Veronica Lake


Actor
Veronica Lake

About

Also Known As
Connie Keane, Constance Keane, Constance Frances Marie Ockleman
Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born
November 14, 1919
Died
July 07, 1973
Cause of Death
Hepatitis

Biography

An icy blonde whose trademark hairstyle - a cascade of golden tresses that obscured one heavy-lidded eye - remained among the enduring images of Hollywood glamour, Veronica Lake was for a time, one of the most popular and sought-after actresses in motion pictures. She starred in a handful of features that, though the years, earned legendary status, including the film noirs, "This Gun for...

Photos & Videos

The Blue Dahlia - Movie Posters
The Blue Dahlia - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Sullivan's Travels - Lobby Card Set

Family & Companions

John Detlie
Husband
Art director. Born c. 1908; married on September 25, 1940; divorced in December 1943.
Andre de Toth
Husband
Director. Married on December 16, 1944; separated in June 1951; divorced in June 1952.
Joseph A McCarthy
Husband
Music publisher, songwriter. Married on August 28, 1955 in Traverse City, Michigan divorced in 1960.
Andy Elickson
Companion
Merchant seaman. Had four-year romance which ended with his death in September 1965 before they could be married.

Bibliography

"Peekaboo"
St. Martin's Press (1983)
"Veronica"
Veronica Lake, Citadel Press (1971)

Notes

"You could put all the talent I had in your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision." --remark attributed to Veronica Lake, quoted in Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, 8th ed.

In the early 1940s, US government officials asked Lake to wear her hair up for the duration of WWII: it seems that too many women working in factories were imitating her famous "peek-a-boo bang" and getting their hair caught in assembly-line machinery.

Biography

An icy blonde whose trademark hairstyle - a cascade of golden tresses that obscured one heavy-lidded eye - remained among the enduring images of Hollywood glamour, Veronica Lake was for a time, one of the most popular and sought-after actresses in motion pictures. She starred in a handful of features that, though the years, earned legendary status, including the film noirs, "This Gun for Hire" (1942) and "The Blue Dahlia" (1946), as well as the smart comedies, "Sullivan's Travels" (1941) and "I Married a Witch" (1942). She also motivated a generation of women to imitate her cool sexuality and chic style, at the same time, causing an equal number of men - particularly fighting WWII G.I.s - to fall for her. Unfortunately, her success was short-lived, her star fizzling under the weight of personal tragedies, gossip and metal illness. Despite her fall from grace, Lake stood the test of time as a Tinseltown icon, inspiring tribute in songs, literature, and movies - most notably Kim Basinger's Academy Award-winning turn in "L.A. Confidential" (1997), as a prostitute whose glacial beauty is modeled after Lake.

Born Constance Ockelman in Brooklyn, NY, on Nov. 14, 1919, Lake lost her father, oil company employee Harry Ockelman, when she was 12. Her mother, also named Constance, married Anthony Keane a year later, causing the family to move several times over the next few years. The diminutive teenager - legendarily standing only 4'11" - blossomed into a beauty in her teenage years. After gaining some fame in beauty pageants in Florida, she and her parents relocated to Beverly Hills, CA, enrolling Lake in the Bliss Hayden School of Acting in Hollywood. Her big break happened almost immediately. After signing with RKO, she made her film debut in John Farrow's romantic drama, "Sorority House" (1939), in which she was initially billed as Constance Keane. Bit roles in other features followed - Lake's parts were so small that her characters rarely had a name - but she persevered; even gaining a bit of attention for her unique, smoky look.

In 1940, she took time out from trying to become a star to marry art director John Detlie, giving birth to a daughter Elaine the following year. Ironically, the arrival of Elaine also heralded an upswing in her career; she was signed to a contract at Paramount in 1941, and while there, famed producer Arthur Hornblow redubbed her Veronica Lake - "Lake" being inspired by the blueness of her eyes, and according to Hornblow, the name Veronica suggesting a classic beauty.

Lake's ascendancy to star status occurred almost immediately after signing with Paramount. She made a major impact as William Holden's smoldering love interest in the military drama "I Wanted Wings" (1941), leaving producers wondering just who that girl w/ the hair was and lining up to offer her lead roles in their films. For the next two years, Lake appeared in a string of box-office hits, showing considerable comic talent as a struggling actress who accompanies Joel McCrea on his cross-country trip in Preston Sturges' cutting social commentary, "Sullivan's Travels" (1941) and as a 17th-century sorceress who falls for the ancestor of the man who condemned her to death in Rene Clair's "I Married A Witch" (1941).

