Denise Darcel was a French actress who also made films in Hollywood.
Born as Denise Billecard in Paris on September 8, 1924, she was one of five daughters of a French baker, and she was college educated, studying at the University of Dijon. According to a friend, whom she met in Paris during World War II, she was a passenger in an L-5 Stinson light observation aircraft on VJ Day to see the celebration from the air. The pilot, James Helinger Sr., a US Army Air Corps glider pilot (the friend) was at the controls, while they flew under several bridges along the Seine and finally, under the Eiffel Tower, with the crowds below.
A winner of the title "The Most Beautiful Girl in France," Darcel was a cabaret singer in Paris after World War II before being spotted by Hollywood. Denise came to the United States in 1947 and became an American citizen in 1952.
In 1952, she is named "Miss Welder of 1952" by the National Eutectic Welders' Club on February 15th of that year. Presenting her with a scroll as "the girl we would like most to weld with" was R. D. Wasserman, President of the Eutectic Welding Institute.
Mr. Wasserman hoped that her photograph would inspire women throughout the nation to join the ranks of the labor force and support the war effort in Korea.
Darcel's debut on the legitimate stage came in 1950, when she appeared in Pardon Our French, premiering October 5 at the Broadway Theatre.
In 1950, Darcel had a Vaudeville act, which was panned by at least one reviewer. About Darcel's performance May 5, 1950, at the Strand in New York, the Billboard review said: "Denise Darcel showed her well-stacked chassis ... but her heavily accented English sounded like so much gibberish; it got laughs instead of attention. ... her singing is inadequate, her over-use of hands and arms is clumsy and she shows herself completely at a loss in handling hecklers."
Her first film appearance of note was in Battleground (1949). She made quite an impression in Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950) opposite Lex Barker, then co-starred with Robert Taylor in Westward the Women (1952) and Glenn Ford in Young Man with Ideas (1952). In 1953, she was seen in the swimming musical Dangerous When Wet, which starred Esther Williams (1953). Her most important film was Vera Cruz (1954) where she played the female lead opposite Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster. Her last film (1961) was Seven Women from Hell.
Darcel appeared on various TV shows in the 1950s. In 1954, she was hostess/MC of Gamble on Love, a summer program on the DuMont Television Network. Darcel asked questions of married couples who sought to win the grand prize of a mink coat. A review in Billboard described her as "Gallic to the point of unintelligibility." Also in 1954, Colonel Productions produced a pilot of Chez Denise, a 30-minute "comedy-intrigue" program starring Darcel, which apparently did not sell.
After her film and television career began to wane, Darcel, aged 41, became an ecdysiast (stripper), appearing in West Coast theatres in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Oakland, and Los Angeles. She retired from stripping after a few years and returned to the cabaret circuit, making a few appearances on television. In 1991, she was cast as "Solange La Fitte" in the Los Angeles 20th anniversary revival of the musical Follies, produced by the Long Beach Civic Light Opera. She would later repeat the role of Solange in 1995 for revivals in Houston and Seattle.
Darcel's first husband, William Shaw, was an American Army captain whom she married in 1947. Darcel obtained a Mexican divorce from Peter Crosby August 12, 1951. She married Robert Atkinson April 24, 1961. They had two sons, Christopher (born November 17, 1961) and Craig. Husband George Simpson died in 2003.
In the early 1950s, Darcel was linked romantically with singer Billy Eckstine. In 1993, Jet magazine reported, "Eckstine's hot romance with actress Denise Darcel cooled off after their photo appeared on a cover of Life Magazine, causing a White backlash."
Online music store iTunes recently made Darcel's album, Banned in Boston (recorded in 1958), available for purchase alongside actress Lizabeth Scott's album, Lizabeth.
On June 23, 1968, Darcel was arrested in Miami, Florida, and charged with shoplifting women's undergarments valued at $38.94. She was released on $500 bond. She was found guilty and fined $300 in a July 10, 1968 trial.
Darcel and her husband, Robert Gerard Atkinson, filed bankruptcy petitions in San Bernardino, California, in 1963. The petitions listed "total assets of $1,508 and individual and joint debts of $88,904 for her and $62,223 for him."
In September 2009, she was honored with the Cinecon Career Achievement Award, presented in Hollywood at a banquet held at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel. Prior to the ceremony, a new 35mm color print of her 1953 film, Flame of Calcutta, was screened at the Egyptian Theatre. After the screening, at the banquet, she cheerfully announced to the audience, "I'm back".
Darcel died on December 23, 2011 at the age of 87 after emergency surgery to repair a ruptured aneurysm- Wikipedia
- To the Victor (1948)
- Thunder in the Pines (1948)
- Battleground (1949)
- Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950)
- Westward the Women (1951)
- Young Man with Ideas (1952)
- Dangerous When Wet (1953)
- Flame of Calcutta (1953)
- Vera Cruz (1954)
- The Martha Raye Show (1954)
- Gamble on Love (1954)
- The Milton Berle Show (1956)
- Tightrope as Terri (1960)
- Seven Women from Hell (1961)
- Naked City (1962)
- Combat! (1963)
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