Veronica Lake (14 November 1922 - 7 July 1973)

14 November 1922, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA

Date of Death
7 July 1973, Burlington, Vermont, USA (hepatitis)

Birth Name
Constance Frances Marie Ockelman

The Peek-a-boo Girl

4' 11½" (1.51 m)

Mini Biography
Veronica Lake was born in Brooklyn, New York with the birth name of Constance Frances Marie Ockelman. Her father worked for an oil company as a ship employee. While still a child, Veronica's parents moved to Florida when she wasn't quite a year old. By the time she was five, the family had returned to Brooklyn. She was exposed to acting early when she starred in a primary school play. It was to be her only stage outing, at least for a while. When Veronica was 12, her father died in an explosion on an oil ship. One year later her mother wed Anthony Keane and Veronica took his last name as her own. From that point on the family moved around a lot, living in Canada, New York State and Miami, Florida. By the time Veronica had graduated from high school she was already known as one of the local Miami beauties. She felt that she was ready for films. Her mother and step-father moved to a small home in Beverly Hills, California in 1938 where Mrs. Keane enrolled her lovely daughter in the well known Bliss Hayden School of Acting in Hollywood. She didn't have to wait long for a part to come her way. Her first movie was as one of the many coeds in the RKO film, Sorority House (1939) in 1939. It was a minor part, to be sure, but it was a start. Veronica quickly followed up that project with two other films. All Women Have Secrets (1939) and Dancing Co-Ed (1939), both in 1939, were again bit roles for the pretty young woman from the East Coast, but she didn't complain. After all, other would-be starlets took a while before they ever received a bit part. Veronica continued her schooling, in 1940, while taking a bit roles in two more films, Young as You Feel (1940) and Forty Little Mothers (1940). Prior to this time, she was still under her natural name of Constance Keane. Now, with a better role in 1941's Vuelo de águilas (1941), she was asked to change her name and Veronica Lake was born. Now, instead of playing coeds, she had a decent, speaking part. Veronica felt like an actress. The film was a success and the public loved this bright newcomer. Paramount, the studio she was under contract with, then assigned her to two more films that year, Si no amaneciera (1941) and Los viajes de Sullivan (1941). The latter received good reviews from the always tough film critics. As Ellen Graham, in Contratado para matar (1942) the following year, Veronica now had top billing. She had paid her dues and was on a roll. The public was enamored with her. In 1943, Veronica starred in only one film. She portrayed Lieutenant Olivia D'Arcy in Sangre en Filipinas (1943) with Claudette Colbert. The film was a box-office smash. It seemed that any film Veronica starred in would be an unquestionable hit. However, her only outing for 1944, The Hour Before the Dawn (1944) would not be well-received by either the public or the critics. As Nazi sympathizer Dora Bruckmann, Veronica's role was dismal at best. Critics disliked her accent immensely because it wasn't true to life. Her acting itself suffered because of the accent. Mediocre films trailed her for all of 1945. It seemed that Veronica was dumped in just about any film to see if it could be salvaged. Detengan a esa rubia (1945), Out of This World (1945), and Miss Susie Slagle's (1946) were just a waste of talent for the beautiful blonde. The latter film was a shade better than the previous two. In 1946, Veronica bounced back in La dalia azul (1946) with Howard Da Silva. The film was a hit, but it was the last decent film for Veronica. Paramount continued to put her in pathetic movies. After 1948, Paramount discharged the once prized star and she was out on her own. In 1949, she starred in the Twentieth Century film Furia del trópico (1949). Unfortunately, another weak film. She was not on the big screen again until 1952 when she appeared in Misión peligrosa (1951). By Veronica's own admission, the film "was a dog." From 1952 to 1966, Veronica made television appearances and even tried her hand on the stage. Not a lot of success for her at all. By now alcohol was the order of the day. She was down on her luck and drank heavily. In 1962, Veronica was found living in an old hotel and working as a bartender. She finally returned to the big screen in 1966 in Footsteps in the Snow (1966). Another drought ensued and she appeared on the silver screen for the last time in 1970's Flesh Feast (1970) - a very low budget film. On July 7, 1973, Veronica died of hepatitis in Burlington, Vermont. The beautiful actress with the long blonde hair was dead at the age of 50.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Mini Biography
Veronica Lake was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 14, 1922 as Constance Frances Marie Ockleman. Her father worked for an oil company as a ship employee.