But it was her pairing with an equally diminutive co-star that, along with the cascading hair, created and solidified the Lake legend. Cast opposite screen newcomer Alan Ladd in the brutish noir thriller, "This Gun for Hire" (1942), the couple's unexpected partnership proved very popular with film audiences - so popular, that they would appear together in seven films, including such moneymakers as "The Glass Key" (1942) and "The Blue Dahlia" (1946). Paramount liked them together too - especially because Lake was the only actress on the lot who was shorter than the 5'5" Ladd - invariably removing the bothersome, embarrassing box Ladd was forced to stand on when filmed next to other leading ladies.

By the onset of WWII, Lake's appeal with audiences transcended the box office. Women adored her signature hairstyle - dubbed "the peek-a-boo;" making Lake "the Peek-a-boo blonde" for all eternity - and tortured their hair in an attempt to match her color and wavy locks. Composers feted her in song, with famed composers Rogers and Hart citing her look in 1943's "The Girl I Love to Leave Behind" and Lake even singing a tune about herself in the 1942 wartime morale booster film "Star-Spangled Rhythm." Most importantly, G.I.'s placed her glamorous pin-up next to their Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth pics in almost equal frequency. Her impact on society was so dramatic, that during the war, she was forced by the government to temporarily change her peek-a-boo hair-do after women in factories were becoming injured when their long locks were catching in assembly-line machinery.

Some would later suggest that this dramatic change in appearance had a negative effect on Lake's career, but in reality, there were a number of factors that contributed to the decline of her star status. Lake had a reputation for being difficult on the set, and many of her co-stars were open in their dislike of her; Fredric March refused to speak about her in interviews, and even the genial Eddie Bracken (her co-star in "Star-Spangled Rhythm") had nothing but caustic words about her. In 1942, she divorced John Detlie, and the following year she stumbled over a cable during the making of "The Hour Before Dawn" (1944), which led to the premature birth of her son, William. To make matters worse, critics savaged her performance as a Nazi sympathizer in "Dawn." Lake also reportedly began drinking during this period, with rumors of mental instability - which had plagued her since childhood - beginning to run through the industry.

Unfortunately for her, her next choice in companions was the least suited to her particular mental state. Lake married the reportedly violent director Andre De Toth in 1944, bearing a son, Andre, the following year. Around this time, her drinking apparently worsened and De Toth did little to encourage her to seek help. Paramount pushed her through a string of forgettable features - save for 1946's "The Blue Dahlia," which received an Academy Award nomination for its script by Raymond Chandler. Unfortunately, Lake's reputation continued to dog her - both Chandler and Ladd were none too charitable in their comments about her - and by 1948, she was done at Paramount. The one positive note about this period: Lake took advantage of her down time and earned her pilot's license; in 1946, eventually flying solo from Los Angeles to New York.

20th Century Fox picked up her contract in 1948 - the same year she gave birth to her fourth child, Diana. But like all wartime glamour girls, Lake's career continued its inevitable downward spiral; her Fox films were even more disposable than her later Paramount films. By 1952, she was up to her neck in trouble. Her film "Stronghold" (1952) was a flop and would be her last for decades; the IRS was pursuing her for unpaid taxes; and her tumultuous marriage to de Toth finally came to a bitter end. Lake managed to find sporadic work on television and in touring stage productions. She even married again in 1955; this time to songwriter Joseph A. McCarthy. But the end was nearing.

The final turn of bad luck came in 1959, when she broke her ankle and found herself unable to show up for the pitiable second-string work she had managed to scrounge up. Alcoholism set in with a vengeance, and Lake disappeared from the public eye. She divorced McCarthy and made the news only when she was picked up by the police for disorderly conduct. A sad slide indeed, for a woman who had at one time inspired songs, literature and an army fighting for peace overseas.

In the early 1960s, a reporter discovered her working as a waitress at a hotel bar in Manhattan, and leaped on the obvious angle of "oh how the mighty have tumbled." The publicity generated by the story - to say nothing of the sympathy factor it produced - gave her acting career a jolt. She served as the hostess of a weekly movie showcase in Baltimore and appeared in several small theater productions. In 1966, she made a return to feature films in the obscure Canadian production, "Footsteps in the Snow," but the movie was largely unseen. Lake consequently went into semi-retirement in Hollywood, FL, where she penned a well-received autobiography, Veronica, which detailed her many struggles with temperament, mental illness and alcoholism. With one last ditch effort for her long-past-its-prime career, Lake managed to co-finance her final film, a dreary, Florida-lensed horror movie called "Flesh Feast" (1970), in which she played a doctor experimenting with a youth formula involving maggots. The film was not a box office success.

