Arlene Dahl, ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ actor turned entrepreneur, dies

Actress Arlene Dahl arrives at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 1982.
(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

Arlene Dahl, the actor whose charm and striking red hair shone in such Technicolor movies of the 1950s as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Three Little Words,” has died. She was 96.

Dahl’s son, actor Lorenzo Lamas, said in posts on Facebook and Instagram that she died Monday morning in New York. No cause of death was given.

“I will remember her laughter, her joy, her dignity as she navigated the challenges that she faced,” Lamas said. “She truly was a force of nature.”


In 1959’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” an adaptation of Jules Verne’s sci-fi classic, Dahl plays the widow of a scientist who joins co-stars James Mason and Pat Boone on a harrowing race to Earth’s core.

She sang and danced in 1950’s “Three Little Words,” a musical biopic of songwriters Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, playing Ruby’s wife Eileen Percy opposite frequent co-star Red Skelton.

She co-starred with Bob Hope in 1953’s “Here Come the Girls,” provided the love interest for Skelton in 1950’s “Watch the Birdie’” and played the hero’s sweetheart in such adventures as 1952’s “Caribbean” with John Payne, 1953’s “Jamaica Run” with Ray Milland and 1954’s “Bengal Brigade” with Rock Hudson.

Dahl became as famous for her six marriages as for her acting career. Her husbands included screen performers Fernando Lamas and Lex Barker, Fleischmann’s yeast heir Christopher Holmes, wine importer Alexis Lichine and investor Rounsevelle Schaum. She was married to businessman Marc Rosen for the last 37 years of her life.

Arlene Dahl, on left, with Brooke Shields, Cliff Robertson and Dina Merrill in 1984.
Arlene Dahl, left, with Brooke Shields, Cliff Robertson and Dina Merrill in 1984.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

When her movie career ended, Dahl remained prominent in television, including a three-year stint in the soap opera “One Life to Live” in the mid-1980s.

She made frequent appearances on “The Love Boat” in the 1980s, and guest-starred on her son Lamas’ series “Renegade” and “Air America” in the late 1990s.

Dahl also was active in the lifestyle business, with a syndicated column on beauty tips and a perfume line as well as lingerie and exercise outfits that she designed herself. In the 1960s, Dahl wrote an advice book, “Always Ask a Man: Arlene Dahl’s Key to Femininity.”


Her marriage to Barker was her first; it lasted seven months. “Lex was the best undressed man I’ve ever known,” she said in a frank 1985 People magazine interview.

The marriage to Lamas ended after seven years when he left her for Esther Williams.

Of Norwegian descent, Dahl was born in 1925 in Minneapolis, where her father was a Ford dealer. Stage-struck in high school, she joined a drama group and made her way to New York, where she modeled and appeared in Broadway plays.

She was signed by Warner Bros., making her first credited appearance in the 1947 musical “My Wild Irish Rose.” She then moved to MGM, where her films included 1948’s “A Southern Yankee” with Skelton and 1950’s “The Outriders” with Joel McCrea.