robert Taylor. As a prostitute looking for a new life in 1851 California, she is the most determined and sexiest of the 140 women from Chicago trekking by wagon train across the country to become brides for lonely men. A highlight is Darcel charmingly singing the traditional 17th-century French song Aupr├Ęs de Ma Blonde in the middle of the desert.

She sang two songs in Mitchell Leisen's Young Man With Ideas (1952) – I Don't Know Why, in a nightclub, and Amour Cherie, in her apartment – both in order to seduce a diffident, happily married lawyer Glenn Ford, whom she suspects of being a talent scout. "I'm so 'appy to see you. My 'eart goes boom, boom, boom," she tells him.

Her first film as a US citizen was the wonderfully lighthearted MGM musical Dangerous When Wet (1953), in which Darcel was a rival to "America's Mermaid", Esther Williams, in a cross-channel swimming contest, but which really came down to "who looks better in a swimsuit?"

The biggest selling point of Robert Aldrich's Vera Cruz (1954), set in 1860s Mexico, was the equal top billing of the contrasting stars Gary Cooper, as a laconic, unsmiling southern colonel, and Burt Lancaster, as a sweet-talking, grinning horse thief, though Darcel held her own as a treacherous French countess. "You're American, but at heart you're French," she tells Lancaster as she prepares to kiss him.

Darcel left movies for six years after Vera Cruz, living off the maintenance from her second husband, the millionaire and Washington property dealer Peter Crosby, whom she divorced in 1951. In 1958, she recorded an album of songs, Banned in Boston, which included her versions of I'm in the Mood for Love, Love for Sale and My Man, during which she occasionally reverted to French lyrics.

Darcel made her last film appearance in Seven Women from Hell (1961), as one of a group of female prisoners of the Japanese in the Philippines during the second world war. She then appeared as a stripper at various theatres before returning to the cabaret circuit, while sometimes working as a dealer at a Las Vegas casino. In recent years, Darcel appeared in productions of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, in 1991 in Los Angeles, where she lived, and in 1995, in Houston and Seattle.

Darcel's fourth husband, George Simpson, died in 2003. She is survived by two sons, Chris and Craig.

Denise Darcel [Wikipedia]

Ecdysiast samples...

Noel Toy

Sally Rand's bubble dance from Sunset Murder Case [1938].

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