Lake relocated to England in the early '70s, where she married again, this time to a commercial fisherman; the union was short-lived, and by 1973, she was back in the United States, hospitalized with declining health brought on by hepatitis and renal failure - both complications of her alcohol addiction. Her mental facilities were also in sharp decline. Lake had suffered from steadily increasing paranoia since the mid-'60s. Estranged from her children, Lake died alone on July 7, 1973. Rumor had it that it took days for someone to identify her body. Some of her ashes were scattered in the Virgin Islands three years later, but in 2004, it was discovered that another portion had reportedly remained in possession of a friend and that it had made its way to an antique store in the Catskills.

Despite - or maybe because of - her sad slide to the bottom, Lake remained a favorite of "old" Hollywood movie buffs. And if her life and career has faded in the minds of modern audiences, her ethereal glamour stayed as iconic as ever. References to Lake's peek-a-boo style and ice queen demeanor were seen in everything from the neo-noir flick, "L.A. Confidential" to the animated femme fatale, Jessica Rabbit, who sports a scarlet version of Lake's peek-a-boo in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988). Pop singers Britney Spears and the late singer-actress, Aaliyah, both assumed the peek-a-boo in music videos in an attempt to summon Lake's timeless appeal. Even the comics' Archie Andrews' longtime love, brunette vixen Veronica Rogers, got both her name and some of her feminine wiles from Lake. Decades after her death, Veronica Lake's particular smoky appeal lingered as one of Hollywood's most enduring and recognizable symbols of sexiness and class.

Life Events

1939

Made film debut in "All Women Have Secrets"

1941

Changed name to Veronica Lake

1941

Achieved star status in "I Wanted Wings"

1942

Co-starred with Alan Ladd for the first time in "This Gun for Hire"

1942

Performed "A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peekaboo Bang" with Paulette Goddard and Dorothy Lamour in Paramount's all-star review, "Star Spangled Rhythm"; Lake's vocal dubbed by Martha Mears

1946

Made headlines when husband Andre De Toth assaulted 20 year old Seward Hewitt, a fan who tried to stroke Lake's famous locks

1947

Loaned out to United Artists; acted in film directed by De Toth, "Ramrod"

1948

Made last film under Paramount contract, "Isn't It Romantic?"

1949

De Toth arranged for her to play second lead in his 20th Century Fox production, "Slattery's Hurricane"

1950

Made television debut in CBS drama, "Shadow of the Heart"

1951

Journeyed to Mexico to star in independent, low-budget film, "Stronghold", released in 1952

1951

Lake and De Toth declared voluntary bankruptcy; $120,000 home sold at auction

1951

Made stage debut in Atlanta in "The Voice of the Turtle" opposite Carl Betz

1959

Endured three years of professional inactivity; plagued by problems with children and several physical accidents

1962

Discovered by reporter working as a barmaid in the Martha Washington Hotel, New York

1962

Accepted offer of WJZ-TV in Baltimore to host their Saturday evening movie show

1962

Named an innocent dupe in real-estate scam by New York State Attorney General's Office

1965

Arrested for public drunkenness in Galveston TX

1966

Returned to film acting in Canadian "Footsteps in the Snow"

1970

Acted in last film (also co-produced), "Flesh Feast"

Photo Collections

The Blue Dahlia - Movie Posters
The Blue Dahlia - Movie Posters
The Blue Dahlia - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
The Blue Dahlia - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Sullivan's Travels - Lobby Card Set
Sullivan's Travels - Lobby Card Set
The Glass Key - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of lobby cards from The Glass Key (1942), starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake and Brian Donlevy.
The Glass Key - Movie Posters
Here are a number of original movie posters from The Glass Key (1942), starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.
The Glass Key - Publicity Stills
Here are a number of publicity stills from The Glass Key (1942), starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake and Brian Donlevy. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
I Married a Witch - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from I Married a Witch (1942). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Blue Dahlia - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Paramount Pictures' The Blue Dahlia (1946), starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
I Wanted Wings - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from Paramount's I Wanted Wings (1941), starring Ray Milland and Veronica Lake. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Veronica Lake - Publicity Stills
Here are a number of publicity stills of Paramount contract star Veronica Lake.