When Connie was only 12, tragedy struck when her father died in an explosion on an oil ship. One year later her mother married Anthony Keane and Connie took his last name as her own. In 1934, when her stepfather was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the family moved to Saranac Lake, where Connie Keane enjoyed the outdoor life and flourished in the activities of boating on the lakes, skating, skiing, swimming, biking around Moody Pond and hiking up Mt Baker. The family made their home in 1935 at 1 Watson Place, (now 27 Seneca Street) then they moved to 1 Riverside Drive,(now Lake Kiwassa Road). Both Connie and Anthony benefited from the Adirondack experience and in 1936 the family left the Adirondacks and moved to Miami, FL., however, the memories of those carefree Saranac Lake days would always remain deeply rooted in her mind.

Two years later, Connie graduated from high school in Miami. Her natural beauty and charm and a definite talent for acting prompted her mother and step-father to move to Beverly Hills, California, where they enrolled her in the well known Bliss Hayden School of Acting in Hollywood. Connie had previously been diagnosed as a classic schizophrenic and her parents saw acting as a form of treatment for her condition. She showed remarkable abilities and didn't have to wait long for a part to come her way. After several bit parts she changed her name to Veronica Lake.

Her films included: 'This Gun for Hire', 'The Hour Before Dawn', 'Hold That Blonde', and 'Out of this World' among others. Veronica was soon a big name star and her success in acting seemed unstoppable. By the early 1950's however, Lake's career had hit the skids. Still suffering from schizophrenia, and in a state of paranoia, she turned to drinking heavily to relieve herself from the burden. This only added to her deteriorating mental state and, with the stress of three broken marriages, a domineering stage mother, a manic depressive personality, and a self destructive addiction to liquor she pushed herself over the edge.

After 1952, she would make only two more films, both grade B horror flicks. The beautiful super star with the peekaboo hair do, who entertained and inspired so many, never received the professional help which would have saved her from the mental suffering and she would endure it alone. She eventually frequented cheap hotels in New York City and worked as a bartender where she obtained a steady supply of booze. She never revealed her true identity and even her co-workers were in the dark about her glamorous past. By the late 1960's she had reached rock bottom, holing up in her apartment out of paranoid fears that the FBI was following her and tapping her phone. This fear may have some basis in fact, as in July of 1943, while working for Paramount Studios, she had received an extortion threat. It was addressed to her under her married name at the time, Mrs. John S. Detlie. As this case can still be found in the FBI files, they most likely tapped her phone for a time.

Those who knew her in the 60's said that the once great beauty had turned into a worn out mess, with rotting teeth, unwashed hair, and the pasty complexion of a bloated alcoholic. Saranac Lake native, James Quigley, recalls an encounter with her while she was working at a popular New York City bar at #1 Fifth Avenue in the 60's. He introduced himself as a Saranac Laker and Veronica seemed happy to meet someone from her old hometown. Jim said "I went to the bar at #1 Fifth Avenue, a very chic and popular bar for New Yorkers. Veronica was tending bar and when I told her I was from Saranac Lake she cried, kissed me and continuted to work. What a moment!"

In the early 1970s Veronica made a brief return to the spotlight with the publication of her autobiography, which earned her enough cash to relocate to the British Isles. She married for a fourth time- to an English sea captain, a commercial fisherman known as "Captain Bob" but that soon ended in divorce. In early 1973, her body and mind ravaged by alcoholism, she returned to the states.

Veronica's biography and other sources state that she went to visit friends in Vermont, however, this is inaccurate. For one thing, she had no friends in Vermont, and for another, she didn't go directly to Vermont but instead came to Saranac Lake, the place where Connie Kean had spent the happiest years of her childhood, the village she had never forgotten, the place that had remained in her memories throughout her glamorous but tortured career. The memories of her happy, youthful days in the mountains contrasted with the now painful reality of her mental and physical suffering and she wanted to relive the good days. She wanted to be healed, just as her stepfather had been many years ago but it was too late for her. She was beyond help. Connie Keane had come home to die.

According to the Saranac Lake doctors who treated her, she was already "pretty far along" with an acute case of hepatitis and she was not long in Saranac Lake before she was admitted to Will Rogers Hospital. According to her doctor in Vermont, Warren Beeken, Saranac Lake did not have the resources to treat her as well as the Medical Center in Burlington, so on June 26, 1973 she was transferred to the Fletcher Allen Hospital. Her presence in the hospital was not publicized- because, according to her publicist William Roos- "Frankly, I didn't think she was going to die". He was not aware of the extreme state of her medical condition. According to Dr. Beeken, her case of hepatitis had persisted for some time before she entered the Fletcher Allen Hospital, and her condition had deteriorated rapidly.

