Darnell lit up the screens with over 50 films including The Mark of Zorro, Anne and the King of Siam (where one character was burned at the stake) and Forever Amber in which she portrayed a survivor of the great London Fire. Darnell supposedly had a lifelong fear of dying in a fire.
According to documentation, she lived on Woodman Avenue in Sherman Oaks. No doubt her building
was destroyed, because this monstrosity exists at the address.
I do have this fantasy about Darnell in all her scorching
glamour, parking her car here, and sobbing quietly as she glided through this
miserable entrance, weeping her way up these
vile stairs, but not before picking up her Pennysaver coupons in this
hideously lowbrow mailbox.
In April of 1965, the incandescent Linda was lighting up the stage in a play in Skokie Illinois, just outside of
Chicago. Meanwhile she was pinching pennies and staying with her former personal secretary in the nearby Glenview, in this little
My friend Bun drove me there and as we approached the Darnell
unit, I noticed a man tending to his garden nearby. Usually I wait
in my car for people to leave, then take pictures, but something told me
this guy would be okay. I approached him directly and told him I was doing some research on an actress that died here.
He said, "Linda Darnell! You came to the right place. I was here that
night!" Jackpot. Ray is my new best friend.
He invited us in and told me the story of that night.
According to legend, late in the night of April 10, 1965, the fiery Darnell stayed up late to watch her movie Stardust on television in the living room, on the ground floor of
this home. She must have left a cigarette burning and after she retired to the bedroom upstairs,
it began to smolder in the living room. This was about 5am.
Fire broke out and the other two inhabitants of the house were able to escape from upstairs windows in the back of the unit, however Darnell soaked a
GORGEOUS chenille bedspread in water and went downstairs for some reasons unknown to me
(or any other source I've found) until I met Ray.
Ray told me the layout of his home was the same as the one Darnell was staying.
He allowed me to take
pictures in his house. He told me that a neighbor boy noticed the blaze, took a snow shovel to the back door to rescue them, thus allowing in the oxygen the fire needed to grow, thus inadvertently killing Linda
Darnell (and he got 50 stitches from the broken glass).
She was found alive, at the base of
According to Ray, she was taken away in an ambulance to the Skokie Hospital (She was cussing up a
storm when they took her away (atta girl)) and eventually transferred to Cook County Hospital in Chicago
(where the show ER is based) where they have a reputable burn unit.
She ended up with 3rd degree burns over 85 % of her
body, so there was nary a flicker of hope.
She died at 2:20pm the next day. She was 41 years old.
There was a memorial service for her at the Glenview Community Church and about 100 people
attended. 100 more stood outside the church.
She is buried in Pennsylvania.