Daun Kennedy

DuanKennedy1
Yank Girls Continued… More sexy and alluring than beautiful, Daun Kennedy tried pretty hard to build a solid filmography during her brief sojourn in Hollywood. Unfortunately, like most non-trained actresses who came to Tinsel Town via either the chorus or modeling jobs, she was not a natural-born actress and thus didn’t have much to recommend her except her curvy figure and pleasing face. Predictably, she was out of Hollywood after a thin career in a few years.

EARLY LIFE

Carmen S. Kennedy was born on November 13, 1922, in Seattle, Washington, to Robert F. Kennedy and Shirley Heuston. Her mother worked as a seamstress. Her parents divorced in the 1930s, and Daun went to live with her mom in Los Angeles. However, the papers have a slightly different version of her pre-Hollywood years:

Daun started her working life as a canary with the Seattle Opera company. Laryngitis put a temporary stop to her warbling, and she took a job with the Boeing Aircraft corporation. Then Cupid nudged her in the ribs and called attention to a fellow worker, Fred MacDowell. Came a time when MacDowell thought he could better himself elsewhere, so he headed south for Lockheed. Daun promptly took after him, and likewise signed up to punch rivets into Lockheed P-38’s. Then Fred MacDowell left Lockheed, went to work for RKO as a film cutter. “He can’t do this to vie,” murmured Daun Kennedy, as she hustled right over to the same picture factory and got a job as a messenger girl. Two hours after she went to work, the new messenger was sent on an errand to the set where Kay Kyser was emoting in “Around the World.” Producer-Director Allan Dwan got an eyeful: Said Dwan to Daun: “C’mon.” Wherewith, he took the bewildered blonde to the office of Ben Piazza, head of the studio’s new talent department. And that evening Daun Kennedy’s signature was on an acting contract.

Daun Kennedy, they mean Daun Kennedy, who flew from the Lockheed Aircraft plant to become a messenger girl at RKO, circled the studio once and made a happy landing as an actress. Brown-eyed, shapely, with hair like combed corn silk, she’s currently delivering a message of personal beauty in the Eddie Cantor production, “Show Business.”The next day, also, her engagement to Fred MacDowell was announced but since then the same engagement has been broken ! Daun made her movie debut in “Around the World” and followed that performance with parts in “Government Girl,” “Gildersleeve on Broadway,” and “Show Business.”

This is somehow misleading since, based on this story, Daun was in Seattle in the early 1940s. But let’s roll with the newspaper version, and see what happened with her career!

CAREER

Daun made her debut in Gildersleeve on BroadwayThe third in RKO’s series of four movies based on radio show The Great Gildersleeve. This one has Gildersleeve traveling to New York to help out his friend Peavy. In order to help Peavy out, he has to cozy up to widowed drug company president Billie DaunKennedy2Burke. He also attracts the attention of a gold digger. The situation gets even trickier when Gildersleeve’s girlfriend shows up unexpectedly. It’s a fun comedy, a treat for all lovers of screwball. Government Girl is a lame wartime comedy with Olivia de Havilland in the lead. The Falcon and the Co-eds is one of the Falcon series of movies, with Tom Conway as the Saint. It’s a solidly made thriller, with a decent cast, but formulaic enough not to fall into a higher category.

Around the World is a wartime propaganda musical, cute fluffy and upbeat. Fans of Kay Kysler should definitely watch it. Higher and Higher is the typical movie that can’t be considered high art, but is an enjoyable, light-hearted piece. Special plus is a very young Frank Sinatra in the lead. The Falcon Out West is another of the Falcon series, more of the same old same old. Seven Days Ashore is another fluffy musical. Show Business surely fits into the “Nothing major, but it’s a lot of fun” movie. The story of a vaudeville team (Eddie Cantor in the lead), their ups and downs, it’s interesting today if nothing than a memory lane piece about times long gone.

