December 2, 2009 Leave a comment
November 14, 1922(1922-11-14)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Burlington, Vermont, U.S.
André De Toth (1944–1952; 2 children)
Joseph A. McCarthy (1955–1959)
Robert Carleton-Munro (1972–1973) (her death)
Veronica Lake (November 14, 1922 – July 7, 1973) was an American film actress and pin-up model. She enjoyed both popular and critical acclaim, most notably for her femme fatale roles in film noir with Alan Ladd during the 1940s, as well as her peek-a-boo hairstyle. Her success did not last. Following a string of broken marriages and long struggles with mental illness and alcoholism, she died of hepatitis.
Lake was born as Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Harry E. Ockelman, of Danish-Irish descent, worked for an oil company onboard a ship. Her father died in an industrial explosion in Philadelphia in 1932 when she was ten. Her mother, née Constance Charlotta Trimble (1902–1992), (listed as “Veronica F.” on the 1920 census), married family friend Anthony Keane, a newspaper staff artist, a year later, and Lake began using his last name.Lake was sent to Villa Maria, an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Montreal, Canada, and from which she was expelled. The Keane family later moved to Miami, Florida. Lake attended high school in Miami, where she was known for her beauty. She had a troubled childhood and was, according to her mother, diagnosed as schizophrenic.In 1938, Lake moved with her mother and stepfather to Beverly Hills, where her mother enrolled her in the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting. 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. She was then introduced to the Paramount producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr.. He changed her name to Veronica Lake because the surname suited her blue eyes. She was still a teenager.Her contract was subsequently dropped by RKO. She married art director John S. Detlie, 14 years her senior, in 1940. 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. On August 21, 1941, she gave birth to her first child, Elaine Detlie.
Her breakthrough film was I Wanted Wings in 1941, a major hit in which Lake played the second female lead and was said to have stolen scene after scene from the rest of the cast. This success was followed by Hold Back the Dawn later that year. She 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!. Looking back at her career years later, Lake remarked, “I never did cheesecake; I just used my hair.” For a short time during the early 1940s, Lake was considered one of the most reliable box office draws in Hollywood. 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 11½ 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, she changed her trademark image to encourage women working in war industry factories to adopt more practical, safer hairstyles.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 was quoted as saying, “She was known as ‘The Bitch’ and she deserved the title.” In that movie, Lake took part in a song lampooning her hair style, “A Sweater, A Sarong and a Peekaboo Bang”, performed with Paulette Goddard and Dorothy Lamour.Lake’s career stumbled with her unsympathetic role as Nazi spy Dora Bruckman in 1944’s The Hour Before the Dawn. During filming, she tripped on a lighting cable while pregnant and began hemorrhaging. She recovered, but her second child, William, was born prematurely on July 8, 1943, dying a week later from uremic poisoning. By the end of 1943, her first marriage ended in divorce. Meanwhile, scathing reviews of The Hour Before Dawn included criticism of her unconvincing German accent.Nonetheless, Lake was earning $4,500 per week under her contract with Paramount. She had begun drinking more heavily during this period and people began refusing to work with her. Paramount cast Lake in a string of mostly forgotten films. A notable exception was The Blue Dahlia (1946), in which she again co-starred with Ladd. During filming, screenplay writer Raymond Chandler referred to her as “Moronica Lake”. Paramount decided not to renew her contract in 1948.She married film director Andre De Toth in 1944 and had a son, Andre Anthony Michael De Toth, known as Michael De Toth (October 25, 1945 – February 24, 1991), and a daughter, Diana De Toth (born October 16, 1948). Lake was sued by her mother for support payments in 1948.Lake earned her pilot’s license in 1946 and was able to fly sol
between Los Angeles and New York.