Videos

Movie Clip

This Gun For Hire (1942) - Are You That Broke? Boyfriend cop Mike (Robert Preston) seeing off singing magician and under-cover operative Ellen (Veronica Lake), who by chance meets Alan Ladd (as fugitive "Raven,") their first scene in their first movie together, in This Gun For Hire, 1942.
This Gun For Hire (1942) - Now You See It... First appearance by Veronica Lake as singer-magician "Ellen," auditioning for night club operator and industrial spy Gates (Laird Cregar), song by Jacques Press and Frank Loesser, in This Gun For Hire, 1942.
Sullivan's Travels (1942) - O Brother, Where Art Thou? Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is reunited with "The Girl" (Veronica Lake) and his staff, and reconsiders filming "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," in the final scene from Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, 1942.
I Married A Witch (1942) - You'll Be A Redhead! On the eve of his election as governor, candidate Wallace (Fredric March) is lured into a burning hotel by newly-embodied witch Jennifer (Veronica Lake), in I Married A Witch, 1942, directed by Renè Clair.
I Married A Witch (1942) - Love Grows Slowly Mischievous witch Jennifer (Veronica Lake) has wiled her way into sleeping over at the home of candidate Wallace (Fredric March), the night before his wedding, in I Married A Witch, 1942.
Blue Dahlia, The (1946) - Strangers When I Met Them Kindly Joyce (Veronica Lake) gives a lift to newly discharged G.I. Johnny (Alan Ladd) in a rainstorm, early in George Marshall's The Blue Dahlia, 1946, from an original Raymond Chandler screenplay.
Blue Dahlia, The (1946) - What Happened To Malibu? Johnny (Alan Ladd) runs into Joyce (Veronica Lake) in the hotel restaurant, makes plans, then has to split when the radio reports news of his philandering wife, in The Blue Dahlia, 1946.
Sullivan's Travels (1942) - Breakfast Is Served! Hollywood director Sullivan (Joel McCrea), who's been passing himself off as a vagrant, confesses his identity to "The Girl" (Veronica Lake), who takes revenge in his swimming pool, in writer-director Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, 1942.
Sullivan's Travels (1942) - Ever Met Lubitsch? Hollywood director Sullivan (Joel McCrea), masquerading as a bum, explains to his new wanna-be starlet friend (Veronica Lake) that he's borrowed this car from a director friend, in Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, 1942.
Sullivan's Travels (1942) - Hobo Montage A portion of writer-director Preston Sturges' extended sequence in which Hollywood director Sullivan (Joel McCrea) and "The Girl" (Veronica Lake) get their fill of life on the road in Sullivan's Travels, 1942.
Hold Back The Dawn (1941) - Rich Women, To Be Exact Following the opening in which Charles Boyer (as Romanian refugee George) sneaks on to the Paramount studio lot, seeking Mitchell Leisen, the director, playing another director called Saxon, contract players Brian Donlevy and Veronica Lake at work on his set, from Hold Back The Dawn, 1941.

Trailer

Family

Constance Charlotta Ockleman
Mother
Harry Ockleman
Father
Ship's master. Of German-Dutch extraction; killed in accident in February 1932.
Anthony Keane
Step-Father
Illustrator. Married Lake's mother in 1933; staff artist with the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE; died on September 10, 1946.
Elaine Detlie
Daughter
Born on August 21, 1941.
William Anthony Detlie
Son
Born prematurely on July 8, 1943 after Lake tripped on a lighting cable while making "The Hour Before the Dawn" (1944); died on July 15, 1943 of uremic poisoning.
Anthony Michael de Toth III
Son
Born on October 26, 1945.
Diane De Toth
Daughter
Born on October 16, 1948.

Companions

John Detlie
Husband
Art director. Born c. 1908; married on September 25, 1940; divorced in December 1943.
Andre de Toth
Husband
Director. Married on December 16, 1944; separated in June 1951; divorced in June 1952.
Joseph A McCarthy
Husband
Music publisher, songwriter. Married on August 28, 1955 in Traverse City, Michigan divorced in 1960.
Andy Elickson
Companion
Merchant seaman. Had four-year romance which ended with his death in September 1965 before they could be married.
Robert Carelton-Munro
Husband
English-born; married in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in June 1972; reportedly in the process of divorce at the time of Lake's death.

Bibliography

"Peekaboo"
St. Martin's Press (1983)
"Veronica"
Veronica Lake, Citadel Press (1971)

Notes

"You could put all the talent I had in your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision." --remark attributed to Veronica Lake, quoted in Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, 8th ed.

In the early 1940s, US government officials asked Lake to wear her hair up for the duration of WWII: it seems that too many women working in factories were imitating her famous "peek-a-boo bang" and getting their hair caught in assembly-line machinery.

"Possibly no candidate for the pantheon of cinema love goddesses was admitted on such a gimmicky whim as Veronica Lake, whose sulky but beauteous face was characteristically half-obscured by tossed locks of her blonde hair....Her initial cinema popularity was extended by a fortuitous teaming with stone-faced Alan Ladd, he of the sloppy fedora and trenchcoat. They created a new brand of screen lovers: calculating, conscienceless, self-possessed individuals. Their love scenes together were the epitome of restrained ego-feeding, filled with non-sequitur conversation, wisps of cigarette smoke, and bristling icy stares.The essence of hauteur, she proved the perfect screen bitch: a lithe, provocative figure, topped by luscious blonde hair partially revealing a lean face with slightly sunken cheeks, big cold eyes ... and the surprise of her husky, mature voice." --James Robert Parish ("The Paramount Pretties", 1972)