Denise Darcel (Denise Billecard)

Denise Darcel

Born as Denise Billecard in Paris, she was one of five daughters of a French baker, and she was college educated, studying at the University of Dijon. According to a friend, whom she met in Paris during World War II, she was a passenger in an L-5 Stinson light observation aircraft on VJ Day to see the celebration from the air. The pilot, James Helinger Sr., a US Army Air Corps glider pilot (the friend) was at the controls, while they flew under several bridges along the Seine and finally, under the Eiffel Tower, with the crowds below. A winner of the title “The Most Beautiful Girl in France,” Denise Darcel was a cabaret singer in Paris after World War II before being spotted by Hollywood. Denise came to the United States in 1947 and became an American citizen in 1952. In 1952, she is named “Miss Welder of 1952” by the National Eutectic Welders’ Club on 15 February of that year. Presenting her with a scroll as “the girl we would like most to weld with” was R. D. Wasserman, President of the Eutectic Welding Institute. Mr. Wasserman hoped that her photograph would inspire women throughout the nation to join the ranks of the labor force and support the war effort in Korea. Denise Darcel’s debut on the legitimate stage came in 1950, when she appeared in Pardon Our French, premiering 5 October at the Broadway Theatre. In 1950, Denise Darcel had a Vaudeville act, which was panned by at least one reviewer. About Darcel’s performance 5 May 1950, at the Strand in New York, the Billboard review said: “Denise Darcel showed her well-stacked chassis … but her heavily accented English sounded like so much gibberish; it got laughs instead of attention. … her singing is inadequate, her over-use of hands and arms is clumsy and she shows herself completely at a loss in handling hecklers.”

Her first film appearance of note was in Battleground (1949). She made quite an impression in Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950) opposite Lex Barker, then co-starred with Robert Taylor in Westward the Women (1952) and Glenn Ford in Young Man with Ideas (1952). In 1953, she was seen in the swimming musical Dangerous When Wet, which starred Esther Williams (1953). Her most important film was Vera Cruz (1954) where she played the female lead opposite Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster. Her last film (1961) was Seven Women from Hell. Denise Darcel appeared on various TV shows in the 1950s. In 1954, she was hostess/MC of Gamble on Love, a summer program on the DuMont Television Network. Darcel asked questions of married couples who sought to win the grand prize of a mink coat. A review in Billboard described her as “Gallic to the point of unintelligibility.” Also in 1954, Colonel Productions produced a pilot of Chez Denise, a 30-minute “comedy-intrigue” program starring Darcel, which apparently did not sell. After her film and television career began to wane, Darcel, aged 41, became an ecdysiast (stripper), appearing in West Coast theatres in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Oakland, and Los Angeles. She retired from stripping after a few years and returned to the cabaret circuit, making a few appearances on television. In 1991, she was cast as “Solange La Fitte” in the Los Angeles 20th anniversary revival of the musical Follies, produced by the Long Beach Civic Light Opera. She would later repeat the role of Solange in 1995 for revivals in Houston and Seattle. Denise Darcel died in December 2011, aged 87, after emergency surgery to repair a ruptured aneurysm.

More Images

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  • OB-MAIN-DARCEL -

Born

  • September, 08, 1924
  • Paris, France

Died

  • December, 23, 2011
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • ruptured aneurysm

Other

  • Cremated

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