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Veronica Lake - From Hollywood Star to Manhattan Bar
Women today still refer to the hairstyle of film star Veronica Lake, born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman on November 14, 1922 in Brooklyn, New York. Nicknamed the Peek-a-Boo Girl, this diminutive blond would move around the country with her parents and graduated from high school in Miami, Florida where she was already drawing attention as a beauty.
Her family moved to Hollywood and her mom enrolled Constance into an acting school. Soon thereafter, she started receiving small parts in films that catered to her looks, but with no lines in her scenes. In 1940, she married art director, John Detlie, fourteen years her senior. Eventually, she had her first lines in 1941's I Wanted Wings with William Holden and Ray Milland. She stole scene after scene from the other cast members. Now, the studio figured it was time to change her name and Veronica Lake was born.
Her next film included some major heavyweights in Hollywood, Charles Boyer, Olivia de Havilland and Paulette Goddard in 1941's Hold Back the dawn. Hollywood was starting to take notice.
Then, came her first major role alongside my favorite actor, Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels again in 1941. This time, she would draw good reviews from film critics and she realized she was on her way. Audiences were enamored with her as was I. This petite little blond with the hair over one eye and the sensuous voice made a lasting impression. McCrea would be offered another role co-starring with Veronica, but politely refused and I quote, "Life's too short for two films with Veronica Lake." She had developed a reputation for being hard to work with.
It was about this time she gave birth to her first child. A second child from this marriage would die one week after birth. Veronica continued to make films that were well received by both critics and audiences. Then, she had a couple that were not so well received as Paramount cast her in some pretty bad movies, particularly one that required a German accent that did not go well with the critics. In 1945, she married film maker, Andre De Toth who would also father two children.
She bounced back with The Blue Dahlia in 1946 with Alan Ladd as her co-star. She would make four films with Ladd. It was a huge hit, but, Paramount continued to put her in terrible films and Blue Dahlia would be her last good film. She was a good fit for Ladd who at 5'5" tall needed someone like the 4'11" Lake by his side.
Paramount let her go in 1948. Twentieth Century Fox picked her up and she did a couple of more terrible films with them and turned to television in 1952. It would be fourteen years before she was again on the big screen. After divorcing her third husband, Joseph McCarthy in 1959, she began to drink heavily and was often picked up for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. She moved from one cheap hotel to the next. Then, a reporter for the New York Post found Veronica working behind the bar in Manhattan at the Martha Washington Hotel.
The notoriety from the article that would follow gave way to more parts for Veronica in off-Broadway plays and some television work. By the late 60's, she was hospitalized with paranoia. She later wrote her autobiography and from the proceeds produced her last film, Flesh Feast in 1970 which was poorly received. She moved to London for some stage work there and married a ship's captain, Robert Carleton-Munro. She returned to the U.S. after filing for divorce in 1973.
Veronica again was hospitalized in Burlington, Vermont with complications of alcoholism. Her three children did not come to see her. She died on July 7, 1973 of hepatitis and acute renal failure. Her funeral was held in Manhattan where only her son and a few strangers attended.
Veronica Lake made 30 films and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It was quite a trip from Hollywood Star to the Manhattan Bar. May she rest in peace.