Word of her true identity quickly spread throughout the facility, and the hospital staff visited her room to pay their respects. She visibly brightened due to the attention, signing autographs for the nurses and speaking confidently of future plans. According to one nurse who attended her in her final days, "She was very cheerful and friendly, happy and looking forward to the future, and still retained a shadow of her former beauty." Yet, she was also utterly and completely alone- with no guests or phone calls, a sad state for one once so well known. Dr. Beeken looked in on her one last time on the evening on July 6, when acute renal failure had set in. Early on the morning of July 7, 1973, Constance Frances Marie Ockleman passed away, alone and forgotten at age of 50.

A Footnote: Hearing of his mother's death, her son Michael, who lived in Hawaii, asked his father, Lake's 3rd ex-husband, Andre de Toth, for money to fly to Vermont, but his request was denied. Michael had to take a loan out to fly to Vermont to claim the body from the Corbin Palmer funeral home, located near the Fletcher Allen hospital. She was then cremated but her ashes were stored at the funeral home untill payment could be made. Her sparsely attended Manhattan memorial service was paid for by a friend, veteran ghostwriter Donald Bain, who penned Lake's incomplete autobiography. Not even her ashes made the event; as they were still stored at the funeral home in a squabble over money. Her ashes remained there until March 1976, when two friends volunteered to bring Lake's ashes to Florida. Bain sent the funeral home $200 to cover the back storage fees, and the ashes were shipped to the Park Avenue, Saranac Lake residence of a friend, William Roos. Roos and Dick Toman supposedly took the ashes south for their ceremonial deposit in the water off Miami but it appears that this isn't the end of the story. It is claimed that the ashes somehow found their way to a curio shop in the Catskills, a place called 'Langley's Mystery Spot', in Phoenicia, N.Y. Even in death, it appears that Connie can't rest.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Leslie Hoffman

Robert Carleton-Munro (29 May 1972 - 7 July 1973) (her death)
Joseph A. McCarthy (28 August 1955 - 1959) (divorced)
André De Toth (13 December 1944 - 2 June 1952) (divorced) 2 children
John S. Detlie (25 September 1940 - 2 December 1943) (divorced) 2 children

Trade Mark
'Peekaboo' hairstyle, covering right side of forehead and sometimes partly over right eye.

Lake's parents: Harry Ockelman, seaman, died in ship explosion, February 1932; Constance Charlotta Trimble. Lake's paternal grandparents were Danish and Irish; Lake's maternal grandparents were the children of Irish immigrants.
Birth year usually given as 1919 but her autobiography and Lenburg's highly negative biography both indicate 1922. The 1920 United States Census shows that her father Harry Ockelman is unmarried and childless, while in 1930 Constance is listed as seven years old.
Her height variously given as "barely five feet" to 5' 2" Photos indicate the shorter height.
Children: Elaine Detlie, b. 21 August 1941; William Detlie, lived 8-15 July 1943; Andre Michael De Toth III, b. 25 October 1945; Diana De Toth, b. 16 October 1948.
An accomplished aviatrix, she took up flying in 1946 and in 1948 flew her small plane from Los Angeles to New York.
A 1943 Paramount newsreel shows her adopting an upswept hairdo at the behest of War Womanpower Commission, to discourage "peekaboo bangs" on Rosie the Riveter.
Got her big break when teamed with the only actor in Hollywood relatively near to her in height, Alan Ladd. Ladd was 5' 6" and she was just 4' 11".
Daughter-in-law of Joseph McCarthy.
During World War Two, the rage for her peek-a-boo bangs became a hazard when women in the defense industry would get their bangs caught in machinery. Lake had to take a publicity picture in which she reacted painfully to her hair getting "caught" in a drill press in order to heighten public awareness about the hazard of her hairstyle.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6918 Hollywood Blvd.
Kim Basinger won an Oscar as "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" for portraying a prostitute who is supposed to look like Lake.
She and Alan Ladd made 7 movies together: La dalia azul (1946), Duffy's Tavern (1945), La llave de cristal (1942), Saigon (1948), Fantasía de estrellas (1942), Contratado para matar (1942) and Variety Girl (1947). In Variety Girl (1947), Fantasía de estrellas (1942) and Duffy's Tavern (1945) they appear as themselves.
Cousin of actress Helene Marshall.
Her ashes sat on a funeral home's shelf until 1976 when her cremation was paid for and supposedly spread on the Florida coastline. Some 30 years after her death, her ashes resurfaced in a New York antique store in October 2004.
In Italy, all her films were dubbed by Rosetta Calavetta. She was only dubbed once by another actress: Clelia Bernacchi (in Si no amaneciera (1941)).
Her third husband, Joseph Allen McCarthy, wrote lyrics for many Cy Coleman songs, among them "I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out Of My Life" and "Why Try To Change Me Now?" sung by Frank Sinatra. McCarthy's father, Joseph McCarthy, was also a lyricist; his most famous songs are "You Made Me Love You" and "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows.".
Actor Stewart Stafford lived the first three years of his life in her old apartment in New York (her name was still visible inside the mailbox).
When former lover Marlon Brando read in a newspaper that a reporter had found Veronica Lake working as a cocktail waitress in a Manhattan bar, he instructed his accountant to send her a check for a thousand dollars. Out of pride, she never cashed it, but kept it framed in her Miami living room to show her friends.
Along with Rita Hayworth', Lauren Bacall, and Gene Tierney she was one of four inspirations that helped create the character Jessica Rabbit.
In her biography "Peekaboo" Lake's mother claims her daughter was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, which she alleges was responsible for her alcoholism, numerous infidelities, mood swings, and vindictiveness.
Lake's mother sued her daughter for non-support during the 1940s.
When Lake's former husband, Andre de Toth, wrote his autobiogrpahy, "Fragments" in 1964, his comments about his ex-wife were brief and relatively sympathetic. He paints her as a woman destroyed by a sad childhood and overly domineering mother.

