Rhonda Fleming

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Rhonda Fleming
Publicity photo, c. 1950s
Marilyn Louis

(1923-08-10)August 10, 1923
DiedOctober 14, 2020(2020-10-14) (aged 97)
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation(s)Actress, singer
Years active1943–1990
Tom Lane
(m. 1940; div. 1942)
Dr. Lewis Morrill
(m. 1952; div. 1954)
(m. 1960; div. 1962)
(m. 1966; div. 1972)
(m. 1977; died 2001)
Darol Carlson
(m. 2003; died 2017)

Rhonda Fleming (born Marilyn Louis; August 10, 1923 – October 14, 2020) was an American film and television actress and singer. She acted in more than 40 films, mostly in the 1940s and 1950s, and became renowned as one of the most glamorous actresses of her day, nicknamed the "Queen of Technicolor" because she photographed so well in that medium.


Early life[edit]

Fleming was born Marilyn Louis in Hollywood, California to Harold Cheverton Louis, an insurance salesman, and Effie Graham, a stage actress who had appeared opposite Al Jolson in the musical Dancing Around at New York's Winter Garden Theatre from 1914 to 1915. Fleming's maternal grandfather was John C. Graham, an actor, theater owner and newspaper editor in Utah.[1]

Fleming began working as a film actress while attending Beverly Hills High School,[2] graduating in 1941. She was discovered by the well-known Hollywood agent Henry Willson, who changed her name to Rhonda Fleming.[3]

Fleming said later, "It's so weird ... He stopped me crossing the street. It kinda scared me a little bit – I was only 16 or 17. He signed me to a seven-year contract without a screen test. It was a Cinderella story, but those things could happen in those days."[4]

David O. Selznick[edit]

Fleming's agent Willson went to work for David O. Selznick, who signed her to a contract.[5][6] She had bit parts in In Old Oklahoma (1943),[7] Since You Went Away (1944) for Selznick and When Strangers Marry (1944).

She received her first substantial role in the thriller Spellbound (1945), produced by Selznick and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She later said, "Hitch told me I was going to play a nymphomaniac. I remember rushing home to look it up in the dictionary and being quite shocked."[8] The film was a success and Selznick offered her another good role in the thriller The Spiral Staircase (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak.[9]

Selznick lent her to appear in supporting parts in the Randolph Scott Western Abilene Town (1946) at United Artists and the film noir classic Out of the Past (1947) with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas at RKO.[10][5]

Fleming's first leading role came in Adventure Island (1947), a low-budget action film produced for Pine-Thomas Productions at Paramount Pictures in the two-color Cinecolor process and costarring fellow Selznick contract player Rory Calhoun.[11]

Fleming auditioned for the female lead in the Bing Crosby film in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949), a musical loosely based on the story by Mark Twain. Fleming exhibited her singing ability, dueting with Crosby on "Once and For Always" and soloing with "When Is Sometime". They recorded the songs for a three-disc, 78-rpm Decca album conducted by Victor Young, who wrote the film's orchestral score. Fleming's vocal coach Harriet Lee praised her "lovely voice", saying, "she could be a musical comedy queen."[12] The film was Fleming's first in Technicolor.[13][14] Her fair complexion and bright red hair photographed exceptionally well and she was nicknamed the "Queen of Technicolor."[15][16]

Fleming next starred with Bob Hope in the hit film The Great Lover (1949), which established her as a star. She later said, "After that, I wasn't fortunate enough to get good directors. I made the mistake of doing lesser films for good money. I was hot—they all wanted me—but I didn't have the guidance or background to judge for myself."[17]

In February 1949, Selznick sold his contract players to Warner Bros., but he kept Fleming.[18]

In 1950 Fleming portrayed John Payne's love interest in the Western film The Eagle and the Hawk.[10]

Fleming in the trailer for Cry Danger (1951)

Fleming was lent to RKO to play a femme fatale opposite Dick Powell in the film noir Cry Danger (1951). Back at Paramount, she played the title role in the Western The Redhead and the Cowboy (1951), costarring with Glenn Ford.[19]

In 1950, she ended her association with Selznick after eight years, although five years remained in her contract with him.[20][21]


Fleming signed a three-picture deal with Paramount.[22] Pine-Thomas cast her as Ronald Reagan's leading lady in the Western The Last Outpost (1951), John Payne's leading lady in the adventure film Crosswinds (1951) and with Reagan again in Hong Kong (1951).

