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Linda Christian, 1923-2011

8:35 AM, Jul 27, 2011 • By CHARLOTTE HAYS
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Even with the fate of the republic hanging in the balance, I can’t stop myself from pausing just a few moments to recall the kind of elegance and glamour we once associated with Hollywood in those halcyon days when actors and actresses had dashing affairs but few annoying political opinions.

These thoughts were triggered by the death last week in Palm Desert of Linda Christian. You've probably never heard of Linda Christian, but in her time, the old Life magazine dubbed her “the anatomic bomb.” Christian was the first Bond girl, having played 007's love interest in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale. As her obituary in the London Telegraph notes, Christian—87 at the time of her death—was “the only Bond girl whose affair with 007 remained unconsummated.”

But she more than made up for that lapse. Linda had relationships with everybody from Errol Flynn (yes, we are talking about a long time ago), who discovered Linda in Acapulco when she was a teenager, to Tyrone Power, whom she married in 1949 in the “wedding of the century” in Rome. Afterwards, the couple met the pope, and he gave her a rosary.

The rosary proved no talisman against further consummations, including an affair with society Lothario of the fifties the Marquis de Portago. I became fascinated with Linda when I wrote a book (now forgotten!) in which the affair with Portago was a minor episode. Her final kiss of the doomed marquis, at a checkpoint only minutes before the 27-year-old nobleman's Ferrari skidded out of control at the 1957 Mille Miglia race, was splashed across the front pages of all the world’s tabloids. Linda Christian and the marquis' then-estranged wife (she went on to become New York's millionaire socialite Carroll Petrie, the only member of the glam trio still living) showed up at his funeral in Madrid, both heavily veiled, as competing widows. 

Linda Christian was no saint, but she was glamour personified. Her death makes me intensely nostalgic for a time when actors and actresses who broke the rules knew they were doing so and yet felt compelled to issue no manifesto—indeed, were still glad to accept a rosary from the pope. They looked glamorous, wore beautiful clothes, and didn’t express stupid political views. Goodness, I doubt if Linda indulged in political views. Ah, those were the days.

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