Friday, October 7, 2011

Sonia Darrin (Bury Me Dead, 1947)

As I stated in an earlier post, Sonia Darrin's tough gal Agnes Lowzier in The Big Sleep (1946) remains a favorite of mine (the family name was a creation of the screenwriters not Raymond Chandler's original, the much less amusing “Lozelle”), and a characterization that stayed with me. I have long wondered what happened to Sonia Darrin, who seemingly vanished after a few minor roles. The Internet was at first of no help whatsoever. I don't know about you, but I often despair over the literally hundreds of stupid, empty sites that simply mine the Internet Movie Database for info, then add nothing. You have to wade through endless stuff like this, but once in a while you do hit paydirt. Which I did the other day when I almost accidentally came across “Ron Schuler's Parlour Tricks” blog ( And there it was! A most enterprising soul had actually found Sobia Darrin. And what had happened to Sonia proved indeed to be an eye-opener. She had, in fact, been right here, hiding in plain sight.

A newcomer to films, and to show business in general, it seems, Sonia Darrin, according to director Howard Hawks' biographer Todd McCarthy, was originally slated to play the dipsomaniac Carmen Sternwood, whose cocaine habit gave the original Chandler novel its mysterious title. Cooler heads prevailed, happily, and today no one can even imagine the statuesque Miss Darrin playing Lauren Bacall's kittenish kid sister, the one who tries to sit on Bogart's lap while he is still standing. The role, much abbreviated in the final release print to allow more footage of Miss Bacall, was eventually played former Universal starlet Martha MacVicar, who had changed her name to Martha Vickers and would later become yet another of Mickey Rooney's hapless wives. Vickers earned featured billing but in reality the unbilled Sonia Darrin had more screen time, or at least more memorable screen time. Her repartee with Bogart remains among Sleep's best moments and her eventual brief acting career a distinct curiosity. What, indeed, happened?

Marlowe and Agnes at Geiger's

While I refer you to Mr. Schuler's wonderful essay about how he eventually managed to track down Miss Darrin, here are the highlights:

Sonia was born Sonia Paskowitz in Galveston, TX, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants who later resettled in Southern California. Following her brief acting career, she went to New York where she met and married Bill Reese, a set designer turned marketing executive, with whom she had four children. Including Mason, the youngest. Yes, Agnes Lowzier is the mother of one of the icons of the 1970s, advertizing enfant terrible Mason Reese. I kid you not! And Mama Reese is still very much with us as this is written.

With that in mind we shall turn our attention to Bury Me Dead (1947), a pleasant little thriller from that purveyor of cheap filmmaking PRC and re-designated today as a film noir. It is really more of a comedy-drama but it is in black and white and contains several femme fatales, one of whom is played by Sonia Darrin. She has a wonderfully funny bitch-slapping, hair-pulling scene with, of all people, a pre-Lassie June Lockhart and, withal, acts like Agnes Lowzier but with lesser writers. That enterprising DVD depository VCI has cleaned it up recently and released it as a companion to Robert Cummings' The Chase (1946). The lobby card chosen to grace the DVD cover actually depicts Sonia and her on-screen paramour Mark Daniels in a tender moment. Needless to say, Bury Me Dead is worth your while and, thanks to VCI, is readily available.



  2. I am so happy I found this "Sleeping Beauty"-Bogart said:"You kind usually ends up this way!" Boy was she "It". Out of all the gals in the cast Sonia ran my bell. What a doll. She not only had exotic looks, she had that "come and get it look!" with those haunting eyes. I give the "pick of the litter" to this doll. the best Galveston has to offer.