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Arlene Dahl

The bombshell who put JFK in lingerie

Arlene Dahl on the set of ‘Woman’s World’, 1954. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

Arlene Dahl, who died this week aged 96, was too beautiful for her own good, says The Times. The redheaded actress, who starred in films such as The Bride Goes Wild, went to Hollywood in 1946 and was immediately pigeonholed as a bombshell. But she was also smart, funny and tough. Before her first screen test with Warner Brothers, Jack Warner insisted that she change her name to something more glamorous. Dahl, then just 20 years old, refused. She told Warner she had “5,000 Dahl relatives” in the country, and if he dared to change her name, they would boycott his films. “He never brought it up again.”

Men loved her, says Mike Barnes in The Hollywood Reporter. Dahl married six times; her husbands were a mix of actors, financiers, wine merchants and oil tycoons. She finally settled with Marc Rosen, a perfume executive 18 years her junior. When they married, Dahl said: “Marc’s getting a great bargain. I am tested and approved.”

Unsurprisingly, gossip columnists loved her too – not least because she had an affair with John F Kennedy, then a senator, in the 1950s. It didn’t last long. “He was the cheapest man I ever met, never had a dollar in his pocket,” she recalled. What’s more, JFK couldn’t dress himself. “The first time he came to pick me up, his suit was crumpled. I said: ‘Oh my God, Jack, you can’t go to a party like that.’ So I brought down my hot-pink chiffon negligée and he sat in it while I pressed his clothes.”

Dahl never stopped working, says Wendell Jamieson in The New York Times. When she sensed her acting career was fizzling out, she found other jobs instead. She became a beauty columnist, set up her own perfume company and wrote books about astrology. Before any journalists interviewed her, she would insist on knowing their star sign. She also never stopped being cheerful, even when she had to file for bankruptcy in 1980. “Life is wonderful, even though it trashes you and throws you to the ground,” she once told People magazine. “Like the old song goes: ‘Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again!’”

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