Marine Raiders is a WW2 movie, typical example of the genre and the time. War movies made during the war often used live footage of battles, and they all boiled down to “rally round the flag, boys”! The leads are played by two fine actors, Pat O’Brien and Robert Ryan. Of course, there is a love story, with the charming Ruth Hussey (I love intelligent, everyday, non-extremely-beautiful actresses like Ruth!) in the middle. Bride by Mistake is a mid tier romance movie – but an absolute highlight is the stunning Laraine Day in the lead. I love Laraine, she was such a gentle, beautiful actress! Unfortunately, Daun followed some decent movies with Youth Runs Wild, a movie about juvenile delinquency that fares like most movies about the topic – pretty badly. This ain’t no Rebel without a cause. Then came Heavenly Days, a Fibber and DaunKennedy3Molly McGee movie. Like most series, it’s a rec is you like that kind of humor – if not, stay away. Daun went back to musicals with, Girl Rush a standard Western gold rush comedy with all of the cliches and not enough good things to recommend it. Daun finally hit it big with Murder, My Sweet, a superb example of the mid 1940 film noir. Based on Raymond Chandler’s book, Dick Powell plays an excellent Phillip Marlowe. While Bogart may be the ultimate Marlowe, several other actors made a very good job of playing him, and Powell, IMHO; is a close second. He is just the right mix of soft and hard, of success and failure, of idealism and disillusionment to be Marlowe (whom I consider to be one of the best written fictional detective). Powell aside, the story is solid and with enough twists to keep anyone occupied, the supporting cast is wonderful and the atmosphere is spot on. Almost nothing to subtract from its brilliance. Next was Mademoiselle Fifi, a movie that has divided its critics. Based on a Guy De Maupassant short story and dealing with some very relevant issues (as back then as today), it’s hampered in a major way by the production code and censorship. Yes, this is the gaping wound of so many -could-have-been-wonderful movies from the decade. Yet, some praise it’s actors (Simone Simon!) and the story that ultimately inspired the western classic Stagecoach.

Daun-Kennedy-photo-by-Ernest-Bachrach-p412Duan was one of the much revered Salome Girls in the notorious camp classic, Salome Where She Danced. The long and arduous process of finding Salome girls was well documented in the press, and thanks to this movie, Daun got tons of publicity. It was this boost that got her a leading role! Yaay finally! On the flip side (there is always a flip side!) the movie is The Royal Mounted Rides Again and it’s a (guess!) … LOW BUDGET WESTERN. Oh yes, you know what I think of those… Anyway, it got her absolutely nowhere. She returned to the uncredited tier in This Love of Ours, a Merle Oberon tearjerker (too bad she appeared in such a large number of those she was a gifted comedienne!). It was followed by another Merle Oberon movie, Night in Paradise, a wacky and unusual movie for sure, but deeply flawed. A Scandal in Paris is a George Sanders vehicle, and the great man plays the same character he always plays – himself. This time his name is François Eugène Vidocq (famous french criminal) and the place is (duh!) Paris. But more of the same old, same old. Next she appeared in the Bowery boys movie, Bowery Bombshell, and then was the female lead in the forgotten DuanKennedy5serial, Son of the Guardsman. Too bad that this didn’t pan out – maybe Daun could have caught at least a bit of fame that way. Meanwhile, the serial was actually decent enough, with a solid story and decent production values – one wonders what went wrong?

Daun appeared in only two more movies, both featuring the characters Jiggs and Maggie (played by Joe Yule, Mickey Rooney’s pop, and British actress Reine Riano), Bringing Up Father and Jiggs and Maggie in Society. It was clear that Daun used all of her showbiz lives and it was time to retire. And retire she did.

PRIVATE LIFE

The Kennedy lass lives in a Hollywood apartment with another young actress, took music lessons, liked an occasional game of tennis, Bowled a great deal, and had never kept a budget, never had been in debt.  She admitted she was a bum cook. Daun was a very popular pin-up during the war, being named Miss Iceberg Warmer and Miss Optometrists. In 1946, contemporary publicity shamelessly pegged her as the descendant of Mary Queen of Scots.

DAUN KENNEDY_1361832226Duan was engaged to her first boyfriend, Fred L. McDowell, when she came to Hollywood in 1944. She engagement was terminated due to unknown reasons. In 1945, Daun first dated Rod Cameron, then almost married to agent John Lindsay.

In the end, she married her first fiancée, Fred L. McDowell. He was born on September 5, 1916, in Derby Line, Vermont. Somehow he ended up in the Boeing Aircraft corporation, and met Duan (the story is in the Early life section). He was in Hollywood from the early 1940s, but only in 1954 did he get his first credit as an editor.

Their daughter Linda Carol was born on October 28, 1955. Their second daughter, Tamara L., was born on November 17, 1959. Sadly, McDowell died on June 4, 1960, when their younger daughter was but a baby.

I have no idea what happened to Daun afterwards, or if she is indeed alive today. As always, I hope she had a good life.

 

 

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