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Bella Darvi
Bella Darvi 1954.jpg
Darvi in 1954
Bajla Węgier

(1928-10-23)23 October 1928
Sosnowiec, Poland
Died 11 September 1971(1971-09-11) (aged 42)
Occupation Actress
Years active 1954–1971
Alban Cavalcade
(m. 1950; div. 1952)

Claude Rouas
(m. 1960; div. 1961)

Bella Darvi (born Bajla Węgier; 23 October 1928 – 11 September 1971) was a Polish film actress and stage performer who was active in France and the United States.


Early life

Darvi was born Bajla Węgier to Jewish parents Chajm Węgier, a baker, and his wife, Chaja (née Zygelbaum). She had three brothers, Robert, Jacques, and Jean-Isidore, and a sister, Sura.

When the Germans invaded France during World War Two, Darvi's mother fled to southern France with her sister and two brothers. Darvi decided to stay in Paris for her education along with her brother Robert. Both were eventually jailed by the Vichy government due to their Polish background. She was fifteen years old. Robert died in a concentration camp. "I had the usual experiences of hunger and humiliation, and I try not to think of them and discuss them but I can never forget them," she later said.

Darvi's mother secured her release after three years, in 1943. She went to stay with her mother near Toulouse. "We were always under threat on account of us being Polish," she said.

She married a businessman, Alban Cavalcade, on October 7, 1950 and traveled with him to Monaco.

Darryl and Virginia Zanuck

While on the French Riviera she became associated with Virginia and Darryl Zanuck. She was separated from Cavalcade at the time. The Zanucks invited her to come to Los Angeles and in 1952 she moved there to live with them. She shared a room with Zanuck's second daughter, Susan.

She changed her name to Bella Darvi, Darvi being a combination of the first names of Zanuck and his wife, Virginia. She took acting lessons.

In February 1953 it was announced she had signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox. Hedda Hopper called her "an exciting new personality".

Eventually, she became Zanuck's mistress, although she reportedly dated other men including Robert Stack and Brad Dexter.

Hollywood career

She was Richard Widmark's love interest in Sam Fuller's film Hell and High Water (1954) which started filming in April 1953. She was injured during filming when knocked over.

In March 1953 Leonard Goldstein was reportedly writing The Daughter of Mata Hari as a vehicle for her.

..... Hedda Hopper predicted Darvi would be one of the "stars of 1954" and "make a splash" in her first film. The International Press of Hollywood announced she was one of their "stars of tomorrow" along with Hugh O'Brian, Pat Crowley, Steve Forrest, Barbara Rush and Richard Egan.

Hell and High Water came out in February. The New York Times said Darvi "does not succeed convincingly."

From February to June 1954 she made The Egyptian. Fox then announced her for The Racers. She was publicly linked with Brad Dexter around this time. The Racers started filming in September 1954. In November 1954 she left Hollywood to return to Paris.

"I was guilty of egomania," Zanuck later said about trying to build Darvi into a star.

European career

According to Ephraim Katz, her "three disappointing Hollywood films" were followed by a "number of undistinguished French and Italian productions".

She made a film in France with Eddie Constantine, Je suis un sentimental (1955).

Zanuck left his wife for Darvi, but left her when he discovered that she was bisexual.

In 1956, she reportedly lost $1,000 in two minutes at the casino then $65,000 in two days. She made I'll Get Back to Kandara (1956) in France.

Darvi returned to Hollywood briefly to make her TV debut in "Blind Drop: Warsaw" an episode of the show Conflict with Keith Andes.

In 1957, she was supposed to make a film with George Raft called Morning Call, (which in America was called 'The Strange Case of Dr. Manning'), but filming was put on hold when Raft pulled out, unhappy with the script. They were replaced by Ron Randell and Greta Gynt.

Instead she was in Sinners of Paris (1958) (Rafles sur la ville), The Mask of the Gorilla (1958) with Lino Ventura, and Pia of Ptolomey (1958).

In January 1958, she was announced for The Lovers of Tomorrow with Edith Piaf.

Instead she made The Enigma of the Folies-Bergere (1959), and Lipstick (1960).

Darvi later very publicly dated women as well as men. Despite liaisons with extremely wealthy men, she was unable to establish a permanent relationship or to curb her gambling habit. Zanuck was still paying off her debts as late as 1970. She would win and lose up to £30,000 a night.

In February 1959, she was injured in a car crash in Paris when a taxi she was riding in was hit by another car. She was in Jules' Breadwinner (1960) and The Woman of Ice (1960).

Later life

On November 13, 1960, Darvi married Claude Rouas, a restaurant waiter, in Las Vegas; the marriage was annulled less than a year later.

She did The Roar of the Bolidi (1961) in Italy. In 1961 Hedda Hopper reported Darvi was living in Monte Carlo "gambling like mad, and losing every night, but is still wearing fabulous furs and jewels."

In early 1962 she guest starred on an episode of The Dick Powell Theatre, "View from the Eiffel Tower".

..... She eventually recovered.


Her final roles were in Le bourgeois gentil mec (1969) and Good Little Girls (Les Petites Filles Modèles) (1971).


..... Her body remained undiscovered for more than a week.


Year Title Role Notes
1954 Hell and High Water Denise Montel
1954 The Egyptian Nefer
1955 The Racers Nicole
1955 Je suis un sentimental Marianne Colas
1956 I'll Get Back to Kandara Pascale Barret
1958 Rafles sur la ville [fr] Cri Cri
1958 Le Gorille vous salue bien [fr] Isoline
1958 Pia de' Tolomei Bice
1959 The Enigma of the Folies-Bergere Solange
1960 Il rossetto Nora, madre di Silvana
1960 Le Pain des Jules Gina Beau Sourire
1960 La donna di Ghiaccio Adriana Savelli
1961 L'Urlo dei bolidi
1969 Le bourgeois gentil mec La tante
1971 Les Petites Filles modèles Mme de Rosbourg English title: Good Little Girls, (final film role)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bella Darvi para niños

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