That's what I really call acting!" a friend of Kim Darby's commented as he left the Hollywood theater where True Grit was playing.
It wasn't just that Kim had given a good performance--it was that she had managed to convincingly play a character far different from her real life personality.
"Aggressive, self-assured, and ready to tackle any kind of danger or problem," Kim's friend said. "That's the girl she plays on the screen, but it's not Kim."
In real life, those closest to her know, Kim Darby is shy, sensitive, and the kind of person who feels more comfortable entertaining a few friends at home than rushing around to Hollywood parties.
Kim's recent divorce from Jim Stacey, her friends know, was a shattering experience for Kim. It took all of her strength and courage to go on with the filming of True Grit and Generation as her problems with the husband she had once loved passed the point of no return. Fortunately, Kim didn't have to face her problems alone. Just when things were at the worst possible stage, a man came along who, if he couldn't find a bright side of her present situation to help her see, could at least help Kim face the future. That man, of course, was her Generation co-star, Peter Duell.
Kim's friends, at first, were pleased that she had found somebody she could lean on. Peter, they knew, had originally been a friend of Jim's, and at first it seemed that he was merely a good friend helping someone close to him through the breakup of a marriage.
Soon, though, it became obvious that Peter had more than just a friendly interest in Kim. While the divorce battle raged, Kim and Peter developed a romance! They were seen leaving the studio together after Generation filming, and during on-the-set breaks, they were constantly together.
Friends saw that Kim was getting more involved with Peter, and they grew more concerned.
"It wasn't that Peter was bad," a friend confided. "But lots of people thought he was bad for Kim. Pete had a reputation as a swinger, and if there was one thing Kim didn't need at this point in her life, it was a man who wanted a good time and nothing more."
Peter had been well known in Hollywood since he starred on Love On A Rooftop with Judy Carne. He'd been invited to all the Hollywood parties, and he was seen with numerous starlets and models.
"A man who had so many different dates," Kim's friend said, "didn't seem to be the type who wanted to settle down--particularly with a girl who was going through an agonizing divorce. It just seemed that Peter and Kim couldn't be more wrong for each other."
"You're all wrapped up in the wrong man!" friends warned, but Kim Darby put their objections aside.
"Peter is what I need," she said. "I need somebody now."
Kim felt that her relationship with Peter would be a help to her, but soon problems began. Before True Grit, the press left Jim and Kim to solve their problems or separate--without publicity. Once filming was underway, though, Kim became famous.
Reporters visited her on the set asking he truth about her unhappy marriage and her new relationship with Peter Duell.
"Kim," a co-worker explains, "was naive--so naive that she thought the people who were interviewing her were sincerely interested in her feelings, rather than just looking for a sensational story.
"She opened up--she needed to talk to I people then, and she told the truth."
Kim was trusting, too trusting for her own good. Reporters took only the statements that she had made about her husband, using them out of context. The end result of the efforts made Kim sound as if Jim had never meant anything to her, and when she read the reports in the columns, she was as hurt as she was angry.
When location on Generation got underway in New York, Kim Darby had learned her lesson. She was still seeing Peter Duell, and she made no attempts to hide the fact. But she refused to attempt explaining the situation to reporters--she wasn't giving any interviews.
Interviews or not, Kim was seeing Peter. Her divorce hearing was just a few weeks away, and friends feared Kim wasn't aware of what she was doing.
"Be careful," they warned. "A judge who hears that you're seeing another man before your decree won't be favorable!" Since the custody of Kim's young child was involved, friends felt it was doubly important for her to be careful. But need, in Kim's case, outweighed reason. Peter was older than she was, more mature and more sophisticated. Kim needed a man and a friend, and Peter was both.
Always popular with her co-workers (John Wayne and Kim were good friends during True Grit filming), Kim and Peter were co-hosts for a cast and crew party the day Generation wound up in New York. The next day, Peter drove Kim to the airport and put her on the plane to Hollywood--he was staying on in New York to wind up some personal business.
