Carole Landis

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Carole Landis
Carole Landis in Topper Returns.jpg
Landis in Topper Returns (1941)
Born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste
(1919-01-01)January 1, 1919
Fairchild, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died July 5, 1948(1948-07-05) (aged 29)
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Suicide
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Occupation Actress
Years active 1937-1948
Spouse(s) Irving Wheeler
(m.1934-1939; divorced)
Willis Hunt Jr.
(m.1940; divorced)
Thomas C. Wallace
(m.1943-1945; divorced)
W. Horace Schmidlapp
(m.1945-1948; her death)

Carole Landis (January 1, 1919 – July 5, 1948) was an American film and stage actress, who worked as a contract-player for Twentieth Century-Fox in the 1940s. Her breakthrough role was as the female lead in the 1940 film One Million B.C., with United Artists.

She died of an intentional drug overdose at the age of 29 in 1948. After her death, newspapers headlined stories about the actress, some with the title "The Actress Who Could Have Been...But Never Was."[citation needed]

Early life and family[edit]

Landis was born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste in Fairchild, Wisconsin. Her mother, Clara (née Stentek), was a Polish farmer's daughter.[1][2] A Time magazine article published the month of her death identifies her father as a "drifting railroad mechanic";[1] according to a 2005 biography, the mother was married to Norwegian Alfred Ridste, who abandoned the family before Landis was born, and it was Charles Fenner, her mother's second husband, who most likely was Landis' biological father.[3] She was the youngest of five children, two of whom died in childhood. Her early years were filled with poverty and sexual abuse.[4]

In January 1934, 15-year-old Landis married her 19-year-old neighbor, Irving Wheeler, but the marriage was annulled in February 1934. They later remarried on August 25, 1934. Wheeler named Busby Berkeley in an alienation of affections lawsuit in 1938 involving Landis,[3] and they divorced in 1939.

Career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Landis dropped out of high school at age 15 and set forth on a career path to show business. She started out as a hula dancer in a San Francisco nightclub and later sang with a dance band.[1] She bleached her hair blonde and changed her name to "Carole Landis" after her favorite actress, Carole Lombard. After saving $100 she moved to Hollywood.[1]

Film career[edit]

Her 1937 film debut was as an extra in A Star Is Born; she also appeared in various horse operas.[1] She posed for hundreds of cheesecake photographs.[1] She continued appearing in bit parts until 1940 when Hal Roach cast her as a cave girl in One Million B.C.. The movie was a sensation and turned Landis into a star. A press agent nicknamed her "The Ping Girl" (because "she makes you purr").[1]

Landis appeared in a string of successful films in the early '40s, usually as the second female lead. In a time when the singing of many actresses was dubbed in, Landis's own voice was considered good enough and was used in her few musical roles. Landis landed a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox and began a sexual relationship with Darryl F. Zanuck. She had roles playing opposite fellow pin-up girl Betty Grable in Moon Over Miami and I Wake Up Screaming, both in 1941. When Landis ended her relationship with Zanuck, her career suffered and she was assigned roles in B-movies.

Her final two films Noose and Brass Monkey were both made in Great Britain.

USO Tours[edit]

In 1942, she toured with comedienne Martha Raye, dancer Mitzi Mayfair and actress Kay Francis with a USO troupe in England and North Africa. Two years later, she entertained soldiers in the South Pacific with Jack Benny. Landis traveled more than 100,000 miles during the war and spent more time visiting troops than any other actress. Landis became a popular pin-up with servicemen during World War II.

Broadway[edit]

In 1945 she starred on Broadway in the musical A Lady Says Yes with Jacqueline Susann, with whom she reportedly had an affair.[5] Susann purportedly based the character Jennifer North in her book Valley of the Dolls on Landis.

Writing[edit]

Landis wrote several newspaper and magazine articles about her experiences during the war, including the 1944 book Four Jills in a Jeep, which was later made into a movie, costarring Kay Francis, Martha Raye, and Mitzi Mayfair. She also wrote the foreword to Victor Herman's cartoon book Winnie the WAC.

Personal life[edit]

In June 1939, director-choreographer Busby Berkeley proposed to Landis, but later broke it off. In 1940 she married yacht broker Willis Hunt Jr., a man she called "sarcastic" and left after two months.[1] Two years later, she met an Army Air Corps captain named Thomas Wallace in London, and married him in a church ceremony; they divorced a couple of years later. Landis wanted to have children but was unable to conceive due to endometriosis.[1]

In 1945, Landis married Broadway producer W. Horace Schmidlapp. By 1948, her career was in decline and her marriage with Schmidlapp was collapsing. She entered into a romance with actor Rex Harrison, who was then married to actress Lilli Palmer.

Death[edit]

Landis was reportedly crushed when Harrison refused to divorce his wife for her; unable to cope any longer, she committed suicide in her Pacific Palisades home at 1465 Capri Drive by taking an overdose of Seconal.[6][7] She had spent her final night alive with Harrison.

