Veronica Lake

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Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake still.jpg
Born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman
(1922-11-14)November 14, 1922
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died July 7, 1973(1973-07-07) (aged 50)
Burlington, Vermont, U.S.
Cause of death
Hepatitis and acute renal failure
Nationality American
Other names Constance Keane
Connie Keane
Education St. Bernard's School
Villa Maria
Miami High School
Occupation Actress
Years active 1939–1954; 1966; 1970
Spouse(s)

John S. Detlie (m. 1940; div. 1943)
André de Toth (m. 1944; div. 1952)
Joseph A. McCarthy (m. 1955; div. 1959)

Robert Carleton-Munro (m. 1972; div. 1973)
Children 4

Veronica Lake (November 14, 1922[1] – July 7, 1973) was an American film, stage and television actress.

Lake won both popular and critical acclaim, most notably for her role in Sullivan's Travels and for her femme fatale roles in film noirs with Alan Ladd, during the 1940s. She was also well known for her peek-a-boo hairstyle. By the late 1940s however, Lake's career had begun to decline in part due to her struggles with mental illness and alcoholism. She made only one film in the 1950s but appeared in several guest-starring roles on television. She returned to the screen in 1966 with a role in the film Footsteps In the Snow, but the role failed to revitalize her career.

Lake released her memoirs, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, in 1970. She used the money she made from the book to finance a low-budget horror film Flesh Feast. It was her final onscreen role. Lake died in July 1973 from hepatitis and acute kidney injury at the age of 50.

Early life[edit]

Lake was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Harry E. Ockelman, was of German-Danish descent,[2][3][4][5][6] and worked for an oil company aboard a ship. He died in an industrial explosion in Philadelphia in 1932. Lake's mother, Constance Charlotta (née Trimble; 1902–1992), of Irish descent,[7] married Anthony Keane, a newspaper staff artist, also of Irish descent, in 1933, and Lake began using his surname.

The Keanes lived in Saranac Lake, New York where Lake went to St. Bernard's School for a time. She was sent to Villa Maria, an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Montreal, Canada, from which she was expelled. The Keane family later moved to Miami, Florida where Lake attended Miami High School, where she was known for her beauty. She had a troubled childhood and was diagnosed as schizophrenic, according to her mother.[8]

Career[edit]

In 1938, the Keanes moved to Beverly Hills where Constance Keane enrolled Lake in the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting (now, Beverly Hills Playhouse). Her first appearance on screen was for RKO, playing a small role among several coeds in the 1939 film, Sorority House. Similar roles followed, including All Women Have Secrets and Dancing Co-Ed. During the making of Sorority House, director John Farrow first noticed how her hair always covered her right eye, creating an air of mystery about her and enhancing her natural beauty. While still a teenager, Lake was introduced to the Paramount producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. He changed her name to Veronica Lake because the surname suited her blue eyes.

RKO subsequently dropped her contract. A small role in the comedy Forty Little Mothers brought unexpected attention. In 1941 she was signed to a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures.

1940s icon[edit]

Lake in her first starring role, opposite Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Lake's breakthrough role was in the 1941 war drama I Wanted Wings. The film was a major hit in which Lake played the second female lead. She also had starring roles in more popular movies, including Sullivan's Travels, This Gun for Hire, I Married a Witch, The Glass Key, and So Proudly We Hail!. René Clair, the director of I Married a Witch, said of Lake "She was a very gifted girl, but she didn't believe she was gifted."[9]

For a short time during the early 1940s, Lake was considered one of the most reliable box office draws in Hollywood. At the peak of her popularity, she earned $4,500 a week.[10] She also raised a reported $12 million in war bonds in various tours.[11]

She became known for onscreen pairings with actor Alan Ladd. At first, the couple was teamed together merely out of physical necessity: Ladd was just 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) tall and the only actress then on the Paramount lot short enough to pair with him was Lake, who stood just 4 feet 11 12 inches (1.51 m). They made four films together.

A stray lock of her shoulder-length, blonde hair during a publicity photo shoot led to her iconic "peekaboo" hairstyle, which was widely imitated. During World War II, Lake changed her trademark image to encourage women working in war industry factories to adopt more practical, safer hairstyles,[12] although doing so may have damaged her career.[13]

Decline[edit]

Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd in trailer for "The Blue Dahlia" (1946)

Although popular with the public, Lake had a complex personality and acquired a reputation for being difficult to work with. Eddie Bracken, her co-star in Star Spangled Rhythm (in which Lake appeared in a musical number) was quoted as saying, "She was known as 'The Bitch' and she deserved the title."[14][15] Joel McCrea, her co-star in Sullivan's Travels, reportedly turned down the co-starring role in I Married a Witch, saying, "Life's too short for two films with Veronica Lake."[16] During filming of the 1946 film The Blue Dahlia, screenwriter Raymond Chandler referred to her as "Moronica Lake".[17]

Lake's career faltered with her unsympathetic role as Nazi spy Dora Bruckman in 1944's The Hour Before the Dawn. Scathing reviews of The Hour Before the Dawn included criticism of her unconvincing German accent. She had begun drinking more heavily during this period, and a growing number of people refused to work with her.

