Friday, August 5, 2011

Linda Brent (Death Valley Rangers)

Linda Brent and ranger Bob Steele meet cute in Death Valley Rangers (1943), the fourth of Monogram's geriatric Trail Blazers Westerns starring Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson. Bob, you see, climbs on board Steve Clark's stagecoach only to plant himself right on top of Miss Brent's new hat. Do they eventually come to a romantic understanding? Have you ever seen a Hollywood B Movie? Actually, the romantic interludes follow in the patented B-Western tradition of more aw shucks! than heavy petting. Correctly considering themselves a bit long in the tooth for even the timid love making of the kind displayed in Death Valley Rangers, Maynard and Gibson had left it to former star Bob Baker in previous series entries but Maynard reportedly did not get along with Baker and brought in Bob Steele who, although no spring chicken himself, handles the matter as if to the manor born. As, in fact, does Linda Brent who is both comely and capable.

Born in Shanghai, China to an Irish father and a Russian mother (nee Vassilieva), Linda Brent (1919-1994) didn't become an American citizen until November of 1942. By then, she had been voted the “prettiest white girl in Shanghai,” had appeared in local plays in Los Angeles and at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco, had married and divorced MGM contract player Steve Cornell (who then, allegedly, disappeared in order to avoid the draft), became Orson Welles' comely assistant in his famous wartime magic act at the Hollywood Wonder Show, and dated movie tough guy Lyle Talbot. She was rumored to be close to marrying the latter but that apparently never happened. Instead she wed another screen tough, John Kellogg, and their 1951 divorce created unfortunate headlines that bespoke of physical abuse and a failure to pay child support. In contrast to all this, Linda Brent's screen career, which also included the Bob Livingston “Johnny Rapidan” Western The Laramie Trail (1944) and a host of chorus girl and handmaiden roles, seems little more than an afterthought. On screen and television until the early 1960s, Linda Laura Brent died in obscurity in Los Angeles on 7 May 1994.

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