Fleming was top-billed for Sam Katzman's The Golden Hawk (1952) with Sterling Hayden, then was reunited with Reagan for Tropic Zone (1953) at Pine-Thomas. In 1953, Fleming portrayed Cleopatra in Katzman's Serpent of the Nile for Columbia. That same year, she appeared with Charlton Heston in the Western Pony Express for Paramount and in two films shot in 3D, Inferno with Robert Ryan at Fox and the musical Those Redheads From Seattle with Gene Barry for Pine-Thomas. The following year, she starred with Fernando Lamas in Jivaro, her third 3D film, at Pine-Thomas. She went to Universal for Yankee Pasha (1954) with Jeff Chandler. Fleming also traveled to Italy to play Semiramis in Queen of Babylon (1954).[10]

Late 1950s[edit]

Fleming on location in 1951.

Fleming was a member of a gospel singing quartet along with Jane Russell, Connie Haines and Beryl Davis.[5]

Much of the location work for Fleming's 1955 Western Tennessee's Partner, in which she appeared with Payne and Reagan, was filmed at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California. A distinctive monolithic sandstone feature behind which Fleming's character hides during an action sequence later became known as the Rhonda Fleming Rock. The rock is part of a section of the former movie ranch known as Garden of the Gods, which has been preserved as public parkland.[23]

Fleming was reunited with Payne and fellow redhead Arlene Dahl in a noir at RKO, Slightly Scarlet (1956). She appeared in other thrillers that year: The Killer Is Loose (1956) with Joseph Cotten and Fritz Lang's While the City Sleeps (1956), costarring Dana Andrews, at RKO. Fleming was top-billed in an adventure film for Warwick Films, Odongo (1956).[10]

Fleming played the female lead in John Sturges's hit film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), costarring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. She supported Donald O'Connor in The Buster Keaton Story (1957) and Stewart Granger in Gun Glory (1957) at MGM.[21]

In May 1957, Fleming began performing a successful nightclub act at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. She later said, "I just wanted to know if I could get out on that stage – if I could do it. And I did! ... My heart was to do more stage work, but I had a son, so I really couldn't, but that was in my heart."[24]

Fleming was Guy Madison's costar in Bullwhip (1958) for Allied Artists and supported Jean Simmons in Home Before Dark (1958) in a role that she later considered her favorite.[8]

Fleming was reunited with Bob Hope in Alias Jesse James (1959) and appeared on an episode of Wagon Train.[25] She appeared in the Irwin Allen/Joseph M. Newman production of The Big Circus (1959), costarring Victor Mature and Vincent Price, for Allied Artists, whom Fleming later sued for unpaid profits.[26]

Fleming traveled to Italy again to film The Revolt of the Slaves (1959) and was second-billed in The Crowded Sky (1960).[10]


In 1960, Fleming described herself as "semi-retired," having earned money through real-estate investments. That year, she toured her nightclub act in Las Vegas and Palm Springs.[24][27]


During the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s, Fleming frequently appeared on television with guest-starring roles on The Red Skelton Show, The Best of Broadway, The Investigators, Shower of Stars, The Dick Powell Show, Wagon Train, Burke's Law, The Virginian, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, Kung Fu, Ellery Queen and The Love Boat.[10][28]

On September 30, 1951, Fleming sang live on NBC's Colgate Comedy Hour, broadcast from the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.[29]

In 1958, Fleming recorded her only LP, entitled Rhonda. For the album, which was released by Columbia Records, she blended current songs such as "Around the World" with standards such as "Love Me or Leave Me" and "I've Got You Under My Skin". Conductor-arranger Frank Comstock provided the musical direction.[30][28]

On March 4, 1962, Fleming appeared in one of the final segments of ABC's Follow the Sun in a role opposite Gary Lockwood. She played a Marine in the episode titled "Marine of the Month".[31]

