CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE STUMBLED INTO "THE SHALLOW ZONE." WATCH OUT FOR THE ROCKS. SOME OF THEM ARE SHARP.
If you're looking for a blog with meaningful content on the important issues of the day, you've come to the wrong place. This is the shallows, my friend. Nothing but shallowness as far as the eye can see. Let someone else make sense of things. I like it here.

About Me

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I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT
Not that there's any weight to it...
IN A WORLD FILLED WITH COMPLEX POLITICAL ISSUES, SOCIAL INEQUALITY, AND FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY, I CONSIDER IT MY GIFT TO YOU, MY READER, TO OFFER THIS SHALLOW LITTLE HAVEN, WHERE NOTHING IS TOO SHALLOW, TOO INSIGNIFICANT, OR TOO RIDICULOUS TO JUSTIFY OUR ATTENTION. IN OTHER WORDS, IF IT'S NOT IMPORTANT....SO WHAT? NEITHER WAS MARILYN MONROE'S BRA SIZE. AND THAT STILL SELLS MAGAZINES, DOESN'T IT?
VIDEO OF THE MONTH

Monday, February 25, 2013

CLASSIC TRAIN WRECKS: THE PATHETIC PLIGHT OF HOLLYWOOD'S "PEEK-A-BOO GIRL"


I don't know how it happens. And yet it does. I write a post on something or other...say...dead sea monkeys, favorite name songs, and, most recently, classic Hollywood train wrecks...and someone asks me to do a follow-up post on the same subject because they liked the first one and want to read another almost exactly, but not completely like it. And because I'm easily flattered and like nothing better than writing posts for free with no commentary from my adoring, disgruntled, or totally indifferent readership, I usually give in and do it. And so guess what? I'm about to do it again. The difference is that, this time, I actually think I would have done it on my own anyway. Might even turn out to be a whole series of posts on...wait for it...drum roll...classic Hollywood train wrecks. We'll see how it goes. Anyway, enough about me. Ready to meet another train wreck? Good. Because this train is leaving the station and heading for the Lake...Veronica Lake, that is.


It's hard to write anything about Veronica Lake without mentioning her hair, so, before I write anything else, let me get that out of the way. Like many other actresses in the classic days of Hollywood, as well as today, Veronica Lake had hair...very long, very blonde hair...which, in and of iteself would be nothing special except that Veronica Lake wore it so that one smooth wave always hung down over her right eye....which, like her left one, was blue (just in case you're wondering). That was how she came to be known as "the Peek-A-Boo Girl". It was a very sexy look, completely unlike the hairstyles worn by her contemporaries, and it set her apart. But it wasn't the only thing that set Veronica Lake apart from her Hollywood peers. She was a lot of thing before and after she was "the Peek-A-Boo Girl." As a matter of fact, she wasn't even always Veronica Lake.


The future "Peek-A-Boo Girl" was born with the very un-Hollywood-like name Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn, New York in 1922, the only child of a Danish-Irish father and a mother of Irish descent. She had what was apparently a normal childhood until her father, an oil worker, died in an industrial explosion when she was ten. Following her husband's death, Lake's mother married a newspaper staff artist and sent Lake to an all-girls boarding school in Montreal, Canada (of all places). That was when the trouble started. Lake was expelled from the all-girls school (for reasons that have remained unclear), after which she moved with her mother and stepfather to Beverly Hills, where her mother immediately enrolled her in the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting. Which seems odd since it was around the same time, according to Lake's mother, that Lake was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Whether she really was or not, by this time, Lake's looks were already starting to attract a great deal of attention. She was a a "true petite", as they say, and would eventually reach a maximum height of 4'11. But her tiny stature, chisled features, blonde hair, and blue eyes more than made up for her lack of stature, and in 1939, a year after she began attending Bliss-Hayden, Lake won a small role in an RKO film called Sorority Girls. Her appeareance in the film was brief, but it made an impression on the film's director, John Farrow, who told Lake that he liked the way she always wore her hair over one eye because it gave her an air of mystery. It seemed that the burgeoning femme fatale, though still in her teens, was already on her way. Shortly after her appearance in Sorority Girls, she met Arthur Hornblower, Jr., a producer at Paramount Studios, who, like Farrow, was intrigued by her beauty and unique hairstyle. But there was one thing he did think should be changed...namely, her name. And so, just like that, Constance Frances Marie Ockleman became Veronica Lake. Why "Lake"? Because Arthur Hornblower, Jr. felt that the name matched the color of her eyes.


