Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake, ca. 1940s
Born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman
(1922-11-14)November 14, 1922
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.
Died July 7, 1973(1973-07-07) (aged 50)
Burlington, Vermont, U.S.
Cause of death Hepatitis and acute renal failure
Nationality American
Other names Constance Keane
Connie Keane
Education St. Bernard's School
Villa Maria
Miami High School
Occupation Actress
Years active 1939–1954; 1966; 1970
Spouse(s) John S. Detlie (m. 1940; div. 1943)
André de Toth (m. 1944; div. 1952)
Joseph A. McCarthy (m. 1955; div. 1959)
Robert Carleton-Munro (m. 1972; div. 1973)
Children Elaine Detlie (b. 1941)
Anthony Detlie (b. 1943-1943)
Andre Michael De Toth III (b. 1945)
Diana De Toth (b. 1948)

Veronica Lake (November 14, 1922[1] – July 7, 1973) was an American film, stage, and television actress. Lake won both popular and critical acclaim, most notably for her role in Sullivan's Travels and for her femme fatale roles in film noirs with Alan Ladd, during the 1940s. She was also well known for her peek-a-boo hairstyle. By the late 1940s however, Lake's career had begun to decline in part due to her struggles with mental illness and alcoholism. She made only one film in the 1950s but appeared in several guest-starring roles on television. She returned to the screen in 1966 with a role in the film Footsteps In the Snow, but the role failed to revitalize her career.

Lake released her memoirs, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, in 1970. She used the money she made from the book to finance a low-budget horror film Flesh Feast. It was her final onscreen role. Lake died in July 1973 from hepatitis and acute kidney injury at the age of 50.


  • Youth 1
  • Career 2
    • Success 2.1
    • Decline 2.2
  • Later years 3
  • Personal life 4
    • Marriages and children 4.1
  • Death 5
  • Hollywood Boulevard 6
  • Filmography 7
  • Selected stage credits 8
  • In popular culture 9
  • Radio appearances 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
    • Footnotes 12.1
    • Sources 12.2
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14


Lake was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Harry E. Ockelman, was of German and Irish descent,[2][3][4][5] and worked for an oil company aboard a ship. He died in an industrial explosion in Philadelphia in 1932. Lake's mother, Constance Charlotta (née Trimble; 1902–1992), of Irish descent, married Anthony Keane, a newspaper staff artist, also of Irish descent, in 1933, and Lake began using his surname.[6] The Keanes lived in Saranac Lake, New York, where young Lake attended St. Bernard's School for a time, then was sent to Villa Maria, an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Montreal, Canada, from which she was expelled. The Keane family later moved to Miami, Florida, where Lake attended Miami High School, where she was known for her beauty. She had a troubled childhood and was diagnosed as schizophrenic, according to her mother.[7]


In 1938, the Keanes moved to Beverly Hills, where Lake enrolled in the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting (now the Beverly Hills Playhouse). Lake first began working in films as an extra.[8] Her first appearance on screen was for RKO, playing a small role among several coeds in the film Sorority House (1939). Similar roles followed, including All Women Have Secrets and Dancing Co-Ed. During the making of Sorority House, director John Farrow first noticed how her hair always covered Lake's right eye, creating an air of mystery about her and enhancing her natural beauty.

While still a teenager, Lake was introduced to the Paramount producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. He changed her name to Veronica Lake because the surname suited her blue eyes. RKO subsequently dropped her contract. A small role in the comedy Forty Little Mothers brought unexpected attention. In 1941 she was signed to a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures.