The separation was a painful one for Kim, and with the unpleasant details of finalizing her divorce waiting for her back in California, she needed Peter more than ever.
"What kind of man is he?" friends and fans wondered. "Just when she needs Peter most, he leaves Kim on her own!"
Few stopped long enough to realize that Peter and Kim were merely being sensible. No judge, they realized, could criticize their friendship during Generation--they were co-workers, and the script called for them to be in most scenes together. Surely there was nothing wrong in their becoming friends--or spending time rehearsing.
But resuming their friendship in California, at least for the time being, wasn't the same thing, and Kim knew that their feelings for each other were deeper than those of the "of the moment" variety, and rather than cheapening their relationship, if only in the eyes of gossips and troublemakers, they wisely chose to avoid even the hint of scandal.
Not everyone, of course, realized their motives. Many, with good intentions, felt that Peter was being cruel, hurting a sensitive and vulnerable girl who was suffering too much already.
But Kim and Peter didn't care what other people thought. They knew their own feelings, and that was all that really mattered.
Then, after months of lawyers meetings and delays, Kim won her divorce. She was sorry that she had been hurt and sorry too, that Jim, the man she had promised to love forever, had also suffered. But at last it was over, and Kim felt that a new and brighter future was waiting.
That future, she felt, included Peter Duell, and they began dating. Kim and Peter shunned the usual Hollywood nightspots and premieres, appearing in public only when the studio asked them to. Their happiest moments were spent alone with each other, or in the company of a few close friends.
Why hasn't he married her yet?" columnists asked a few months after Kim's divorce. Peter and Kim had been seeing each other for some time, and many expect them to rush into marriage.
It seemed, once again, the Peter wasn't being fair. But Kim and Peter had their own reasons for waiting--reasons that few of those who commented on their relationship bothered to ask.
"I'm not rushing into anything," Kim said. "I want time to think, time to adjust...time to be sure of myself."
"Kim's divorce," Peter confided, echoing her feelings, "has just become final, and we want to get to know each other. There's been a lot of pressure on Kim, and she needs time to unwind and to start living again."
Peter realized that after her divorce, Kim was eager for understanding and companionship. It was a time which most woman who have gone through the breakup of a marriage are plagued by doubts and loneliness.
A proposal of marriage, Peter knew, could be good in one way--it would give Kim a feeling of security. In another way, however, it could be bad--she might agree out of loneliness rather than love.
Peter knew that another divorce was the last thing Kim wanted to face, and he wanted to be sure that when and if they married, the possibility of a split-up wouldn't even occur. To help prevent it, he decided to talk about Kim's future with him at a time when she could evaluate her feelings free from pressures and anxieties, a time when the painful experience of her divorce was far enough behind her to be forgotten.
Kim realized this, and instead of being hurt, she appreciated and admired Peter's decision. He loved her and respected her feelings, and his choice proved it.
The rave reviews she won for her True Grit role marked the beginning of busy career for Kim, and Generation promises to be one of the biggest hits of the year. She has thrown herself into her work with all her effort, and slowly she has begun to make the divorce a memory rather than an experience to be relived in moments of loneliness. With work and her child--and with Peter--she has found that it's possible to recover from tragedy. And for that, Kim is very grateful.
Kim and Peter have never been closer than they are today. When work took Peter to Europe, be kept in close touch through letters and phone calls, and he and Kim are currently discussing the possibility of starring in a film together--a love story.
Their real life love story appears to be reaching new heights, too, and their best friends hint that marriage isn't far off. In fact, by the time you read this--anything could have happened!
To some, Peter Duell still seems to be all wrong for Kim. He's left her when she needed him most, they insist, and hasn't asked her to marry him yet. Kim, though, knows the reasons behind Peters actions, and she's discovered that if Peter is the wrong man for her, being all wrapped up in the wrong man can be wonderful!
Kim stars in Paramount's True Grit.
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