Friday, October 7, 2011
Sonia Darrin (Bury Me Dead, 1947)
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?
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.