Carole Landis

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Carole Landis
Carole Landis-publicity.JPG
Landis in 1941
Frances Lillian Mary Ridste

(1919-01-01)January 1, 1919
DiedJuly 5, 1948(1948-07-05) (aged 29)
Cause of deathSuicide
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park
Other namesThe Ping Girl and The Chest
Occupation(s)Actress, Singer
Years active1937–1948
Irving Wheeler
(m. 1934; annulled 1934)
Irving Wheeler
(m. 1934; div. 1939)
Willis Hunt Jr.
(m. 1940; div. 1940)
Thomas C. Wallace
(m. 1943; div. 1945)
(m. 1945⁠–⁠1948)

Carole Landis (born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste; January 1, 1919 – July 5, 1948) was an American actress and singer. She worked as a contract player for Twentieth Century-Fox in the 1940s. Her breakout role was as the female lead in the 1940 film One Million B.C. from United Artists. She was known as "The Ping Girl" and "The Chest" because of her curvy figure.[1]

Early life[edit]

Landis was born on January 1, 1919, in Fairchild, Wisconsin, the youngest of five children of Clara (née Sentek), a Polish farmer's daughter, and Norwegian-American Alfred Ridste, a drifting railroad mechanic who abandoned the family after Landis's birth.[2][3]: 205 [4] According to Landis's biographer E. J. Fleming, circumstantial evidence supports that Landis was likely the biological child of her mother's second husband, Charles Fenner. Fenner left Landis's mother in April 1921 and remarried a few months later.[5]

In 1923, Landis's family moved to San Bernardino, California, where her mother worked menial jobs to support the family.[6] At the age of 15, Landis dropped out of San Bernardino High School and set forth on a career path to show business.[7] She started out as a hula dancer in a San Francisco nightclub, where she was described by her boss as a "nervous $35-a-week blonde doing a pathetic hula at her opening night at the old Royal Hawaiian on Bush [Street]...that'll never get her anyplace in show business". He apparently employed her only because he felt sorry for her;[8] she later sang with a dance band. 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.[2]


Film career[edit]

Landis made her film debut as an extra in the 1937 film A Star Is Born; she also appeared in various horse operas.[2] She posed for hundreds of cheesecake photographs.[2] She continued appearing in bit parts until 1940, when Hal Roach cast her as a cave girl in One Million B.C..[9] The movie was a sensation and turned Landis into a star. A press agent nicknamed her "The Ping Girl" (an awkward contraction of "purring").[2]

Carole Landis in Topper Returns, 1941

Landis appeared in a string of successful films in the early 1940s, 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 the musical Moon Over Miami and crime drama 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. Benny later said that while many entertainers were reluctant to visit wounded men in camp hospitals, Landis made a point of spending time with them, and she displayed tremendous empathy as she talked with them about their lives and families back home. Landis traveled more than 100,000 miles during the war and spent more time visiting troops than any other actress.[citation needed] She became a popular pin-up with servicemen during World War II.


In 1945 she starred on Broadway in the musical A Lady Says Yes, with future novelist Jacqueline Susann in a small role. Susann is said to have based the character of Jennifer North, from her best-selling novel Valley of the Dolls, in part on Landis.


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]

Sgt. Bill Stewart and Landis ca. 1940s
Landis and John Wayne, 1939
William Gargan and Landis, 1946)

Landis was married four times and had no children (she was unable to conceive owing to endometriosis).[2] In January 1934, 15-year-old Landis married her first husband, 19-year-old Irving Wheeler. Her mother had the marriage annulled in February 1934. Landis persuaded her father, Alfred Ridste (who had left the family shortly after Landis was born and who, by coincidence, lived near the family in San Bernardino), to allow her to remarry Wheeler. He finally relented, and the two were remarried on August 25, 1934. After three weeks of marriage, Landis and Wheeler got into an argument and Landis walked out. Neither filed for divorce, and Landis began pursuing an acting career.[10] In 1938, Wheeler reappeared and filed a $250,000 alienation of affections lawsuit against director and choreographer Busby Berkeley. Even though Landis and Wheeler were estranged, he claimed that Berkeley had enticed and otherwise persuaded Landis to transfer her affections. Landis maintained that she had not seen Wheeler in years and heard from him only the previous year when he claimed to want a divorce.[11] Wheeler's lawsuit was later dismissed, and Landis and Wheeler were divorced in 1939.[12]: 399  In June 1939 Berkeley proposed to Landis but later broke it off. On July 4, 1940, she married yacht broker Willis Hunt, Jr. in Las Vegas.[13] Landis left Hunt after two months of marriage;[2] they were divorced in November 1940.[14]