To boost her career, Paramount tried Lake in a series of comedies.[18] Few were successful but she was in the popular thriller The Blue Dahlia (1946), in which she again co-starred with Alan Ladd. Paramount decided not to renew her contract in 1948. Looking back at her career years later, Lake remarked, "I never did cheesecake; I just used my hair."[19]

After a single film for 20th Century Fox, Slattery's Hurricane in 1949, her career collapsed. By the end of 1951 she had appeared in one last film Stronghold (which she later described as "a dog"). Lake and her second husband, Andre De Toth, filed for bankruptcy that same year.[20] The IRS later seized their home for unpaid taxes.[21]

Lake then turned to television and stage work. In 1955 she collapsed in Detroit where she had been appearing on stage.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Lake earned her pilot's license in 1946 and later flew solo between Los Angeles and New York.[23]

Marriages and children[edit]

Lake's first marriage was to art director John S. Detlie, in 1940. They had a daughter, Elaine (born in 1941),[24] and a son Anthony (born July 8, 1943). Anthony was born prematurely a week after Lake tripped and fell over a cable while filming. Anthony died on July 15, 1943.[25] Lake and Detlie separated in August 1943 and divorced in December 1943.[24]

Lake married film director Andre De Toth in 1944 with whom she had a son, Andre Anthony Michael III (known as Michael De Toth), and a daughter, Diana (born October 1948). Days before Diana's birth, Lake's mother sued her for support payments.[26] Lake and De Toth divorced in 1952.[27]

In September 1955, she married songwriter Joseph Allan McCarthy.[28] They were divorced in 1959. Lake's fourth and final marriage was to Royal Navy captain Robert Carleton-Munro in June 1972. They divorced after one year.[29]

Later years[edit]

Veronica Lake in trailer for "Flesh Feast" (1970)

After her third divorce, Lake drifted between cheap hotels in New York City, and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. In 1962, a New York Post reporter found her working as a barmaid at the all-women's Martha Washington Hotel in Manhattan.[30] The reporter's widely distributed story led to some television and stage appearances, most notably in the off-Broadway revival of the musical Best Foot Forward. (Her contract overlapped with the departing Liza Minnelli and the two briefly co-starred together.) In 1966, she had a brief stint as a TV hostess in Baltimore, Maryland, along with a largely ignored film role in Footsteps In the Snow.

Her memoirs, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, were released in the United Kingdom in 1969, and in the United States the following year. In the book, Lake discusses her career, her failed marriages, her alcoholism, and her guilt over not spending enough time with her children.[31] With the proceeds from her autobiography, she co-produced and starred in her final film, Flesh Feast (1970), a low-budget horror movie with a Nazi-myth storyline.

Lake then moved to Ipswich, England, where she met and married Royal Navy captain Robert Carleton-Munro, in June 1972.[32] The marriage lasted just one year and Lake returned to the United States in June 1973. She went to the Virgin Islands to await her divorce decree when she fell ill.[29]

Death[edit]

Lake died on July 7, 1973, of hepatitis and acute kidney injury in Burlington, Vermont's Fletcher Allen Hospital.[33][34] Her son, Michael, claimed her body.[35] Lake's memorial service was held at the Universal Chapel in New York City on July 11.[36]

