Darby’s Rangers

Andrea King and Corey Allen in “Darby’s Rangers.” Warner Bros., 1958.

Andrea King was sitting in the comfort of her own home one evening when the telephone rang. It was Steve Trilling, Jack Warner’s top assistant at Warner Bros., and he was desperate. He needed a last-minute replacement for Margaret Hayes, who had come down with the measles right before production began on the World War II drama “Darby’s Rangers,” starring James Garner.

Mr. Garner was fresh from his starring role on TV’s “Maverick,” and although this was his first experience as the primary lead in a feature film, the studio was putting a lot of time and effort into it. The idea that Mr. Trilling was phoning Andrea personally, rather than going through her agent, said a lot about how urgent their dilemma was. He offered her a tempting salary and flattered her greatly, saying she was the only actress he could think of who could do this on such short notice. He told her the part wasn’t big or glamorous. She would play Sheilah, the Scottish wife of an archeologist-turned-army-officer who had agreed to house an American soldier during his wartime training. Finally, Steve’s skillful persuasion won out, and Andrea accepted the part before she truly realized what she had done. He would messenger the script to her within the hour, and she had to report to the studio at six o’clock the next morning.

As she hung hp, she realized the worst of it: the part was Scottish, and Andrea would face the cameras in mere hours with an unrehearsed accent. Fortunately, her own daughter’s live-in nanny was Scottish, and Andrea spent the better part of that night in an intense “bootcamp” dialect session.

“Darby’s Rangers” did well at the box office even though Andrea was disappointed that one of her key scenes — a rape — had been cut, due to the urging of the censors. It made her reactions seem curious and a bit over-the-top. Still, under the circumstances, she was proud of her work and her association with the film.

The original 1-sheet for “Darby’s Rangers” features Andrea King and Corey Allen, among its romantically entwined characters, with a definite spin on sex appeal while downplaying the wartime aspects of the story in the advertising.