While touring army camps in London in 1942, she met United States Army Air Forces Captain Thomas Wallace.[15] They were married in January 1943 but separated in May 1945.[16] They divorced in July 1945.[15]

On December 8, 1945, Landis married Broadway producer W. Horace Schmidlapp.[12]: 400  They separated in 1947 and Landis filed for divorce in May 1948, charging Schmidlapp with "extreme mental cruelty".[9][17] During her separation from Schmidlapp, Landis began a relationship with actor Rex Harrison, who was then married to actress Lilli Palmer. The affair became an open secret in Hollywood.[18] After Landis's death, however, Harrison downplayed their relationship and publicly claimed that she was merely a close friend of himself and Palmer.[19]


Grave of Carole Landis at Forest Lawn Glendale

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.[20][3]: 197–199  Harrison was the last person to see her alive, having had dinner with her the night before she committed suicide.[21]

The next afternoon, Harrison and Landis's maid discovered her on the bathroom floor. Harrison waited several hours before he called a doctor and the police.[22] 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.[3]: 190  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.[23] Landis's official website, which is owned by her family, has questioned the events of Landis's death and the coroner's ruling of suicide.[24] She is 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.[25] Harrison attended with his wife.[2]

Landis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1765 Vine Street.[26]


Year Title Role Notes
1937 The King and the Chorus Girl Chorine Uncredited
1937 A Star Is Born Girl in beret at Santa Anita bar Uncredited
1937 A Day at the Races Dance Extra
1937 Fly Away Baby Blonde at airport
1937 The 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 The Adventurous Blonde Uncredited
1937 Hollywood Hotel Hat check girl with coat
1938 The Invisible Menace Woman waiting to go with her Johnnie
1938 Blondes at Work Carol
1938 A 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 The 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 Were You 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 A 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 The 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 A 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

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1938 Warner Brothers Academy Theater Special Agent[27]
1942 Command Performance June 11


  1. ^ "Metonymy". Life. Vol. 18, no. 8. February 19, 1945. p. 115. ISSN 0024-3019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Casually in Hollywood". Time. July 19, 1948. Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Gans, Eric (2008). Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-604-73013-5.
  4. ^ Fleming, E. J. (2005). Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood. McFarland. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-786-48265-6.
  5. ^ (Fleming 2005, p. 8)
  6. ^ (Fleming 2005, pp. 10, 12)
  7. ^ (Fleming 2005, pp. 14)
  8. ^ Caen, Herb (1950). Baghdad: 1951. Doubleday & Company, Inc. p. 40.
  9. ^ a b "Carole Landis, State Film Star, Takes Own Life". The Rhinelander Daily News. July 6, 1948. p. 1. Retrieved July 22, 2016 – via open access
  10. ^ (Fleming 2005, pp. 11–12)
  11. ^ Spivak, Jeffrey (2011). Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley. University Press of Kentucky. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-813-12643-2.
  12. ^ a b Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Music Sales Group. ISBN 0-711-99512-5.
  13. ^ "Carole Landis Marries Again". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida'. July 5, 1940. p. 9. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  14. ^ "Now She's Legally Carole Landis". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida'. April 24, 1942. p. 1. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Divorce Granted to Carole Landis". The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. July 20, 1945. p. 19. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  16. ^ "Divorce for Carole". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Daytona Beach, Florida. May 4, 1945. p. 10. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  17. ^ "Carole Landis Sues Fourth Husband For Divorce". Lewiston Evening Journal. Lewiston, Maine. March 23, 1948. p. 9. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  18. ^ (Fleming 2005, pp. 217, 218)
  19. ^ Morgan, Michelle (2013). The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals. Running Press. pp. 253–254. ISBN 978-0-762-44946-0.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Petrucelli, Alan J. (2009). Morbid Curiosity: The Disturbing Demises of the Famous and Infamous. Penguin. ISBN 9781101140499. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  22. ^ Mosby, Aline (July 6, 1948). "Carole Landis Mystery Death Clues Hunted". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
  23. ^ Actor Rex Harrison answering questions from coroner Ira Nance at inquiry on Carol Landis' suicide Archived July 28, 2012, at, a July 1948 Los Angeles Times photograph from the UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library website
  24. ^ Powell, Tammy. "Was Carole Murdered?". carolelandisofficial. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  25. ^ Mosby, Aline (July 11, 1948). "Scores Attend Funeral of Carole Landis". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
  26. ^ "Carole Landis". Hollywood Walk of Fame. October 25, 2019. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  27. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Carole Landis". The Name Below the Title: 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 146–150. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

External links[edit]