Lake was cremated and, according to her wishes, her ashes were scattered off the coast of the Virgin Islands. In 2004, some of Lake's ashes were reportedly found in a New York antique store.[37]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Veronica Lake has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Boulevard.[38]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1939 Sorority House Coed Uncredited, alternative title: That Girl from College
1939 Wrong Room, TheThe Wrong Room The Attorney's New Bride Credited as Connie Keane
1939 Dancing Co-Ed One of Couple on Motorcycle Uncredited
Alternative title: Every Other Inch a Lady
1939 All Women Have Secrets Jane Credited as Constance Keane
1940 Young as You Feel Bit part Credited as Constance Keane
1940 Forty Little Mothers Granville girl Uncredited
1941 I Wanted Wings Sally Vaughn
1941 Hold Back the Dawn Movie Actress Uncredited
1941 Sullivan's Travels The Girl
1942 This Gun for Hire Ellen Graham
1942 Glass Key, TheThe Glass Key Janet Henry
1942 I Married a Witch Jennifer
1942 Star Spangled Rhythm Herself
1943 So Proudly We Hail! Lt. Olivia D'Arcy
1944 Hour Before the Dawn, TheThe Hour Before the Dawn Dora Bruckmann
1945 Bring on the Girls Teddy Collins
1945 Out of This World Dorothy Dodge
1945 Duffy's Tavern Herself
1945 Hold That Blonde Sally Martin
1946 Miss Susie Slagle's Nan Rogers
1946 Blue Dahlia, TheThe Blue Dahlia Joyce Harwood
1947 Ramrod Connie Dickason
1947 Variety Girl Herself
1948 Saigon Susan Cleaver
1948 Sainted Sisters, TheThe Sainted Sisters Letty Stanton
1948 Isn't It Romantic? Candy Cameron
1949 Slattery's Hurricane Dolores Greaves
1951 Stronghold Mary Stevens
1966 Footsteps In the Snow
1970 Flesh Feast Dr. Elaine Frederick Alternative title: Time is Terror
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1950 Your Show of Shows Herself - Guest Performer Episode #2.11
1950 Lights Out Mercy Device Episode: "Beware This Woman"
1950–1953 Lux Video Theatre Various 3 episodes
1951 Somerset Maugham TV Theatre Valerie Episode: "The Facts of Life"
1952 Celanese Theatre Abby Fane Episode: "Brief Moment"
1952 Tales of Tomorrow Paula Episode: "Flight Overdue"
1952 Goodyear Television Playhouse Judy "Leni" Howard Episode: "Better Than Walking"
1953 Danger Episode: "Inside Straight"
1954 Broadway Television Theatre Nancy Willard Episode: "The Gramercy Ghost"

Selected stage credits[edit]

  • Direct Hit - war show Boston, June 1944[39]
  • The Voice of the Turtle - Atlanta, February 1951[40]
  • The Curtain Rises by H.M. Kaye - Olney Theatre, Washington, 1951[41]
  • Peter Pan - road tour, 1951
  • Gramercy Hill - 1952[42]
  • The Little Hut Detroit 1955
  • Best Foot Forward 1963
  • A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams with Ty Hardin - New Theatre, Bromley, Kent 1969[43]

In popular culture[edit]

Clips from her role in The Glass Key were integrated into the 1982 film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, as character Monica Stillpond.

Lake was one of the models for the animated character of Jessica Rabbit in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, especially for her hairstyle.[44][45]

