Joe keeps telling Frank to write about STARS! But Frank can’t help himself. Periodically he needs a Hollywood ‘bad girl’ fix, and today seems like a good time for one.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here to indulge Frank’s interest in marginally talented actresses who live large, expensively and always with a passionate interest in having fun. (Actors, by the way, are not exempt. Beware. Frank is planning a Tab Hunter monograph.)
Hollywood was crawling with ‘bad girls’ in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, and many were big stars. Could anyone top Lana Turner in this department? One favorite on the low rent side is Barbara Payton, the sometime actress in the late Forties and early Fifties and full-time seducer who got Franchot Tone’s face punched in by actor Tom Neal.
But Linda Christian was in a different league.
She was super sexy with a more than a touch of elegance. The daughter of an Dutch oil executive, she traveled the world early and often. She spoke six or seven languages. She had, let’s say, a tasteful appreciation of what wonderful things money could buy. And, she attracted men who could buy them.
Christian was a favorite subject of Mexican painter Diego Rivera. She was also the first ‘Bond girl’ in the 1954 tv production of Casino Royale starring Barry Nelson as the pre-Sean Connery 007.
In the late Fifties, Christian found herself in Rome between marriages and hooked up with a Brazilian business mogul celebrating his latest divorce. The two traveled the world together, after which the mining and metals magnate publicly declared her “the best lay of all time.” When Christian began making movies in Hollywood, Life magazine labelled her ‘The Anatomic Bomb.’
Born Blanca Rosa Henrietta Stella Welter Vorhauer in Mexico in 1923, Christian was said to be ‘discovered’ by Erroll Flynn (of all people) in a Mexico City bar and later on the beaches of Acapulco where the couple repaired for further discussion. By the mid-Forties she was in Hollywood, and drew the interest of MGM.
She had parts in 1952′s Battle Zone, starring John Hodiak, and in the same year The Happy Time with Charles Boyer. But MGM was largely unimpressed, loaned her out to other production companies and allowed her seven year contract to lapse.
Enter Tyrone Power. In 1948, Twentieth Century Fox’s matinee idol, a huge star, was having an affair with Lana Turner — there’s that name again — after separating from his first wife Annabella. The actor and Christian met in a hotel they just happened to be sharing in Rome. Romantically speaking, Turner suddenly was history.
In January of 1949, Power and Christian were married in the Church of Santa Francesca Romana in the Eternal City, not far from the Colosseum. Power’s international fame drew thousands of fans outside the church. The event was fulsomely described as ‘the wedding of the century.’ (The newly married couple was later received by Pope Pius XII.)
Such grandly launched unions often turn out badly, and this one was no exception. The couple divorced in 1956 (they had two daughters, Romina and Taryn). Christian blamed Power’s infidelities while he claimed that she had became much too friendly with British actor Edmund Purdom — Christian’s second and last husband for all of 10 months (March 1962 to January 1963).
Although Christian remained single for the rest of her life, she by no means lived austerely. There was that Milwaukee socialite who provided expensive jewelry (but didn’t pay fully for it; his check bounced). There was a flaming affair with a Spanish racing driver. There was the $1 million divorce settlement provided by Power.
Christian died last July, at age 87, in Palm Desert, California. No doubt stylish to the end.