Despite the buzz that followed her appearance in Sorority Girls, RKO dropped Lake's contract shortly after the film came out. Lake made the best of the situation by planning a wedding...her own...with fiance John Detilie, an art director, and subsequently giving birth to their daughter. But she didn't remain an at-home wife and mother very long. What RKO hadn't wanted, Paramount did, and the studio quickly signed Lake to a long-term contract and cast her opposite Joel McCrea in 1941's Sullivan Travels. The film was a big hit and established Lake as one of the studio's most popular stars. More roles in equally successful films followed, including one in I Wanted Wings, in which Lake played a sultry blonde seductress opposite Ray Milland and William Holden. The film wasn't as successful or popular as some of her previous ones, but her performance in it drew positive reviews from critics, who, for the first time in her fledgling career, began taking her seriously as an actress. Unfortunately, Lake's breakthrough role in I Wanted Wings coincided with the onset of World War II, which had a direct effect on her most well-known asset: her hair.


The Peek-A-Boo Girl Gets A Make-Over: Veronica Lake's 1940s "hair safety" public service spot

At the behest of the United States government (which was apparently keeping an eye on Hollywood), Lake changed her hairstyle for the duration of the war in the hope that it would encourage female factory workers (remember Rosie the Riveter?) to adopt more practical hairstyles in the workplace. These days, of course, actresses change their hairstyles all the time, usually with no repercussions (unless they happen to be Halle Berry or Keri Russell), but Veronica Lake was the "Peek-A-Boo Girl". It was a huge deal, and it seemed to have an almost immediate effect on her popularity with movie audiences. And the change in her hairstyle wasn't the only thing starting to work against Lake.


"Witch" was one of the kinder adjectives co-stars used when discussing Veronica Lake

By the mid-1940's, Lake was starting to grate on the nerves of her fellow actors. She was frequently referred to as "The Bitch" behind her back (and occasionlly to her face), and Joel McCrea, her leading man in Sullivan's Travels, disliked her so much that he passed on an offer to reprise their working relationship in a movie called I Married A Witch, reportedly saying that "life is too short for two films with Veronica Lake." Instead, the co-starring role went to Frederic March (Casablanca), who, from all accounts, developed a similar distaste for Lake during the making of the film. In fact, March disliked her so much that he refused to even talk about her when being interviewed in support of the film. It seemed that the only actor willing to commit to more than one round with the "Peek-A-Boo Girl" was Alan Ladd, with whom Lake co-starred in four films, the most famous of which, The Blue Dahlia, boasted a screenplay written by none other than Raymond Chandler, creator of fictional private detective "Philip Marlow" and the wordsmith behind some of the greatest "hard-boiled" dialogue in the history of literature. But Ladd's willingness to work with Lake may have had something to do with the fact that, at 5'"5, he was hard-pressed to find a leading lady who didn't tower over him and was often forced to stand on a box during scenes in order to mask the disparity in height. Lake's diminuative stature solved that problem, although it didn't stop Ladd from making some very caustic comments about her between films. Raymond Chandler was even less charitable toward the actress, referring to her simply as "Moronica Lake".


Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd pretend that they don't hate each other in The Blue Dahlia

But why did her co-stars dislike her so much? She was known for being difficult and demanding on the set, but so were a lot of other actresses who never inspired the sort of vitrolic remarks that were so often directed at Veronica Lake. Her excessive drinking, which began shortly after her first flush of fame, may have had something to do with it. Her drinking seemed to trigger the mental instability that her mother had claimed was "schizophrenia", which, in turn, was aggravated by the drinking. It was a vicious cycle, and it wasn't long before it began to have a negative impact on her career. In 1948, Paramount dropped her contract. Lake took advantage of the free time by taking flying lessons, earning her pilot's license, and making a solo flight from Los Angeles to New York. It was an impressive endeavor for an actress at that time, but it did little to restore Lake's good standing with her peers and the movie studios. On a personal level, things weren't much better. Already on her second husband, with whom she had a son and a daughter (a second child born during her first marriage had died shortly after birth), Lake was severely strapped for cash and was being sued by her mother for support payments. When 20th Century Fox picked up her contract in 1949, it seemed as though things might actually be looking up, but the respite was only temporary. Lake made only one film for 20th Century Fox (Slattery's Hurricane) before the studio dropped her contract, forcing Lake and her husband to file for bankruptcy, after which the IRS seized their home.


A star in decline: Vernonica Lake in the late 50's looking less than her celluloid best

By the early 1950's, it was, for all practical purposes, over for the one time pin-up girl and movie audience favorite. Lake divorced and married again, this time to songwriter Joseph Allan McCarthy, but the marriage only lasted four years before the couple filed for divorce. Lake made a few more films, but they were B-movies at best and largely ignored by the public and film critics alike. To support herself, Lake took a job as a bartender in an all-woman's hotel in New York City, a job that probably contributed to her continuing donward slide since, while employed at the hotel, she was arrested several times for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Her looks had long since faded, and she was...in a word...a mess, when a reporter happened to stop by the bar and, recognizing Lake, wrote a story about her. The story, though embarrassing to Lake, at least had the effect of reviving a modicum of interest in the erstwhile screen queen. Seizing the moment, she took a role in an off-Broadway production of the musical Best Foot Forward, in which she worked briefly alongside a youthful Liza Minnelli. But by the late 1960's, Lake's mini-career revival was over, and she turned her attention to writing her memoirs, which were published in 1969, and from which she earned enough money to finance her final film...a low (very low) budget horror flick called Flesh Feast.


Not surprisingly, the film was a dud. But Lake didn't stick around to read the reviews. She fled to England where she met John Carleton-Munro, a Royal Navy captain, who soon became her fourth husband. But like Flesh Feast, the marriage was a failure, lasting only a year before the couple divorced. In June, 1973, Lake returned to the United States where only a few hours later she was hospitalized with hepatitis and acute renal failure, a result of alcoholism. She died on July 7, 1973, in Burlington, Vermont, without fanfare and with only members of the hospital staff present at her bedside. She was 50 years old. In her will, she had requested that her body be cremated and her ashes scattered off the coast of the Virgin Islands. But only some of her ashes found their way to the desired spot. In 2004, a container in which a portion of her ashes had been stored was discovered in an antique shop in New York. It was an ignonimous end for the once-glamorous star of some of the most popular films of the early 1940's, but not an entirely unfitting one. For all of her early success and the brief moment of fame that it had brought her, Veronica Lake will always remain a Hollywood enigma. Perhaps, like the stray lock of blonde hair she had once worn over her right eye, she was nothing more than a triumph of style over substance whose popularity rose and fell according to the whims of the times in which she lived. But even if that is all there was to Veronica Lake, she was without question one of a kind, and it's for that reason we still remember...however sadly...Hollywood's "Peek-A-Boo Girl."


Skol!

1 comment:

  1. Why don't you people leave my wife Constance Frances Marie Lake (A.K.A. Veronica Lake) alone? You write lies and stupid stories about her constantly. If each of you will search CATEGORY:VERONICA LAKE @ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS you will see who she was actually married to at the time of her death.

    Stewart Lake 4th and last husband of Constance Frances Marie Lake A.K.A. Veronica Lake

    ReplyDelete