Linda Christian (born Blanca Rosa Welter; November 13, 1923 – July 22, 2011) was a Mexican film actress, who appeared in Mexican and Hollywood films. Her career reached its peak in the 1940s and 1950s. She played Mara in the last Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan film Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948). She is also noted for being the first Bond girl, appearing in a 1954 television adaptation of the James Bond novel Casino Royale. In 1963 she starred as Eva Ashley in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour titled "An Out for Oscar".
Linda Christian was born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, a daughter of Royal Dutch Shell executive Gerardus Jacob Welter (1904–1981), and his Mexican-born wife, the former Blanca Rosa Vorhauer (1901-1992), who was of Spanish, German and French descent. The Welter family moved a great deal during Christian's youth, living everywhere from South America and Europe to the Middle East and Africa. As a result of this nomadic lifestyle, Christian became an accomplished polyglot with the ability to speak fluent French, German, Dutch, Spanish, English, Italian and even a bit of haphazard Arabic and Russian.
Christian had three younger siblings, a sister and two brothers.
In her youth Christian's only aspiration was to become a physician. After she graduated from secondary school she had a fortuitous meeting with her screen idol Errol Flynn, who became her lover, and she was persuaded by him to give up her hopes of joining the medical profession, move to Hollywood, and pursue an acting career. Not long after arriving in Hollywood she was spotted by Louis B. Mayer's secretary at a fashion show in Beverly Hills. He offered her a seven-year contract with MGM.
Her stage name was invented by Flynn, who gave her the surname of Fletcher Christian of Mutiny on the Bounty. Flynn had played Fletcher Christian in a 1933 Australian film.
In his autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Flynn states that immediately after Linda Christian's screen test, he offered to pay for her to have a couple of crooked teeth fixed. When he got a whopping bill, he discovered that she had taken the opportunity to undergo major cosmetic dentistry. Years later, when he met her again, he said, "Smile, baby – I want to see those choppers: they took their first bite out of me."
She made her film debut in the 1944 musical comedy Up in Arms, followed by Holiday in Mexico (1946), Green Dolphin Street (1947), and what was perhaps her best-known film, Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948). She was the subject of a well-known photograph published in the January 1, 1949 issue of Vogue.
Christian was the first Bond girl to appear on screen, playing Valerie Mathis (opposite Barry Nelson as James Bond) in the 1954 TV adaptation of Casino Royale, beating Ursula Andress to the screen by eight years.
Christian's fame, however, was largely derived from having been married to (and divorced from) the popular screen idol Tyrone Power. The couple married in Rome, Italy in 1949 at Santa Francesca Romana church; Christian wore a formfitting gold-damask gown, and the church was decorated with two thousand 'Esther' carnations. They had two daughters: Romina Power, singer and Taryn Power, actress. Romina was one half of the Italian singing duo Al Bano and Romina Power.
In September 1956, a month after she divorced Tyrone Power, Christian was seen with Spanish racing driver Alfonso de Portago, who was married but was dating model Dorian Leigh.
On 12 May 1957, Linda was photographed with de Portago at the Mille Miglia car race before he drove off and crashed his Ferrari, killing himself. The press labeled the photo "The Kiss of Death". De Portago was 28 years old.
On several occasions, Christian and Power were offered the opportunity to work together, but for various reasons each offer was refused or rescinded. The most notable opportunity to co-star together came in 1953, when they were offered leading roles in From Here to Eternity. Power did not want to do the film and rejected the offer. The roles went to Donna Reed and Montgomery Clift. Another film they were offered together was Solomon and Sheba, but again Tyrone Power did not want to do it.
In September 1958, Christian's ex-husband Tyrone Power and his third wife Debbie Minardos (Deborah Jean Smith) went to Madrid and Valdespartera, Spain, to film the Solomon and Sheba. Power had filmed about 75 percent of his scenes when he was stricken by a massive heart attack while filming a dueling scene with his frequent co-star and friend, George Sanders. A doctor, Juan Olaguíbel, diagnosed Power's death as "fulminant angina pectoris." He died while being transported to the hospital in Madrid on November 15, aged 44.
Christian later would live in Spain for a few years.
In 1960, Christian published her memoirs, Linda: My Own Story, in New York.
In 1962 she was married to the Rome-based British actor Edmund Purdom but they were divorced next year in 1963.
Linda Christian died of colon cancer in California on July 22, 2011 at the age of 87.
In 2001, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.