by Marian Rossi; Photoplay, April 1970
Since Kim Darby’s meteoric rise as an actress, reporters have been pounding at her door. When they do get to see her, they walk away with the image of a girl who’s basically shy. They write stories about “the insecure Kim Darby,” “the man-shy Kim.” They point out that Kim’s parents were divorced (a bitter divorce, too) by the time she was two years old and that Kim lived with her father’s parents, seeing practically nothing of her mother till she was seventeen and very little of her father.
So, the interviews leave you with the impression that Kim is love-starved and, at the same time, fearful of ever achieving love. To set the record straight, Kim’s background, if anything, has worked the reverse on the young star. At twenty-one, she’s already been married once to Jim Stacy, Connie Steven’s ex-husband. They met while starring together in a Gunsmoke episode, and their whirlwind courtship proves what Kim willingly admits: that she loves being in love.
Just before she married Jim, Kim said,”I wanted someone to love me.” The remark is sort of the key to Kim, even now after so much has happened to her. She still wants someone to love her and that might explain her habit of falling in love with her leading men.
Jim Stacy was her first co-star romance. Now, into Kim’s life has come another leading man, Pete Duel, who stars with her and David Janssen in Generation. Once again, Kim is floating on air. Though she avoids mentioning Pete by name, Kim admits, “I go out with a person now who’s the dearest person I’ve ever met. Very kind to me. I’d love to marry again. I love being married. I believe in marriage, but I don’t go around saying everyone should marry.”
Pete Duel may just be the answer to Kim’s wish and perhaps he’s the right man for another reason, too. Pete admits he’s had his own problems in the past.
He, too, has experienced the need for affection, the need to be wanted for self. Pete, from experience, knows what it’s like to face up to reality — hard reality — to honestly admit he’s got to handle his own problems. Not too long ago, Pete had to do just that.
He woke up one morning and took a good look at himself in the mirror. What he saw there he didn’t like. His face was battered, his arm was swollen to twice its normal size. He was nursing more than a hangover. Pete knew then that drinking had become a major problem. If he didn’t give it up, he felt he better give up living. What had made him turn to drink, Pete has never made clear, but he knew that he was relying on it too much.
The night before Pete Duel turned away from drinking, he’d been visiting in the San Francisco area. Too much partying, too much drinking, and an overly big mouth caused Pete to have a few complications. He wound up in the Foster City jail for answering a policeman discourteously when stopped for drunk driving. That night, Pete lost control of himself, screaming, yelling, and carrying on. The other prisoners reacted violently, getting him in a stranglehold in order to quiet him down. The final humiliation came when Pete discovered the next morning that his shoes were gone, stolen. He had to walk barefoot to a cab. Back in his apartment, Pete Duel made this resolution: stop drinking and get down to serious work.
Now, only a year and a half after that night, Pete’s goal has been reached. He no longer has a drinking problem, his ability is recognized throughout the motion picture industry. He’s his own man. What’s more, a young actress named Kim Darby would seem to be interested in him. Pete has confided to close friends that he loves Kim and would like to marry her. But, perhaps, he also knows that she must yet get over the feeling of being in love with love before marriage it’s possible.
Even Bruce Davison, who works with Kim on The Strawberry Statement, admits he loves her. One wonders: what leading man can resist her?
Many friends worried about Kim just after her breakup with Jim Stacy. The fact that Jim was truly her first love added to the problem. But Kim is a strong girl. She knew that she had to keep going, if not for herself alone, then for her daughter — for Heather. It is known that Kim said if it ever came to a choice between her daughter and her profession, there would be no question in her mind as to which choice she would make. She would rather be a mother than a star.
Having been “born in a trunk” herself, Kim knows the heartbreak, the disappointment, and lack of love that divorce can bring and she has vowed that Heather will never be spared love.
Perhaps, too, Kim Darby has now found the answer to her own need. She says, “The thing I’d like to be able to do is be very calm and contented.” Pete Duel, for that reason, may be her leading man in real-life for a long time to come.