The next afternoon, Harrison and the maid discovered her on the bathroom floor. Harrison waited several hours before he called a doctor and the police.[8] According to some sources, Landis left two suicide notes, one for her mother and the second for Harrison who instructed his lawyers to destroy it.[9] During a coroner's inquest, Harrison denied knowing any motive for her suicide and told the coroner he did not know of the existence of a second suicide note.[10] Landis' official web site, which is owned by her family, has questioned the events of Landis' death and the coroner's ruling of suicide.[11]

Carole Landis was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California in plot 814 of the "Everlasting Love" section. Among the celebrities at her funeral were Cesar Romero, Van Johnson, and Pat O'Brien.[12] Harrison attended with his wife.[1]

Landis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,[13] at 1765 Vine Street.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1937 King and the Chorus Girl, TheThe King and the Chorus Girl Chorine Uncredited
1937 Star Is Born, AA Star Is Born Girl in beret at Santa Anita bar Uncredited
1937 Day at the Races, AA Day at the Races Dance Extra
1937 Fly Away Baby Blonde at airport
1937 Emperor's Candlesticks, TheThe Emperor's Candlesticks Bit part
1937 Broadway Melody of 1938 Dancer
1937 Varsity Show Student
1937 Alcatraz Island Uncredited
1937 Over the Goal Co-ed Uncredited
1937 Adventurous Blonde Uncredited
1937 Hollywood Hotel Hat check girl with coat
1938 Invisible Menace, TheThe Invisible Menace Woman waiting to go with her Johnnie
1938 Blondes at Work Carol
1938 Slight Case of Murder, AA Slight Case of Murder Partygoer leaning on piano during song
1938 Love, Honor and Behave Wheel watcher at party Uncredited
1938 Over the Wall Peggy, girl at beach Uncredited
1938 Women Are Like That Cocktail party guest Uncredited
1938 Adventures of Robin Hood, TheThe Adventures of Robin Hood Guest at banquet Uncredited
1938 Gold Diggers in Paris Golddigger Alternative title: The Gay Impostors
1938 Men Are Such Fools June Cooper
1938 When You Were Born Ship passenger Uncredited
1938 Penrod's Double Trouble Girl at fair Uncredited
1938 Four's a Crowd Myrtle, Lansford's 2nd Secretary
1938 Boy Meets Girl Commissary cashier Uncredited
1939 Three Texas Steers Nancy Evans Alternative title: Danger Rides the Range
1939 Daredevils of the Red Circle Blanche Granville
1939 Cowboys from Texas June Jones
1939 Reno Mrs. Humphrey Uncredited
1940 One Million B.C. Loana
1940 Turnabout Sally Willows
1940 Mystery Sea Raider June McCarthy
1941 Road Show Penguin Moore
1941 Topper Returns Ann Carrington
1941 Moon Over Miami Barbara Latimer, aka Miss Sears
1941 Dance Hall Lily Brown
1941 I Wake Up Screaming Vicky Lynn Alternative title: Hot Spot
1941 Cadet Girl Gene Baxter
1942 Gentleman at Heart, AA Gentleman at Heart Helen Mason
1942 My Gal Sal Mae Collins
1942 It Happened in Flatbush Kathryn Baker
1942 Orchestra Wives Natalie Mercer
1942 Manila Calling Edna Fraser
1943 Powers Girl, TheThe Powers Girl Kay Evans
1943 Wintertime Flossie Fouchere
1943 Show Business at War Herself
1944 Secret Command Jill McGann
1944 Four Jills in a Jeep Herself
1945 Having Wonderful Crime Helene Justus
1946 Behind Green Lights Janet Bradley
1946 Scandal in Paris, AA Scandal in Paris Loretta de Richet Alternative title: Thieves' Holiday
1946 It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog Julia Andrews
1947 Out of the Blue Mae Earthleigh
1948 Noose Linda Medbury Alternative title: The Silk Noose
1948 Brass Monkey Kay Sheldon Alternative title: Lucky Mascot

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Casually in Hollywood". Time. July 19, 1948. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  2. ^ Gans, Eric Lawrence. Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 205. ISBN 1-604-73013-7. 
  3. ^ a b Fleming, E.J. (2005). Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co. ISBN 978-0-7864-2200-5, p. 49
  4. ^ Powell, Tammy; Ann, Elizabeth. "The Early Years". CaroleLandis.net. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Nicholas Wapshott (1991) Rex Harrison, p. 111
  6. ^ Parish, James Robert (2002). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols (3 ed.). Contemporary Books. p. 315. ISBN 0-8092-2227-2. 
  7. ^ Gans, Eric Lawrence (2008). "The Good Die Young (1948)". Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 197–199. ISBN 978-1-60473-013-5. Retrieved 13 June 2009. 
  8. ^ Mosby, Aline (July 6, 1948). "Carole Landis Mystery Death Clues Hunted". Oakland Tribune. p. 1. 
  9. ^ Gans, Eric Lawrence (2008). Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 190. ISBN 1-60473-013-7. 
  10. ^ Actor Rex Harrison answering questions from coroner Ira Nance at inquiry on Carol Landis' suicide, a July 1948 Los Angeles Times photograph from the UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library website
  11. ^ Powell, Tammy. "Was Carole Murdered?". carolelandisofficial. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Mosby, Aline (July 11, 1948). "Scores Attend Funeral of Carole Landis". Oakland Tribune. p. 1. 
  13. ^ Carole Landis from the Hollywood Walk of Fame website

External links[edit]