Linda Darnell exhibition celebrates two gifts to SMU arts library

Linda Darnell

Actress and Oak Cliff native Linda Darnell was named one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood by Look magazine. SMU’s Hamon Arts Library hosts a retrospective of her life and career through May 17, 2013.

Two recent gifts will expand the special collections housed in SMU’s Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library. A gift of personal materials from the estate of Dallas philanthropist and arts patron Nancy Hamon includes $1 million to endow, preserve and exhibit the collection. In addition, a planned estate gift of movie archives valued at $1.5 million has been made by film historian and collector Jeff Gordon.

Members of the public and the SMU community will receive a preview of the Gordon collection through “Linda Darnell from Dallas to Hollywood: Selections from the Jeff Gordon Collection.” The exhibition will be on view through May 17, 2013 in the Hawn Gallery, Hamon Arts Library. A preview reception at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, will be followed by a lecture by Jeff Gordon at 7 p.m. in the Hamon Arts Library. RSVP online at smu.edu/friends or by calling 214-768-3225.

Although the entire collection will not be transferred to SMU until a future date, Gordon is curating the Linda Darnell exhibition as a sneak preview of his collection. The show will include posters, photographs and materials from recently acquired scrapbooks of Darnell, a Dallas native who grew up in Oak Cliff and became a major movie star in the 1940s. She starred in cinema classics such as My Darling Clementine, The Mark of Zorro and A Letter to Three Wives with leading men including Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum. Her career peaked with Forever Amber in 1947. She later appeared on television and stage before her tragic death in a house fire in 1965.

Nancy Hamon, who died in 2011, provided $5 million in 1988 to establish the Hamon Arts Library at SMU, which opened in 1990. A branch of SMU’s Central University Libraries, it houses materials relevant to the visual, performing and communication arts in support of Meadows School of the Arts. Its archives include the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, which will house the Gordon Collection, and the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, where the Hamon materials are located.

“These two new collections will greatly enrich and broaden the holdings of the Hamon Arts Library,” said Gillian McCombs, dean and director of SMU’s Central University Libraries. “The Gordon gift will significantly increase our ability to support teaching and research in American film. And the Hamon Collection will draw researchers interested in Dallas history and the cultural history of the Southwest.”

The Gordon collection bequeathed to SMU includes hundreds of original movie posters, over 1,000 other film-related advertising materials, more than 15,000 35-millimeter slides of movie memorabilia (some of which have already been delivered to SMU), several thousand original movie photos, a 16-millimeter film collection with more than 200 features, more than 20 Warner Bros. cartoons, 100 television programs and a large group of Elvis Presley materials. The Gordon archives focus primarily on movies made from the 1930s to the 1970s.

The Hamon materials include photograph albums, diaries, records of Nancy Hamon’s elaborate theme parties in the 1950s and ’60s, memorabilia, personal correspondence with seven U.S. presidents and other prominent leaders, and materials related to her husband’s long career in the oil business. Among highlights of the collection are photos of the Hamons’ trip to China with George H.W. and Barbara Bush in the 1970s.

In 2013, as part of its Second Century Celebration, SMU will commemorate The Year of the Library — the 100th anniversary of the University’s library collections, which began to be acquired in 1913. In addition to marking historic milestones, the commemoration will recognize new commitments to update and expand the campus libraries. New gifts such as the Gordon and Hamon collections count toward Second Century Campaign goals, which include new investments for library facilities, endowments for acquisitions and library staff positions, and expansion of special collections.

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