Her best work was done for Preminger, and she exists imaginatively as the loose-living sister of Gene Tierney, a girl bruised by experience but still making up her lips till they bulge with prospects. After working as a model, she made her debut in Gregory' Ratoff’s Hotel for Women (39), then Day-Time Wife (39, Ratoff), and she is a splendid female object in Hathaways Brigham Young (40); as Lolita in Mamoulian’s The Mark ofZorro (40); King's Chad Hanna (40); and Mamoulian’s Blood and Sand (41)—all made while still in her teens. She w'as still not quite a star and played supporting parts: Rise and Shine (41, Allan Dwan); as the Virgin Mary (uncredited) in The Song of Bernadette (43, Henry King); as an Indian girl. Dawn Starlight, in Buffalo Bill (44, William Wellman); René Clair’s It Happened Tomorrow (44); Sirk’s Summer Storm (44); and Archie Mayo’s Sweet and Lowdown (44). Upon encountering Otto Preminger, she made four films: Fallen Angel (45); Centennial Summer (46); blonde in Forever Amber (47); and The 13th Letter (51). This counts as her best work, but she is also good in John Brahms Hangover Scpiare (45); The Great John L. (45, Frank Tuttle); “I’m Chi¬huahua” in Ford’s My Darling Clementine (46); as Algeria Wedge in John Stahl’s The Walls of Jericho
(48); as the wife in Preston Sturgess Unfaithfully Yours (48), subtly different in Hex Harrison’s several daydreams for disposing ol her; in Slattery’s Hurricane (49, André tie Toth); and in two Joseph Mankiewicz films, A Letter to Three Wives (48) and No Way Out (50). Her success did not cany over into the 1950s and, after Robert Wises Two Flas West (50); Stuart Heisler’s Saturday Island (51); Raoul Walshs Blackboard the Pirate (52); Rudolph Mates Second Chance (53); This Is My Love (54, Ileisler); and Zero Hour (57, Hall Bartlett), she worked only intermittently.
She died in a fire that started while she was watching one of her own movies on TV.
A dark-eyed, sultry actress, Darnell was one of the sirens of the 1940s whose rose-at-twilight looks seemed to stimulate every Fox cameraman.
One of her husbands was photographer Peverell Marley.