In December 1962, Fleming was cast as the glamorous Kitty Bolton in the episode "Loss of Faith" of the syndicated anthology series Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews.[32]

Later career[edit]

In the 1960s, Fleming became involved with other businesses and began performing regularly on stage and in Las Vegas.[33]

One of her final film roles was a bit part as Edith von Secondburg in the comedy The Nude Bomb (1980) starring Don Adams. She also appeared in Waiting for the Wind (1990).[34]

Fleming has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[35] In 2007, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.[36]

Personal life and death[edit]

Fleming worked for several charities, especially in the field of cancer care, and served on the committees of many related organizations. In 1991, with her fifth husband Ted Mann, she established the Rhonda Fleming Mann Clinic for Women's Comprehensive Care at the UCLA Medical Center.[34]

In 1964, Fleming spoke at the Project Prayer rally attended by 2,500 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The gathering, which was hosted by Anthony Eisley, a star of ABC's Hawaiian Eye series, sought to flood the United States Congress with letters in support of mandatory school prayer following two United States Supreme Court decisions in 1962 and 1963 that invalidated the practice.[37] Joining Fleming and Eisley at the rally were Walter Brennan, Lloyd Nolan, Dale Evans, Pat Boone and Gloria Swanson. Fleming declared, "Project Prayer is hoping to clarify the First Amendment to the Constitution and reverse this present trend away from God."[37] Eisley and Fleming added that John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Roy Rogers, Mary Pickford, Jane Russell, Ginger Rogers and Pat Buttram would also have attended the rally had their schedules not been in conflict.[37]

Fleming married six times:[38]

  • Thomas Wade Lane, interior decorator, (1940–1942; divorced), one son
  • Dr. Lewis V. Morrill, Hollywood physician, (July 11, 1952 – 1954; divorced)
  • Lang Jeffries, actor, (April 3, 1960 – January 11, 1962; divorced)
  • Hall Bartlett, producer (March 27, 1966 – 1972; divorced)
  • Ted Mann, producer, (March 11, 1977 – January 15, 2001; his death)
  • Darol Wayne Carlson (2003 – October 31, 2017; his death)

Through her son Kent Lane (b. 1941), Fleming also had two granddaughters, four great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.[39][40]

Fleming was a Presbyterian,[41] but she may have embraced the Jewish faith of Mann, as she was interred in his plot at the Jewish Hillside Memorial park in Culver City, California upon her death.[42]

She was a Republican who supported Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election.[43]

Fleming died on October 14, 2020, at Saint John's Health Center, Santa Monica at the age of 97.[44]

On the 100th anniversary of Fleming's birth, Turner Classic Movies honored her on Summer Under the Stars, programming a 24-hour block of her films. It was Fleming's first time on the lineup.



Year Title Role Notes
1943 In Old Oklahoma Dance-hall girl Uncredited
1944 Since You Went Away Girl at dance Uncredited
When Strangers Marry Girl on train
1945 Spellbound Mary Carmichael
1946 Abilene Town Sherry Balder
The Spiral Staircase Blanche
1947 Adventure Island Faith Wishart
Out of the Past Meta Carson
1949 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Alisande La Carteloise
The Great Lover Duchess Alexandria
1950 The Eagle and the Hawk Mrs. Madeline Danzeeger
1951 Cry Danger Nancy Morgan
The Redhead and the Cowboy Candace Bronson
The Last Outpost Julie McQuade
Little Egypt Izora
Crosswinds Katherine Shelley
1952 Hong Kong Victoria Evans
The Golden Hawk Captain Rouge
1953 Tropic Zone Flanders White
Serpent of the Nile Cleopatra
Pony Express Evelyn Hastings
Inferno Geraldine Carson
Those Redheads From Seattle Kathie Edmonds
1954 Jivaro Alice Parker
Yankee Pasha Roxana Reil
1955 Queen of Babylon Semiramis
Tennessee's Partner Elizabeth "Duchess" Farnham
1956 The Killer Is Loose Lila Wagner
Slightly Scarlet June Lyons
While the City Sleeps Dorothy Kyne
Odongo Pamela Muir
1957 The Buster Keaton Story Peggy Courtney
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Laura Denbow
Gun Glory Jo
1958 Bullwhip Cheyenne O'Malley
Home Before Dark Joan Carlisle
1959 Alias Jesse James Cora Lee Collins
The Big Circus Helen Harrison
1960 The Crowded Sky Cheryl "Charro" Heath
The Revolt of the Slaves Fabiola
1964 The Patsy Herself
Pão de Açúcar Pamela Jones DeSantis
1965 Run for Your Wife Nyta
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood Herself
1980 The Nude Bomb Edith Von Secondberg
1990 Waiting for the Wind Hannah Short, (final film role)


