“I like acting, but I had better like business better or I’ll lose my shirt.”Arlene Dahl
Technicolor is a term for and a trademarked name for color film processes. The first version goes back to 1916 and followed by improved versions over several decades. It was the second major color process, after Kinemacolor (used between 1908 and 1914), and the most widely used color process in Hollywood during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Technicolor was celebrated for its highly saturated color, and at first it was used for filming musicals such as The Wizard Of Oz (1939) and historical costume movies such as Gone With The Wind (1939), but even in some film noir such as Leave Her To Heaven (1945).
It might be difficult for today’s film fans to appreciate the impact that Technicolor had on audiences, and how certain stars, especially females, seemed to be made to be filmed in color. Among the who gained attention from their visually striking presence were the redheads Rhonda Fleming, who has died at 97 years old last year, Maureen O’Hara, who left us at 95 in 2015 and Arlene Dahl, taken Monday at 96 years old.
Dahl’s charm and striking red hair were shown to best advantage in Technicolor films of the 1950s, including the sci-fi adventure flick Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959), where she plays a scientist, the pirate movie Caribbean Gold (1952), and the musicals Here Come The Girls (1953) with Bob Hope, Rosemary Clooney, and Tony Martin, and Three Little Words with Fred Astaire.
Dahl was born in 1925 in Minneapolis, where her father was a Ford dealer. In high school, she joined the drama club and then made her way to New York City, where she modeled and appeared in small roles on Broadway.
She was signed by Warner Bros., making her film debut in the musical My Wild Irish Rose (1947). She then moved to MGM where her films included the western, The Outriders (1950) with handsome Joel McCrea.
When film work dried up, Dahl moved to television, with a role on the soap opera One Life To Live and guest-starring on Love, American Style, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat. Dahl also returned to Broadway, replacing Lauren Bacall as Margo Channing in the musical Applause in 1971.
But then she focused on business. She began writing a syndicated beauty column and opened Arlene Dahl Enterprises, marketing cosmetics and designer lingerie. After closing her company in 1967, she served as vice president of an ad agency. In a 1969 interview, she said her films were “such an embarrassment“.
In 1970, Dahl began working at Sears Roebuck as director of beauty products in 1970, but she left in 1975 to start a fragrance company.
In 1981, Dahl declared personal bankruptcy, with liabilities of almost $1 million and assets of only $623,970. Her chief creditor was the U.S. Small Business Administration, which guaranteed a $450,000 loan for her as an executive in her cosmetic firm. She lost $163,000 from burglaries of jewelry and furs from her Manhattan apartment, and she earned only $10,517 in 1979.
She started doing astrology in the 1980s, writing a syndicated column and later operating a premium phoneline company Dahl wrote more than two dozen books on beauty tips and astrology.
After two decades away, she made one last film, Night Of The Warrior (1991), costarring her hunky son, Lorenzo Lamas.
Her weekend retreat, “Treetops”, went back on the market in 2020. The gated estate was where Dahl hosted Hollywood celebrities over the years, including Ginger Rogers, Joan Rivers, and frequent costar, John Payne.
Dahl was more famous for her six marriages than for her acting career. Her husbands included actors Fernando Lamas and Lex Barker, Fleischman’s yeast heir Christopher Holmes, wine importer Alexis Lichine, investor Rounsevelle Schaum, and businessman Marc Rosen, with whom she was married for the last 37 years of her life.
The marriage to Lamas ended after seven years when he left her for wet movie star Esther Williams.
Her marriage to Barker lasted seven months. Dahl said in a frank People magazine interview in 1985:
“Lex was the best undressed man I’ve ever known.”