Lake in her first starring role, opposite Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Lake's breakthrough role was in the war drama I Wanted Wings (1941). The film was a major hit in which Lake played the second female lead. It was during the filming of I Wanted Wings that Lake developed her signature look. Lake's long blonde hair accidentally fell over her right eye during a take and created a "peek-a-boo" effect. The hairstyle became Lake's trademark and was widely copied by women.[9] She followed up with starring roles in more popular movies, including Sullivan's Travels, This Gun for Hire, I Married a Witch, and So Proudly We Hail!. René Clair, the director of I Married a Witch, said of Lake "She was a very gifted girl, but she didn't believe she was gifted."[10] For a short time during the early 1940s, Lake was considered one of the most reliable box office draws in Hollywood. At the peak of her popularity, she earned $4,500 a week.[9]

She became known for onscreen pairings with actor Alan Ladd, which began with the hit This Gun for Hire (1942).[11] Initially, the couple was teamed together merely out of physical necessity: Ladd was just 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) tall and the only actress then on the Paramount lot short enough to pair with him was Lake, who stood just 4 feet 11 12 inches (1.51 m). They became a popular onscreen duo and would make four more films together, including the films noir The Glass Key (1942), The Blue Dahlia (1946), and Saigon (1948).[11]

During World War II, Lake changed her trademark peek-a-boo hairstyle at the urging of the government to encourage women working in war industry factories to adopt more practical, safer hairstyles.[12] Although the change helped to decrease accidents involving women getting their hair caught in machinery, doing so may have damaged Lake's career.[13][14] She also became a popular pin-up girl for soldiers during World War II and traveled throughout the United States to raise money for war bonds.[14]


Lake and Alan Ladd in trailer for The Blue Dahlia (1946)

Although popular with the public, Lake had a complex personality and acquired a reputation for being difficult to work with. Eddie Bracken, her co-star in Star Spangled Rhythm (in which Lake appeared in a musical number) was quoted as saying, "She was known as 'The Bitch' and she deserved the title."[15][16] Joel McCrea, her co-star in Sullivan's Travels, reportedly turned down the co-starring role in I Married a Witch, saying, "Life's too short for two films with Veronica Lake."[17] However, Lake and McCrea did make another film together, the 1947 production Ramrod. During filming of The Blue Dahlia (1946), screenwriter Raymond Chandler referred to her as "Moronica Lake".[18]

Lake's career faltered with her unsympathetic role as Nazi spy Dora Bruckman in The Hour Before the Dawn (1944). Scathing reviews of The Hour Before the Dawn included criticism of her unconvincing German accent. She had begun drinking more heavily during this period, and a growing number of people refused to work with her. To boost her career, Paramount tried Lake in a series of comedies.[19] Few were successful, but she was in the popular thriller The Blue Dahlia (1946), in which she again co-starred with Alan Ladd. Paramount decided not to renew her contract in 1948.

After a single film for 20th Century Fox, Slattery's Hurricane (1949), her career slowed. By the end of 1951 she had appeared in one last film, Stronghold (which she later described as "a dog"). Lake and her second husband, André de Toth, filed for bankruptcy that same year.[20] The IRS later seized their home for unpaid taxes.[21] On the verge of a nervous breakdown and bankrupt, Lake ran away, left de Toth, and flew alone to New York. In the summer of 1951, she was fed up; two marriages had failed, and she was typecast in Hollywood as a sex symbol. As a result of her disillusionment with Hollywood and not liking what it did with people, she walked out on Hollywood, took her three children, and headed to New York to restart her career. Lake wanted to leave her sexy image behind, and New York offered the opportunity to work in theater and the new medium, television.

She performed in summer stock and in stage roles in England.[22] In October 1955, she collapsed in Detroit, where she had been appearing on stage in The Little Hut.[23]

Later years

Lake in trailer for her final film Flesh Feast (1970)

After her third divorce, Lake drifted between cheap hotels in New York City, and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. In 1962, a New York Post reporter found her working as a barmaid at the all-women's Martha Washington Hotel in Manhattan.[24] The reporter's widely distributed story led to speculation that Lake was destitute. After the story ran, fans of Lake sent her money which she returned out of "a matter of pride".[22] Lake vehemently denied that she was destitute and stated, "It's as though people were making me out to be down-and-out. I wasn't. I was paying $190 a month rent then, and that's a long way from being broke."[25] The story did revive some interest in Lake and led to some television and stage appearances, most notably in the off-Broadway revival of the musical Best Foot Forward.[25]