In the 1997 film L.A. Confidential (based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel), Kim Basinger won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of a prostitute who is a Veronica Lake look-alike, and who is complimented by a police officer who tells her, "You look better than Veronica Lake".[46][47]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, State of Washington, County of Kings, enumeration district 1657, page 8-B, family 151, Constance Ockelman (sic), age 7 years, born in Seattle. Her father, Harry Ockelman, Jr., is listed as unmarried in the 1920 U.S. Census of Pennsylvania.
  2. ^ The Paramount Pretties, James Robert Parish, Arlington House, 1972, ISBN0870001809, 9780870001802, page. 410
  3. ^ Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors, Calvin Thomas Beck, Macmillan, 1978ISBN 0025081705, 9780025081703, page 169
  4. ^ David Shipman The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years, London: Macdonald, 1989, p.341
  5. ^ Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film, Karen Burroughs Hannsberry, McFarland, 1998, ISBN 0786404299, 9780786404292, page. 300
  6. ^ http://books.google.ie/books?id=700EAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=veronica%20lake&f=false
  7. ^ Her maternal grandparents were the children of Irish immigrants. U.S. Census, January 1, 1920, State of New York, County of Kings, enumeration district 290, p. 8-A, family 189. U.S. Census, April 15, 1910, State of New York, County of Kings, enumeration district 655, p. 5-A, family 125.
  8. ^ (Chierichetti 2004, p. 70)
  9. ^ (Terkel 1999, p. 168)
  10. ^ Veronica Lake, Ex-Actress, Dies By Martin Weil Washington Post Staff Writer. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] July 8, 1973: C8.
  11. ^ VERONICA LAKE, FULL FACE By THEODORE STRAUSS. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] November 8, 1942: X3.
  12. ^ "Veronica Lake's remains resurface". USA Today. October 12, 2004. Retrieved June 2, 2008. 
  13. ^ (Starr 2003, pp. 128–129)
  14. ^ (Donnelley 2003, p. 392)
  15. ^ (Parish & Pitts 2003, p. 480)
  16. ^ Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies, October 6, 2010
  17. ^ (Hiney 1999, p. 154)
  18. ^ Change of Pace in Roles Beckons Veronica Lake: Star to Pause at Career's Crossroads Roles to Shift for Veronica Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] July 8, 1945: C1.
  19. ^ (Bloomfield, Shain & Davidson 2004, p. 409)
  20. ^ "Veronica Lake Says She's Bankrupt". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. August 17, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Actress Loses Home For Not Paying Tax". 8. April 7, 1951. pp. Lodi News–Sentinel. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  22. ^ Veronica Lake in Hospital New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] October 28, 1955: 21.
  23. ^ "Turner Classic Movies". Tcmdb.com. Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  24. ^ a b "Veronica Lake Wins Divorce". The Miami News. December 2, 1943. p. 1. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Veronica Lake's Baby, Born Prematurely, Dies". Reading Eagle. July 16, 1943. p. 18. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Veronica Lake Sued By Mother". The Tuscaloosa News. October 12, 1948. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Veronica Lake Wins Divorce From Director". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (June 3, 1952). p. 12. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Veronica Lake Weds Ex-County Tunesmith". The Herald. September 4, 1955. p. 2. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b (Burroughs Hannsberry 2009, p. 307)
  30. ^ "Veronica Lake is a Waitress Now", Milwaukee Journal, March 22, 1962, p11
  31. ^ Klemesrud, Judy (March 14, 1971). "What Ever Happened to Veronica Lake?". The Palm Beach Post. p. C6. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  32. ^ For Veronica Lake, the Past Is Something to Write About By JUDY KLEMESRUD. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] March 10, 1971: 38.
  33. ^ "Veronica Lake profile". BunksPlace. 
  34. ^ Vermont Death Records, 1909–2003. Published by Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, Montpelier, Vermont.
  35. ^ "Veronica Lake To Be Buried In Islands". The Virgin Islands Daily News. July 11, 1973. p. 1. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  36. ^ "Rites for Miss Lake Today". The New York Times. July 11, 1973. 
  37. ^ "Veronica Lake's Ashes For Sale?"
  38. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: Veronica Lake". latimes.com. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  39. ^ Veronica Lake Is Added To War Loan Show Cast: Bay State Quota Other Ovations The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] June 9, 1944: 2.
  40. ^ eronica Lake Taking Role New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 July 1951: 13.
  41. ^ Veronica Lake Will Hit Strawhat Trail at Olney The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] August 26, 1951: L2.
  42. ^ STAGE LEAD IS SEEN FOR VERONICA LAKE: Film Actress May Make Debut on Broadway in 'Masquerade,' Birchard-Stagg Comedy By LOUIS CALTA. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] October 25, 1952: 13.
  43. ^ Veronica Lake Opens in London 'Streetcar' GHISAYS, ROBERT. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] September 11, 1969: e11.
  44. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (1988-08-01). "An Animator Breaks Old Rules and New Ground in 'Roger Rabbit'". New York Times. 
  45. ^ (Hischak 2011, p. 214)
  46. ^ "Video: Period films connected by the past.". Los Angeles Daily News. April 17, 1998. Retrieved 2012-07-07.   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  47. ^ (Hare 2008, p. 219)

Sources[edit]

  • Bloomfield, Gary L.; Shain, Stacie L.; Davidson, Arlen C. (2004). Duty, Honor, Applause: America's Entertainers in World War II. Globe Pequot. ISBN 1-59228-550-3. 
  • Burroughs Hannsberry, Karen (2009). Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film. McFarland. ISBN 0-786-44682-X. 
  • Chierichetti, David (2004). Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-056740-6. 
  • Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade To Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5. 
  • Hare, William (2008). L.A. Noir: Nine Dark Visions of the City of Angels. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786437405. 
  • Hiney, Tom (1999). Raymond Chandler: A Biography. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3637-0. 
  • Hischak, Thomas S. (2011). Disney Voice Actors: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786462711. 
  • Parish, James Robert (2001). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More than 125 American Movie and TV Idols. Contemporary Books. ISBN 0-8092-2227-2. 
  • Parish, James Robert; Pitts, Michael R. (2003). Hollywood Songsters: Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing: A Biographical Dictionary. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-94333-7. 
  • Starr, Kevin (2003). Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516897-6. 
  • Terkel, Studs (1999). The Spectator: Talk About Movies and Plays With Those Who Made Them. The New Press. ISBN 1-565-84553-6. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]