After a single film for 20th Century Fox, Slattery’s Hurricane (1949), her career collapsed. By the end of 1951, she had appeared in one last film (Stronghold, which she later described as “a dog”), filed for bankruptcy, and divorced de Toth. The IRS seized the remainder of her assets for unpaid taxes. Lake turned to television and stage work, and in 1955, married songwriter Joseph A. McCarthy.After breaking her ankle in 1959, Lake was unable to continue working as an actress. She and McCarthy divorced, after which she drifted between cheap hotels in Brooklyn and New York City and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. A New York Post reporter found her working as a barmaid at the all-women’s Martha Washington Hotel in Manhattan. At first, Veronica claimed that she was a guest at the hotel and covering for a friend. Soon afterward, she admitted that she was employed at the bar. The reporter’s widely distributed story led to some television and stage appearances. 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 physical and mental health declined steadily. By the late 1960s, Lake was in Hollywood, Florida, apparently immobilized by paranoia (which included claims she was being stalked by the FBI).When Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake (Bantam, 1972) was published, she promoted the book with a memorable hour-long interview on The Dick Cavett Show. With the proceeds, she co-produced and starred in her last film, Flesh Feast (1970), a very low budget horror movie with a Nazi-myth storyline. She then moved to the UK, where she had a short-lived marriage with an “English sea captain”, Robert Carleton-Munro, before returning to the U.S. in 1973, having filed for divorce.Lake was immediately hospitalized. Although she had made a cheerful and positive impression on the nurses who cared for her, she was apparently estranged from her three surviving children, particularly her daughters. Elaine Detlie became known as Ani Sangge Lhamo after becoming a member of the Subud faith in New Zealand. Diana became a secretary for the American Embassy and lived in Rome in the 1970s. Michael De Toth stayed with his mother on and off through the 1960s and 1970s. He married Edwina Mae Niecke. When Lake died, he claimed her body.
Lake died on July 7, 1973 of hepatitis and acute renal failure (complications of her alcoholism) in Burlington, Vermont, where her death was certified by Dr. Wareen Beeken at the Fletcher Allen Hospital and where she was seen by many staff members during her nearly two week stay. A rumor persists that she died in Montreal and was smuggled across the border to Vermont.Her ashes were scattered off the coast of the Virgin Islands as she had requested. In 2004, some of Lake’s ashes were reportedly found in a New York antique store. Her son Michael died on February 24, 1991, aged 45, in Olympia, Washington.Lake has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Boulevard for her contributions to the motion picture industry.
- “I wasn’t a sex symbol, I was a sex zombie.”
- “You could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision.”
- “I’ve reached a point in my life where it’s the little things that matter… I was always a rebel and probably could have got much further had I changed my attitude. But when you think about it, I got pretty far without changing attitudes. I’m happier with that.” (1970)
- Barry Smolin‘s song “Veronica Lake” is about an irresolute sighting of a homeless Veronica Lake at Union Station in Los Angeles.
- The Archie Comics character Veronica Lodge was partially named after Veronica Lake, who was in the midst of her early celebrity when the comic book character was introduced in the spring of 1942.
- In 1997, the Academy Award-winning film L.A. Confidential paid homage to Lake’s image and manner through Kim Basinger’s starring role in an adaptation of James Ellroy’s crime novel set in early 1950s Los Angeles. Basinger won an Oscar for her performance, which required her to deliberately resemble Lake. A scene included an image of Lake from This Gun for Hire screening in the background.
- Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit was modeled on Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth. Jessica also sports Lake’s trademark peekaboo hairstyle.
- The character of Ronnie Lake in the hit CBS drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is named after her.
- Her character in Sullivan’s Travels inspired “Miss Lake,” a song on London-based French songwriter Louis Philippe‘s 2007 album, An Unknown Spring.
- Billy Wilder‘s comedy The Major and the Minor has a scene in which the students of a girl’s school – and their headmistress – all have peekaboo hairstyles. The boys in the scene mention “The girls at the school have an epidemic…They all think they’re Veronica Lake”.
- In Alfred Hitchcock‘s suspense film Shadow of a Doubt (1943), the young daughter named Ann says her prayers before going to sleep… “God bless Mama, Papa, Captain Midnight, Veronica Lake, and the President of the United States.”
