Linda Darnell gets her hair washed

What it is:

Photo negative measuring 2.25 x 2.25 inches, with a contemporary print of the image.

What I know about it:

The dealer who sold it to me labeled it DARNELL, Linda / having her hair washed circa 1943.  More on that below.


I have collected a variety of things over the years (I keep telling myself I’m not a hoarder, I’m an archivist, though some might scoff), and sometimes my collections overlap.  For instance, some of the CDVs I’ve posted in this blog with revenue stamps on the backs might just as easily be put in my stamp collection as in this vintage photo collection.  Here’s an example of where my vintage photo collection overlaps with my Linda Darnell collection.  (Why Linda Darnell?  Long story.  The short version is that these items were related to a project I never ended up doing.  But once my collecting obsession gets hooked on something, it takes on a life of its own.)  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get lazy and start posting old movie stills on this blog.  That would be a different blog.  But I thought this one might be fun to post here for two reasons.  First, I own the negative!  (Just a simple eBay purchase.)  And second, even though it’s obviously staged for the cameras, it’s more candid than much of what came out of Hollywood’s publicity departments.  And since this is a blog that partly looks at photos as a way of peeking into different times and places, I think this one holds up as an excellent example of a very specific time and place in American life.  A movie star being put together!  Plus all the vintage touches in the photo, from the strand of pearls on the hairstylist to the period equipment.  Linda Darnell, if you haven’t heard of her, was a movie star most famous and popular during the 1940s and early 1950s.  Better known for her beauty than talent, she nonetheless turned in some creditable performances and appeared in some prestigious movies.  (She died at age 41 in 1965 of burns from a house fire.)  Look at this photo and you can see a big part of what made her a star.  Her face is huge!  Stunningly beautiful and huge!  Compare her face to that of the hairstylist, who is perfectly respectable in appearance.  Linda’s face has the sort of outsized beauty that makes your eyes go right to her when she’s on the screen.  I love the way even this unglamorous photo shows that.  As for the date, if the dealer is correct and this is 1943, then that would mean that Linda is around age 20 here.  She tended to look a little more mature than she was, but I would have guessed a little older.  I noticed that the print the dealer made doesn’t capture the entire image in the negative, and that one thing cropped out appears to be a mixing bowl of hair dye.  Is she not just getting her hair washed and styled, but also dyed?  She famously had her hair dyed a blonder color to make Forever Amber.  Dying the famous brunette’s hair blonde might be an occasion worthy of arranging some publicity shots.  If that’s what’s happening here, then the photo would  be from 1946.

4 comments on “Linda Darnell gets her hair washed”

  1. I probably saw a movie or two she did while I was a kid, but have no memory of that. She was a looker. What an awful way to die. I don’t imagine she deserved that.

    • Once she was on my radar, I started to notice her everywhere, but she definitely isn’t as well known today. I agree, an awful way to die. No, she certainly didn’t deserve that.

  2. What a find and what a keeper! Do you know if this photo appeared in one of the movie magazines of the day? I would love to see more photos from your Darnell collection! She may have been known more for her beauty than her talent, but I must say that she was much more talented than any of the silly young “actresses” in movies today!

    • Glad you like it! I assume it was intended for a fan magazine, or a more general photo magazine like “Life”, but I have no idea if it was ever published.

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