Darlanne Fluegel was an American actress and model known for her roles in the movies ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’, ‘Once Upon a Time in America’, and ‘Tough Guys’ and the TV show ‘Hunter’. Originally from Pennsylvania, Fluegel began her journey in the world of glamour as a model. She was employed under Eileen Ford at her modelling agency and was taught acting by the illustrious thespian Stella Adler. In 1978, she had her screen debut in the mystery thriller ‘Eyes of Laura Mars’. Her next film, the science fiction adventure ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’, served as her gateway into mainstream Hollywood. She played Robert De Niro’s girlfriend in ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ and Kirk Douglas' girlfriend in ‘Tough Guys’. Fluegel had her TV debut in the 1984 television film ‘Concrete Beat’ and subsequently appeared in various guest roles in a number of TV shows. She had memorable roles in shows like ‘Crime Story’ and ‘Wiseguy’. Between 1990 and 1991, she portrayed Joanne Molenski in the final season of NBC’s crime drama ‘Hunter’.
After her father’s death, Darlanne Fluegel had no desire to be a burden on her mother and decided to pursue a career in modelling. Distinguished by her height (5' 7¼" / 1.71 m), photogenic face, and blonde hair, modelling proved to be the ideal choice for her. Prominent fashion personality Eileen Ford took her under her wing, and she quickly found success in the industry. Active from 1974 to 1981, she was signed to the Ford Agency before joining Zoli.
By the time she turned 25, she was feeling like she had become a washed-out model. As an actress, she had appeared in the 1978 mystery thriller ‘Eyes of Laura Mars’, portraying a model stalked by one of her fans. According to Fluegel, her performance in the film did not require much effort on her part as she had experiences with “creeps” in her real life. Nevertheless, she wanted to do more acting and took lessons from Stella Adler.
Her portrayal of the female lead in the cult sci-fi film ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ (1980) garnered her significant fame. She subsequently impressed the critics by portraying Robert De Niro’s girlfriend Eve in Sergio Leone's epic crime drama ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984). She also worked with writer/director Fred Williamson in the sports drama ‘The Last Fight’.
In 1984, she appeared on the small screen for the first time, in the TV movie ‘Concrete Beat’. She was cast opposite William Petersen in the 1985 action thriller ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’. Her character, Ruth Lanier, is a junkie and informant for the US Secret Service. In 1986, she made back-to-back guest appearances in two legendary television shows: ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’.
In 1986, she played Billy Crystal’s former wife in the action comedy ‘Running Scared’. The director of the film, Peter Hyams, later stated that he had a huge crush on Fluegel since he saw her in ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’. That year, she also appeared in ‘Tough Guys’, an action-comedy in which she portrayed the romantic interest of Kirk Douglas.
In Michael Mann’s gritty NBC drama series ‘Crime Story’ (1986-87), Fluegel was cast as Julie Torello, the wife of Lt. Mike Torello (Dennis Farina). Fluegel shared screen space with Sylvester Stallone in the 1989 prison drama ‘Lock Up’. She portrayed the recurring character Lacey in several episodes of CBS’ crime-drama series ‘Wiseguy’. In final season (1990-91) of the NBC crime-drama series ‘Hunter’, she appeared as Off. Joanne Molenski, a role that earned her much critical acclaim. In 2010, Fluegel, along with her ‘Hunter’ predecessor Stepfanie Kramer, were invited to a Los Angeles Police Department event celebrating women officers in the force.
Fluegel’s film credits also include ‘Fatal Sky’ (1990), ‘Pet Sematary II’ (1992), ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’ (1993), and ‘Darkman III: Die Darkman Die’ (1996). Her last screen appearance was in the 2008 short film ‘No Worries’.
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Family & Personal Life
Darlanne Fluegel was born on November 25, 1953, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA, to a chiropractor father and a Department of Social Security employee mother. She, her two older sisters, and her three younger brothers grew up Binghamton, New York. According to her family, she was an independent-minded tomboy as a child. Her father passed away when she was 16 years old and she subsequently started to work as a model to support herself.
Fluegel was married to Michael Ira Small from 1983 to 2004, and they had two children together, daughter Jenicka Carey, who has followed in her mother’s footsteps to become an actress, and a son, Coulter Nathan Small. Following her divorce from Small, Fluegel kept herself out of the spotlight.
Fluegel’s doctors diagnosed her with the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease when she was 56 years old. She fought it for the following eight years and eventually passed away on December 15, 2017, at her home in Orlando, Florida.