- Hellacopters recorded a tribute song called “Veronica Lake” on their latest album, Head Off! The song was originally written by the New Bomb Turks.
- The spider in Bob Clampett‘s cartoon Eatin’ on the Cuff puts on a Veronica Lake wig.
- The Bugs Bunny cartoon A-Lad-In His Lamp features a lake called Veronica Lake.
- Clips of Veronica Lake were used in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, a 1982 spoof of film noir starring Steve Martin.
- In the 2009 video game Still Life 2, a sequel to the 2005 game, Veronica Lake is the favourite actress of the game’s villain. He is obsessed with her movies, especially The Blue Dahlia.
- In 2010, Jack White III added a new girl to his acoustic guitar collection named Veronica Lake. It is a custom white Gretsch Rancher with a gold double pickguard and a picture of Veronica Lake on the back. He is currently playing Veronica with his band The Dead Weather.
- In the Three Stooges short subject, “Higher Than A Kite”, Larry Fine impersonates Veronica Lake, calling himself, “Moronica”.
- In Manhattan the Woody Allen character tells his young girlfriend that he’s going to take her to see a Veronica Lake movie. She then jokingly confuses her with Rita Hayworth.
- In Heavenly Creatures, Juliet (Kate Winslet) and Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) are overheard apparently taking publicity photographs for a planned trip to Hollywood. Juliet says she’ll lean back and put her hair on one shoulder and “look just like Veronica Lake”.
|1939||Sorority House||Coed||Uncredited, Alternati
ve title: That Girl from College
|The Wrong Room||The Attorney’s New Bride||Credited as Connie Keane|
|Dancing Co-Ed||One of Couple on Motorcycle||Uncredited, Alternative title: Every Other Inch a Lady|
|All Women Have Secrets||Jane||Credited as Constance Keane|
|1940||Young As You Feel||Bit part||Credited as Constance Keane|
|Forty Little Mothers||Granville girl||Uncredited|
|1941||I Wanted Wings||Sally Vaughn||First major film role|
|Hold Back the Dawn||Movie Actress||Uncredited|
|Sullivan’s Travels||The Girl||First leading role|
|1942||This Gun for Hire||Ellen Graham||First of four films with Alan Ladd|
|The Glass Key||Janet Henry||Second of four films with Alan Ladd|
|I Married a Witch||Jennifer|
|Star Spangled Rhythm||Herself|
|1943||So Proudly We Hail!||Lt. Olivia D’Arcy|
|1944||The Hour Before the Dawn||Dora Bruckmann|
|1945||Bring on the Girls||Teddy Collins|
|Out of This World||Dorothy Dodge|
|Hold That Blonde||Sally Martin|
|1946||Miss Susie Slagle’s||Nan Rogers|
|The Blue Dahlia||Joyce Harwood||Third of four films with Alan Ladd|
|1948||Saigon||Susan Cleaver||Fourth and final film with Alan Ladd|
|The Sainted Sisters||Letty Stanton|
|Isn’t It Romantic?||Candy Cameron|
|1949||Slattery’s Hurricane||Dolores Greaves|
|1966||Footsteps in the Snow|
|1970||Flesh Feast||Dr. Elaine Frederick||Alternative title: Time is Terror|
|1950||Your Show of Shows||TV, 1 episode|
|Lights Out||TV, 1 episode|
|1950–1953||Lux Video Theatre||Various||TV, 3 episodes|
|1951||Somerset Maugham TV Theatre||Valerie||TV, 1 episode|
|1952||Celanese Theatre||TV, 1 episode|
|Tales of Tomorrow||Paula||TV, an episode|
|Goodyear Television Playhouse||Judy “Leni: Howard||TV, 1 episode|
|1953||Danger||TV, 1 episode|
|1954||Broadway Television Theatre||TV, 1 episode|
- Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN #1-59393-320-7.
- Veronica Lake at the Internet Movie Database
- Veronica Lake at the TCM Movie Database
- Veronica Lake at Allmovie
- “Veronica Lake”. Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1727.