Personal Quotes
You could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision.
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."
I wasn't a sex symbol, I was a sex zombie.
[1970, reflecting on her career] I've reached a point in my life where it's the little things that matter. I'm no longer interested in doing what's expected of me. I was always a rebel and probably could have got much farther had I changed my attitude. But when you think about it, I got pretty far without changing attitudes. I'm happier with that.
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.
[on Alan Ladd] Alan Ladd was a marvelous person in his simplicity. In so many ways we were kindred spirits. We both were professionally conceived through Hollywood's search for box office and the types to insure the box office. And we were both little people. Alan wasn't as short as most people believe. It was true that in certain films Alan would climb a small platform or the girl worked in a slit trench. We had no such problems together.
[on Paulette Goddard] It was her honesty I liked.
[on Marlon Brando] Our romance was short but sweet. He was on the dawn of a brilliant film career, and I was in the twilight of one. Of course, my career could never compare with his.
[on her screen test for Vuelo de águilas (1941)] My hair kept falling over one eye and I kept brushing it back. I thought I had ruined my chances for the role. But (Arthur) Hornblow was jubilant about that eye-hiding trick. An experienced showman, he knew that the hairstyle was something people would talk about. He had a big picture and lots of talk would bring customers to see it.
[on performing with Fredric March in Me casé con una bruja (1942)] He treated me like dirt under his talented feet. Of all actors to end up under the covers with. That happened in one scene and Mr. March is lucky he didn't get my knee in his groin.
There's no doubt I was a bit of a misfit in the Hollywood of the forties. The race for glamor left me far behind. I didn't really want to keep up. I wanted my stardom without the usual trimmings. Because of this, I was branded a rebel at the very least. But I don't regret that for a minute. My appetite was my own and I simply wouldn't have it any other way.
I think I've developed into an actress because I've worked darn hard at it and I've learned a great deal from a lot of gifted people. And if I have nothing else to show for my life, apart from a scrapbook full of cuttings, I have the knowledge that my early days in Hollywood weren't in vain.
If I had stayed in Hollywood I would have ended up like Alan Ladd and Gail Russell - dead and buried by now. That rat race killed them and I knew it would kill me, so I had to get out. I was never psychologically meant to be a picture star. I never took it seriously. I couldn't 'live' being a 'movie star' and I couldn't 'camp' it, and I hated being something I wasn't.

Vuelo de águilas (1941) $75/week
Contratado para matar (1942) $350/week
La llave de cristal (1942) $350/week
The Hour Before the Dawn (1944) $4,500/week
Isn't It Romantic? (1948) $4,000/week
Footsteps in the Snow (1966) $10,000

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