Friday, October 21, 2011
Two starlets: Susan Blanchard & Carol Donell
She almost suffered the same fate in the highly anticipated Forever Amber (1947), where she played Beck Marshall, one of Amber's theatrical colleagues. According to Gary A. Smith, author of the highly recommended "Forever Amber -- From Novel to Film" (Duncan, OK: BearManor Media, 2010), a slightly risque conversation between the Mistresses Amber and Beck and a stage door Johnny, as written by Ring Lardner, Jr., was too much for the censorious Breen Office:
Fop: Upon my honor Mistress St. Claire, you look more beautiful every performance!
Amber: Thank you, sir.”
Beck: You waste your time, Sir Walter. She's the property of an officer in his Majesty's Guards, aren't you dear?
Amber: (sweetly) It's better than belonging to the whole regiment, Mistress Marshall.
The result of the censor's scissors was that Susan Blanchard is barely visible in the released version of this once scandalous production and she apparently soured on Hollywood altogether. In any case, in April of 1947, Louella Parsons could report that Blanchard had “up and asked for her release [from Fox contract] so she can return to New York and open her own establishment.”
And return to New York, she did and right into the arms of Henry Fonda, who was appearing in "Mister Roberts" on Broadway. In 1949, Fonda told his then-wife (and the mother of Jane and Peter), Frances, that he wished to divorce her and remarry. A vulnerable person at best, Frances Brokaw Fonda took the news hard and soon found herself at the Austen Riggs Psychiatric Hospital, where she took her own life April 14, 1950. Later that year Henry Fonda married Susan Blanchard and together they adopted a daughter, Amy, before calling it quits in 1956. Many years later, in 1999, Susan wed an old friend, the actor Richard Widmark. She was widowed in 2008.
Unlike Susan Blanchard we know very little about the contemporary Carol Donell. Other than that she was a WAC serving in Washington, D.C. when a talent scout from RKO discovered her. The results were small roles only, including the 1946 noir The Locket, where she shows up briefly in the opening sequence as Laraine Day's bridesmaid.