Year Series title Role Episode title Ref
1952 Colgate Comedy Hour guest with Abbott and Costello and Errol Flynn [45]
1955 What's My Line? celebrity mystery guest [46][47]
1958 Wagon Train Jennifer Churchill "The Jennifer Churchill Story" [48]
1961 Wagon Train Patience Miller "The Patience Miller Story" [49]
1961 Here's Hollywood celebrity guest with third husband, Lang Jeffries [50]
1961 The Dick Powell Show Margo Haley "John J. Diggs" [51]
1963 Wagon Train Sandra Cummings "The Sandra Cummings Story" [52]
1964 The Virginian guest star "We've Lost a Train" [10]
1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Purity "Have Girls, Will Travel" [53]
1973 Needles and Pins guest star "It W a Very Good Line" [54]
1974 McMillan and Wife guest star "Cross and Double-cross" [55]
1975 Kung Fu Jennie Malone "Ambush" [56][10]
1978 The Love Boat celebrity guest [10]

Radio appearances[edit]

Date Program Episode Ref
March 22, 1951 Screen Directors Playhouse "The Great Lover" [57]


  1. ^ "Rhonda Fleming". ReviewJournal.com. May 17, 2009. Archived from the original on August 11, 2017. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  2. ^ "Beverly Hills High School". Seeing-stars.com. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  3. ^ Rhonda Fleming interview, Warner Archive Podcast. Warner Bros. Entertainment.
  4. ^ Laura Saari (April 19, 1989). "A glamour girl finds there's no place like home Actress Rhonda Fleming pursues the joys of good causes and her Laguna sanctuary". Orange County Register. p. k01.
  5. ^ a b c Gates, Anita (October 17, 2020). "Rhonda Fleming, 97, Movie Star Made for Technicolor, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  6. ^ Hopper, Hedda (June 15, 1952). "Rhonda Fleming... Lucky Star!". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. g6.
  7. ^ Frank Daugherty (July 21, 1944). "Miss Bergman and Hitchcock". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 4.
  8. ^ a b Jim Bawden (November 28, 1993). "Redheaded Rhonda Fleming always wound up in roundups". Toronto Star. p. B4.
  9. ^ Bergan, Ronald (October 18, 2020). "Rhonda Fleming obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Rhonda Fleming – Credits". TV Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  11. ^ "Adventure Island (1947) – Overview – TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  12. ^ Johnson, Erskine (April 4, 1951). "In Hollywood". Dixon Evening Telegraph. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.Open access icon
  13. ^ "The Official Rhonda Fleming Website : Tribute to Bing Crosby". Rhondafleming.com. Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  14. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (November 9, 1947). "DRAMA AND THE ARTS: Imagine Bing as Knightly Hero in Twain's 'Yankee'!". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.
  15. ^ Kelly, Devin (October 17, 2020). "Golden Age actress and singer Rhonda Fleming has died at 97". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  16. ^ Tucker, David C. (August 15, 2019). Pine-Thomas Productions: A History and Filmography. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-7743-9.
  17. ^ Rosenfield, Paul (July 4, 1976). "Rhonda Fleming Still Queen of the Redheads". Los Angeles Times. p. n29.
  18. ^ "SELZNICK STARS TO DO MOVIES FOR WARNERS". New York Times. February 21, 1949. p. 18.
  19. ^ Schallert, Edwin (June 20, 1950). "U-I Recaptures Philip Substitute in Debate Friend". Los Angeles Times. p. A7.
  20. ^ "Rhonda Fleming to Quit Selznick". New York Times. June 12, 1950. p. 18.
  21. ^ a b Hopper, Hedda (May 5, 1957). "She's Her Own Boss!: No Contracts Cramp the Actions of Actress-Singer-Realtor Rhonda Fleming, Inc". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. c25.
  22. ^ Schallert, Edwin (July 2, 1950). "HOLLYWOOD IN REVIEW: Rhonda Eyes Role of Film Songstress Movie Songstress Roles Eyed by Miss Fleming". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  23. ^ Nano, Swami (January 9, 2014). "Iverson Movie Ranch: Rhonda Fleming — and why there's a Rhonda Fleming Rock in Chatsworth, California".
