Bella Darvi (October 23, 1928 - September 11, 1971) was an actress of Polish parentage, although promotional materials refer to her as French.
She was born Bayla Wegier in Sosnowiec, Poland. Her parents were Polish Jews who had moved to France. Jailed by the Nazis during World War II, she was released in 1943. She married a successful businessman, Alban Cavalcade (1949 - 1950) and traveled with him to Monaco. There she became habituated to alcohol, gambling and the "high life". Discovered in Paris by Darryl Zanuck, who believed she had an interesting natural beauty like Ingrid Bergman's, she was brought to Hollywood and groomed for stardom, moving into the Zanuck home and possibly becoming his mistress in the process although she reportedly had several affairs or at least dated other men during this time, including Robert Stack.
She is probably best known for the role of Nefer, the seductive Babylonian courtesan, in Zanuck's spectacular film The Egyptian. She was often criticized or passed over for parts, because of her thick accent compounded by a lisp, and worked hard to speak clearly as Nefer.
Her career was unsuccessful despite Zanuck's best efforts; she had a reputation as a compulsive gambler and as being hard to work with. Constantly badmouthed by Zanuck's daughter Susan, who hated her, she was eventually thrown out of the Zanuck home.
Zanuck subsequently left his wife thinking to make a more permanent relationship with Bella, but discovered that she was a lesbian, or at least bisexual, unthinkable at the time. (She later very publicly dated women, as well as men.) Despite liaisons with extremely wealthy men, she was unable to establish a permanent relationship or to curb her gambling habit. Zanuck was still paying off her debts as late as 1970.
She committed suicide in Monte Carlo by gas in 1971. Her body was not found for some time.