“I will have one of the cleanest obits of any actress. I never did cheesecake like Ann Sheridan or Betty Grable. I just used my hair.” –Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake never received her due of sex appeal like her Hollywood competition. Her legs were not insured for $1 million dollars like Betty Grable and her two biggest assets were not being promoted like Jane Russell. When she stood to attention in So Proudly We Hail! (1943), uniformed Veronica Lake stood 4 feet, 11 inches tall. She weighed 90 pounds. She was teamed with Joel McCrea in Sullivan’s Travels (1942), who stood 6 feet, 3 inches. While filming I Married A Witch in 1942, Veronica Lake and co-star Fredric March did not like one another, due in part to some disparaging remarks March made about her. During filming, Lake delighted in playing pranks on March, such as hiding a 40-pound weight under her costume when March had to carry her in his arms. In another scene in which the two were photographed only from the waist up, Lake stuck her foot in March’s groin.
But in front of the camera, Veronica Lake deftly filled the lens with more sex appeal in her one eye than most beauties wearing half as much, and trying twice as hard. 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… and Veronica Lake was for a time, one of the most popular and sought-after actresses in motion pictures. Her hair style motivated a generation of women to imitate her cool persona with the peak-a-boo hair style. (This wasn’t the first time a Hollywood actress influenced the way Americans lived. Actresses Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn were often photographed in trousers during the 1930s, which helped make trousers acceptable for women to wear in public.)
“Hollywood gives a young girl the aura of one giant, self-contained orgy farm, its inhabitants dedicated to crawling into every pair of pants they can find.”
|I Married A Witch (1941)|
For the next three years she appeared in a string of box office hits, all financially successful for the studio. She made a major impact as William Holden’s smoldering love interest in the military drama, I Wanted Wings (1941), 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), and showed 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 (1942). Why this latter film has not been hailed as one of the 100 best movies ever made is subject to debate, but it was one of the five best films I saw last calendar year, both old and new movies. It’s one of those films you will admit, after the closing credits, “they don’t make movies like that anymore.”
|This Gun for Hire (1942)|
In 1944, she married film director Andre De Toth, reportedly violent behind the camera. De Toth would later be responsible for directing House of Wax (1953), considered one of the greatest 3-D movies ever made. Ironic when you consider the fact that De Toth had a glass eye – you need two eyes to see the 3-D process. Perhaps she needed a man who was dominant in her life. Perhaps she felt sorry for the director. Whatever the reason, her marriage never lasted a decade and her drinking continued behind the camera. Business-minded Alan Ladd, soft-spoken, meek and insecure, publicly criticized her for showing up late on the set of The Blue Dahlia.
|This Gun For Hire (1942)|
References to Lake’s peek-a-boo style and ice queen demeanor were seen in everything from the neo-noir flick, L.A. Confidential (1997) with Kim Basinger as Lynn Bracken, to the animated femme fatale, Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). Even the comics’ Archie Andrews of The Archies had a longtime love, brunette vixen Veronica Rogers, mirrored closely with the actress.
|Veronica Lake Screen Saver (for those who can't stop looking at her)|
After her Hollywood career came to a close, her one-time lover Marlon Brando heard she was working as a barmaid and promptly had his people deliver her a check for $1,000. Too proud to cash it, Lake instead chose to have it framed as a memory of days gone by, and a not-so-subtle notice to others that she was once Hollywood’s reigning sex symbol.