Madelyn Darrow was as cute as a button, with a sunny smile, perfectly coiffed hair, knock-out figure. Al of this combined with an innocent girl-next-door charm made Madelyn a wonderful representation of the 1950s dream girl. The youngest of the three stunning Darrow sisters (Alice, Barbara and Madelyn), all of whom were successful models (and Barbara even a semi successful actress), Madelyn had much going her way, from a supportive family, connection in the showbiz world and natural beauty, but it seems that her heart was always more in rising a family so her movie career is slim indeed. Let’s learn more about her!
Madelyn C. Wittlinger was born on February 21, 1935, in Hollywood, California, to George H. Wittlinger and Alice Alexandria Simpson. She was the youngest of three siblings – her older sisterss were Alice Emeline, born on November 29, 1929, and Barbara, born on November 18, 1931. Her father was a motion picture landscape artist, and her mother a former silent screen actress. Her uncle was actor turned agent, John Darrow.
Since Madelyn was from a showbiz family and born and bred in the heart of movie-land, it’s no wonder that she could not remember any time in her life she didn’t want to be an actress. Also, her older sister Barbara went into movies pretty early (leaving high school to sign a contract), under the moniker of Barbara Darrow, a surname which Madelyn would adopt one day too.
Madelyn effortlessly stepped into the modeling field as soon as she graduated from Hollywood High school. She appeared on the covers of Life, Colliers, Pageant and the Ladies Home Journal among others. This opened her the gate to Hollywood!
Slim pickings here! Only three movies and a few minor TV appearances 😦 So, let’s start! Madelyn’s first movie was Guys and Dolls, the classical musical brought on the screen by Joe Mankiewicz and headed by Frank Sinatra,. Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine and Marlon Brando. Yep, the Marlon Brando, never known for his singing voice but a man with such intense and strong charisma you don’t actually care. This is a great classical musical, with everything going for it – great music, top notch dancing and a enormously talented acting cadre.
Her second movie was The Ten Commandments. Who doesn’t love this movie! It has all the hallmarks of DeMille’s best of the best – larger than life story, first class actors and absolutely lavish sets and costumes. Truly, DeMille had that magical touch and it’s hard to define what he did, but the fact is, he did ti with style and gust deluxe.
Madelyn’s last movie was The Garment Jungle. It’s the least known of the movies she made, but still when you have Mankiewicz and DeMille as your competition, you can be very, very good and still be neglected and overlooked. Actually, this is a solidly made and sharply observed movie about trade unions and factory owners and their dirty tricks and fights. There is a particularly strong cast with Lee J. Cobb in the lead and Robert Loggia, Richard Boone, Wesley Addy and Joseph Wiseman in supporting roles. Gia Scala and Valerie French are okay but not really great in their roles.
That was all from Madelyn!
Madelyn’s claim to fame was being the 1958 Rheingold Girl. We have to look back and see just how popular that brand of beer was and just how big of a deal the Rheingold girl was, much like the Miss Universe pageantry was in the 1990s. After winning the title, Madelyn enjoyed a year of glamour and endless photo shoots. As she later told the papers:
“My prize was $50,000,” says Madelyn Darrow, who felt like a billionaire. “They paid for my apartment on Sutton Place. I had a limousine at my disposal. I was so young. I thought that was how all New Yorkers lived.”
Madelyn was described as the outdoor type. She liked tennis, golf and swimming. She told the papers that some day she hopes to marry, but the man she marries will have to be sincere, humble and have a sense of humor. When asked if it is a bad thing to show some intelligence to a man, Madelyn answered:
Absolutely not. I think it’s wonderful to show any intelligence or knowledge. I think you can overdo anything, however.
And now for her love life! In 1953, a Life magazine article paired her with a local life guard, the very wholesome and handsome Bill Abell, but I can’t tel is it was a newspaper stunt or the real deal, but anyway they didn’t’ last. In 1955, Madelyn was pretty serious about Robert Dix, son of the late Richard Dix. Bob liked pretty girls, and Madelyn was just his type – dark-haired, cute as a button and fresh as a rose. However, they broke up before the year was out. Bob married another beautiful starlet, Janet Lake, in 1956.
Madelyn started 1957 by dating Ronnie Knox, and was later seen around town with oilman Stuart Cramer III (who married Jean Peters and Terry Moore). At some point, she dated arranger Buddy Bregman. Druing their courtship, there was a tense moment in the Moulin Rouge club when Buddy’s estranged wife Gloria Haley and her date for the night, Jeffrey Hunter, were seated at the same table where Buddy and his date, Madelyn also were slated to sit. Gloria and Jeffrey tactfully shifted to another spot.
But those were fleeting romances. A more permanent beau was Marty Kimmell, the handsome, well-connected, young and wealthy New Yorker who was wed to Gloria DeHaven for a brief time. In the beginning of their relationship, Marty played the field heavily, dating singers Eileen Barton and Jill Corey, and starlet Trudy Wroe. Madelyn herself was seen around town with James Morrow and even dated Ted Kennedy from time to time.
