Veronica Lake was sultry before sultry was even a word! She was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn, New York on November 14, 1922. Veroncia’s first exposure to acting was when she starred in a school play as a small child.
Veronica’s father was killed in an oil explosion when she was only 12. Her mother remarried and the family moved around a great deal – Canada, New York, and finally Miami, Florida.
By the time Veronica had graduated from high school she was already known as one of Miami’s elite beauties. This apparently led her think her next stop was Hollywood! Her mother and step-father moved to a small home in Beverly Hills, California in 1938.
Veronica was enrolled in the well known Bliss Hayden School of Acting in Hollywood.
Hollywood responded almost immediately. Her first movie was as one of the many coeds in the RKO film, Sorority House (1939) in 1939. Although it was a very, very minor part, it served its purpose, Veronica beautiful face was now on the much-coveted Hollywood radar.
Veronica Lake quickly added two more films to her resume: All Women Have Secrets (1939) and Dancing Co-Ed (1939).
1940 brought small roles in two more films: Young as You Feel and Forty Little Mothers. To this point, Veronica was acting under her natural name, Constance Keane.
When a better role (in 1941’s I Wanted Wings) came along, she was asked to change her name and Veronica Lake was born.
Veronica now had a speaking role and, finally, felt like a real actress. The film was a success and movie goers fell in love with Veronica. Paramount signed their new star to two more films that year, Hold Back the Dawn (1941) and Sullivan’s Travels (1941). The latter received good reviews from the always tough film critics. As Ellen Graham, in This Gun for Hire (1942) the following year, Veronica now had top billing!
Veronica was on top of the world and the public couldn’t get enough of her. They were fascinated with their new star. In 1943, Veronica portrayed Lieutenant Olivia D’Arcy in So Proudly We Hail! with Claudette Colbert. The film was a monstrous success.
Just when Veronica Lake seemed to have the Midas touch, The Hour Before the Dawn (1944) came along with a cruel blow. The movie would not be well-received by either the public or the critics. Veronica’s unfortunate role was Nazi sympathizer Dora Bruckmann and the whole ball of wax was a disaster. Critics hated her accent because it wasn’t true to life. What’s more, her acting was pretty “off” (partly attributed to the accent she had to endure).
Mediocre films followed for all of 1945. Hold That Blonde (1945), Out of This World (1945), and Miss Susie Slagle’s (1946) were disappointments for the studios as well as Veronica Lake, herself.
In 1946, Veronica was in a much better film, The Blue Dahlia (1946) with Howard Da Silva. The film was a hit, but it was the last one for Veronica. Paramount continued to put her in movies that weren’t just bad…. they were VERY bad.
After 1948, Paramount let go of their once prized star. In 1949, she starred in the Twentieth Century film Slattery’s Hurricane (1949), another very weak film.
She was not on the big screen again until 1952 when she appeared in Stronghold (1951). By Veronica’s own admission, the film “was a dog.”
From 1952 to 1966, Veronica made television appearances and even took to the stage. Unfortunately she never found the success she longed for.
Life’s burdens, disappointments, and hardships took their toll on Veronica Lake and she turned to alcohol. In one of the saddest stories from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Veronica was miserable and drank very heavily. In 1962, she 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. Another lengthy period of time passed and she last appeared onscreen in 1970’s Flesh Feast – a very, very, very low budget film.
On July 7, 1973, Veronica died of hepatitis in Burlington, Vermont. The beautiful actress with the peek-a-boo hairstyle was dead at the age of 53.
I ALWAYS hate (with a great passion) to have to write about the ugly side of a star’s life. We have the beautiful, glossy, shiny side that we want to remember. For Veronica Lake, it’s certainly the beautiful pictures and sultry attitude. Unfortunately, like everything in life, there’s another side to the story. For this beautiful actress, with the undeniable face of an angel, the other side was this – she had very high expectations for herself in Hollywood. Her career started off with such a bang, how disappointing (and ultimately devastating) must all of the flops have been?
Can you imagine how it must have felt for your adoring legion of fans to suddenly turn against you (The Hour Before the Dawn). Veronica’s life was turned upside down and it’s almost impossible to land on your feet when that happens. So, no I’m not here to judge and I’m certain you won’t either. She isn’t the first (or last) person fame ate and spit out.
Obviously Hollywood Yesterday wants to celebrate the better side of the stars we write about. We want to give these men and women a chance to shine brightly forever and to be remembered as they wanted to be. So enjoy the gorgeous pictures of Veronica Lake and remember her gracefulness, beauty, talent, ambition, and sultriness.
It’s very much what she’d have wanted.