Linda Christian, The First Bond Girl, Dead at 87

Linda Christian at 1962

ALT FILM GUIDE – Linda Christian, international actress and Tyrone Power’s second wife, died Friday (July 22) in Palm Springs, California. Christian, who was 87, had been suffering from colon cancer.

Linda Christian was born Blanca Rosa Henrietta Stella Welter Vorhauer on November 13, 1923, in Tampico, Mexico, to a Dutch oil executive and his German-Mexican wife. As a young girl, she traveled the world with her parents, according to reports eventually becoming fluent in seven languages.

Discovered by Errol Flynn while in Acapulco, Christian moved to Los Angeles where she began her film career in bit parts in Hollywood movies of the mid-1940s. Labeled “The Anatomic Bomb” by Life magazine, Christian eventually progressed to supporting roles in a handful of productions, among them Robert Florey’s Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) and Richard Fleischer’s The Happy Time (1952). Leading roles, however, eluded her, while a reported seven-year MGM contract led nowhere.

Though the first Bond girl — in the 1954 television production of Casino Royale, starring Barry Nelson as James Bond — and a favorite subject of painter Diego Rivera, Linda Christian’s chief claim to fame remains her marriage to 20th Century Fox superstar Tyrone Power, whom she met while Power was still married to wife no. 1, Annabella.

According to Power researcher Maria Ciaccia, the actor dumped Lana Turner, with whom he had a widely reported love affair, for Christian. With much pomp and surrounded by thousands of guests and hysterical fans, the couple were married in January 1949 at Rome’s Church of Santa Francesca Romana, right next to the Coliseum. They were later received by Pope Pius XII.

In Ciaccia’s words, Power and Christian “had a very passionate love and a very volatile relationship. … [T]hough they had just two children [Taryn Power and the “Rome-inspired” Romina Power], she was pregnant almost the entire time they were married — she miscarried several times, and one child, a son, was stillborn.”

Ciaccia added that Power “had a lot of affairs while he was married to Linda Christian, including with Anita Ekberg, whom he met when she was an extra on the set of Mississippi Gambler [1953], and that continued for quite a few years.”

The couple were divorced in 1956. The previous year, Christian was called to testify at a Los Angeles court because she refused to return jewels given her by Milwaukee socialite Robert H. Schlesinger, whose check for $100,000 — as partial payment for the jewels — had bounced.

Shortly after her divorce from Power, Christian became involved with London-born Spanish racing driver Alfonso de Portago, who would die in 1957 while taking part in the Mille Miglia race in Italy.

In 1962, four years after Power’s death of a heart attack while filming Solomon and Sheba in Spain, Christian married Edmund Purdom, best-known for playing the title role in the 1954 MGM musical The Student Prince. (Mario Lanza provided the student prince’s singing voice.) The marriage was terminated the following year.

Christian’s later film appearances included a rare lead in William J. Hole Jr’s horror mystery The Devil’s Hand (1962), with Robert Alda; a minor supporting role in Anthony Asquith’s all-star drama The V.I.P’s (1963); Michael Pfleghar’s Austrian-Italian comedy Bel Ami 2000 oder Wie verführt man einen Playboy? / How to Seduce a Playboy (1965); and Aldo Grimaldi’s Nel sole / L’oro del mondo / The World’s Gold (1967), in which she plays the mother of her real-life daughter Romina Power.

As per the IMDb, Christian’s last film roles were in two 1987 productions: Giovanna Lenzi’s Delitti and Sergio Pastore’s Amore inquieto di Maria. The following year she made her last appearance in front of the camera in Gian Pietro Calasso’s television movie Cambiamento d’aria.

Linda Christian’s sister, Ariadna Welter, had a long career in Mexican movies and television. Her most notable film role was in Luis Buñuel’s The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955). She died in 1998.

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