Things changed her Madelyn went to New York for the “Miss Rheingold” contest, and she and Marty became a solid duet while on his home turf. They dated for most of her Miss Rheingold tenure and there were rumors they might even wed someday. For unknown reasons, they broke up in late 1958 or early 1959, but despite this bittersweet ending it seems that it was a really nice and romantic relationship.
In 1959 Madelyn dated Gary Crosby before hooking up with tennis champ Pancho Gonzalez. They met at a tennis club, he gave her lessons and, ultimately, married her! Okay, things didn’t go that smoothly as Pancho was still married at the time, just separated from his wife, Henrietta, his high school lady love, and father of three boys. In September 1959, after a intense relationship of a few months, Pancho went on a tour (which greatly saddened Madelyn, as the papers wrote), and after he came back in 1960, the dice was thrown – it was marriage for Madelyn and Pancho. First he divorced Henrietta – she testified at their divorce hearing that Pancho had telephoned her from New York and told her he wouldn’t return to her after completing the tour. After the divorce was made final, he wed Madelyn in 1958 and they honeymooned in Honolulu. Their twin daughter, Marissa and Christina, were born on April 13, 1961.
Pancho led a peripatetic existence during the early stages of the marriage, traveling from one tournament to the other. Things changed after Madelyn gave birth to the twins. Madelyn had the measles and is being isolated from them. Judging his life style too hectic for a normal, stable family life, Pancho decided to retire, at least for a while, and try and live in one place. The couple’s third daughter, Shauwnna, was born on October 4, 1963. The couple divorced in 1968, remarried in 1970 and divorced in 1971.
Now something about Pancho. He was born Richard Alonzo Gonzales in Los Angeles, on May 9, 1928, one of seven children. He was a self taught player who became one of the tops, a rare occurrence in any sports field but tennis especially.
Here is a very good, concise article about Pancho, taken from Sports JRank web site:
Irascible and prone to raging against his opponents and umpires, Gonzales was nonetheless popular among tennis audiences, and he always drew a crowd. As the reigning champion, he trounced Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, and many others. Yet he was unhappy with his touring contracts, which always offered more money to the challenging player than to him, the reigning champion. Gonzales also faced marital troubles; he and Henrietta divorced in 1958. Soon after, he married Madelyn Darrow, with whom he had three daughters.
Gonzales prevailed in the round-robin tours until his contract expired in 1961. After briefly retiring, he returned to lose a humiliating first-round match at the U.S. Professional Grass Court Championships. For the next several years he turned his attention to coaching tennis, leading the U.S. Davis Cup team to the finals against Australia in 1963, and tutoring young American players, including Arthur Ashe.
When tennis “opened” in 1968, allowing amateurs to compete with professional players, 40-year-old Gonzales, no longer in the peak of his career, returned to play the major championships. A presence at all the major tournaments that year, he made a good showing but did not win a title. In what was perhaps his last moment in the spotlight, Gonzales won a grueling 112-game match against a player half his age, Charles Pasarell, in the first round of the 1969 Wimbledon tournament. The score stood at 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 after the five-hour and twelve-minute match—the longest in Wimbledon history. Gonzales continued playing well into his forties, becoming the oldest man to win a tournament, in Iowa, in 1972. He retired two years later, at age 46, and played senior events until the mid-1980s
After he retired Gonzales joined Ceasers Palace in Las Vegas as a professional coach—a job that he loved, and would keep for nearly two decades. He and Madelyn had married and divorced twice, ending the relationship for good in 1980; between his two marriages to her, he had three others. His sixth and final marriage was to Rita Agassi, sister of the U.S. tennis star Andre Agassi; the couple had a son, Skylar.
We can gather from this information that he was a passionate, driven, fiery individual and probably not the easiest man to live with. Tennis was his first and foremost love, and he had a strong devotion to his children and the large Gonzalez family – it seems his wives were always somewhere down the ladder and many people noted he didn’t treat them quite nicely. Altough, in public, Madelyn spoke highly of her husband (she often talked how they played tennis together – “Richard is still very sweet about tennis, He’ll play with me anytime I want—real tennis, too, not just hitting the ball.”), who knows what was happening behind the scenes. Actress Diane McBain got involved with Pancho in the late 1960s while he and Madelyn were still married, but in a strange and complicated separation process, and wrote in her autobiography that Madelyn had never taken to Panchos’s side of the family and was not too enthusiastic to spend time with them. Could this be the focal friction point that pushed the couple from marriage, divorce, marriage again and divorce again? it also seems that Madelyn preferred that Gonzalez pursue business opportunities rather than tennis, and we all know that tennis was the number one star in his life.
Overall, we can assume they were very much in love at one point, but they were ultimately incompatible and divorced for good in 1971. Madelyn stayed in California, living a quiet family life with her daughters, and rarely appeared in the papers. Sadly, her youngest daughter Shauwnna died at age twelve in a horseback riding accident.
Madelyn is still alive today and lives in California. As always, I hope she had a happy life!