  24. ^ a b Shearer, Stephen Michael (May 17, 2009). "Song in Her Heart". Las Vegas Review–Journal. p. J.7.
  25. ^ Smith, Cecil (November 30, 1958). "Rhonda Due for Whistles". Los Angeles Times. p. E2.
  26. ^ "Studio Sued by Rhonda Fleming". Los Angeles Times. July 28, 1963. p. f3.
  27. ^ Smith, Jack (February 1, 1960). "SEEKS 'SEMI-RETIREMENT': Rhonda Fleming Keeps Busy as 'the Laziest Girl in Town'". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.
  28. ^ a b Silverman, Hollie; Vera, Amir (October 17, 2020). "Rhonda Fleming, film star in the 1940s and 1950s, dies at 97". CNN. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  29. ^ "Classic TV Info – The Colgate Comedy Hour – Season 2". Classictvinfo.com. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  30. ^ "Rhonda Fleming With Frank Comstock And His Orchestra – Rhonda". Discogs. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  31. ^ "Follow the Sun – Season 1, Episode 25 – Marine of the Month". TV Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  32. ^ "Loss of Faith on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  33. ^ FRANK, D. O., & Thackrey, T., Jr. (September 22, 1974). "Walter brennan, oscar winner, dies". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 157476108.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ a b "The Official Rhonda Flemming Website". Rhondafleming.com. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  35. ^ "Rhonda Fleming – Celebrity information". Mysticgames.com. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  36. ^ "Palm Stars Walk of Stars" (PDF). Palmspringswalkofstars.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  37. ^ a b c ""The Washington Merry-Go-Round", Drew Pearson column, May 14, 1964" (PDF). dspace.wrlc.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  38. ^ "Rhonda Fleming Companions". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  39. ^ "Rhonda Fleming grandmother at age of 40". Schenectady Gazette. September 22, 1962. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  40. ^ "Rhonda Fleming". Turner Classic Movies.
  41. ^ "LIFE". Time Inc. January 10, 1949 – via Google Books.
  42. ^ Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14000 Famous Persons by Scott Wilson
  43. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers
  44. ^ "Rhonda Fleming, 'Queen of Technicolor' Who Appeared in 'Spellbound,' Dies at 97". Variety. October 17, 2020. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  45. ^ "The Colgate Comedy Hour Season 2 – 1951–1952". Classic TV Info. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  46. ^ "What's My Line? S06E32". TV Time. April 10, 1955. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  47. ^ "Freddie's Romance". IMDB. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  48. ^ "Season 2, Episode 3 The Jennifer Churchill Story". TV Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  49. ^ "Season 4, Episode 16 The Patience Miller Story". TV Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  50. ^ "Here's Hollywood (1960–1962) – Episode #2.26". IMDB. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  51. ^ "John J. Diggs". IMDB. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  52. ^ "Season 7, Episode 11 The Sandra Cummings Story". TV Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  53. ^ "Season 2, Episode 4 Have Girls – Will Travel". TV Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  54. ^ "Needles and Pins". MUBI. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  55. ^ "Season 3, Episode 6 Cross and Double-cross". TV Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  56. ^ "Season 3, Episode 23 Ambush". TV Guide. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  57. ^ Hudgins, Garven (March 22, 1951). "Hope To Play 'Great Lover' In Broadcast". Cumberland Evening Times. Maryland, Cumberland. p. 25. Retrieved November 14, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon

External links[edit]