Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Christmas Album: Arlene Dahl


Day eleven of our hike through the backlot of Christmas Past in Hollywood presents us with the doll-like perfection of Arlene Dahl, circa 1947. The actress with the porcelain complexion, the Titian hair and a blazing desire to get out of Minneapolis, where she was born in 1928, (or maybe it may have been 1924...you know how imprecise actresses can be about such details) was just beginning her career.

Of Norwegian descent, Dahl became "Miss Rheingold" in 1946, a post that ensured the public's awareness of her presence among them, since the beer company advertised heavily throughout their distribution area. Having your image emblazoned on the side of beer trucks may seem to be a rather circuitous route to fame and a chance to act, but other winners were Jinx Falkenburg, Tippi Hedren, Hope Lange, and Grace Kelly, all of whom enjoyed fairly high profile careers. Dahl's belief that "with enthusiasm anything is possible" may have helped her endure the path that she continues to negotiate to this day.

Arriving at Warner Brothers that same year for a screen test, the young woman impressed the studio as well as actor Gary Cooper, a young John F. Kennedy and the visiting Shah of Iran, each of whom asked for her company in her early years in Hollywood. Oh, yes, she was also asked to sign on as a contract player briefly at Warner's before ascending to MGM, a studio where her beauty and grace might have been expected to receive their proper setting. Garbed in turn of the century duds, Dahl first appeared opposite then big star Dennis Morgan when he played Irish tenor Chauncey Olcott in Warner's My Wild Irish Rose (1947-David Butler). Though the neophyte actress has since claimed that she "always wanted was to be was a musical comedy star" this film demanded no display of her vocal gifts. This first credited appearance on film was considered a success since critics noted her "sweetness" and were especially taken with the way that she was photographed in "velvety Technicolor".

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