In 1966, she had a brief stint as a TV hostess in Baltimore, Maryland, along with a largely ignored film role in Footsteps In the Snow. She also continued appearing in stage roles.[14] By the late 1960s, Lake had moved to England. Her memoirs, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, were released in the United Kingdom in 1969, and in the United States the following year. In the book, Lake discusses her career, her failed marriages, her romances with Howard Hughes, Tommy Manville and Aristotle Onassis (who she claimed proposed to her), her alcoholism, and her guilt over not spending enough time with her children.[9] In the book, Lake stated that her mother pushed her into a career as an actress. Looking back at her career, Lake wrote, "I never did cheesecake like Ann Sheridan or Betty Grable. I just used my hair." She also laughed off the term "sex symbol" and instead referred to herself as a "sex zombie".[22] Also in 1969, Lake portrayed the role as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire on the English stage. She won rave reviews for her performance.[26] With the proceeds from her autobiography, she co-produced and starred in her final film, Flesh Feast (1970), a low-budget horror movie with a Nazi-myth storyline.

Lake then moved to Ipswich, England, where she met and married Royal Navy captain Robert Carleton-Munro, in June 1972.[22] The marriage lasted just one year and Lake returned to the United States in June 1973. She went to the Virgin Islands to await her divorce decree when she fell ill.[27]

Personal life

After purchasing an airplane for her husband, André de Toth, Lake earned her pilot's license in 1946. She later flew solo between Los Angeles and New York when leaving him.[28]

Marriages and children

Lake's first marriage was to art director John S. Detlie, in 1940. They had a daughter, Elaine (born in 1941),[29] and a son, Anthony (born July 8, 1943). According to news from the time, Lake's son was born prematurely after she tripped on a lighting cable while filming a movie. Anthony died on July 15, 1943.[30] Lake and Detlie separated in August 1943 and divorced in December 1943.[29] In 1944, Lake married film director André de Toth with whom she had a son, Andre Anthony Michael III (known as Michael De Toth), and a daughter, Diana (born October 1948). Days before Diana's birth, Lake's mother sued her for support payments.[31] Lake and De Toth divorced in 1952.[32]

In September 1955, she married songwriter Joseph Allan McCarthy.[33] They were divorced in 1959. Lake's fourth and final marriage was to Royal Navy captain Robert Carleton-Munro in June 1972. They divorced after one year.[27]


In June 1973, Lake returned to the United States and while traveling in Vermont, visited a local doctor, complaining of stomach pains. She was discovered to have cirrhosis of the liver as a result of her years of drinking, and on June 26, she checked into the Medical Center of Vermont in Burlington.[26] She died there on July 7, 1973, of acute hepatitis and acute kidney injury.[34] Her son Michael claimed her body.[35] Lake's memorial service was held at the Universal Chapel in New York City on July 11.[36] She was cremated and, according to her wishes, her ashes were scattered off the coast of the Virgin Islands. In 2004, some of Lake's ashes were reportedly found in a New York antique store.[37]

Hollywood Boulevard

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Lake has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Boulevard.[38]


Year Title Role Notes
1939 Sorority House Coed Uncredited, alternative title: That Girl from College
1939 Wrong Room, TheThe Wrong Room The Attorney's New Bride Credited as Connie Keane
1939 Dancing Co-Ed One of Couple on Motorcycle Uncredited
Alternative title: Every Other Inch a Lady
1939 All Women Have Secrets Jane Credited as Constance Keane
1940 Young as You Feel Bit part Credited as Constance Keane
1940 Forty Little Mothers Granville girl Uncredited
1941 I Wanted Wings Sally Vaughn
1941 Hold Back the Dawn Movie Actress Uncredited
1941 Sullivan's Travels The Girl
1942 This Gun for Hire Ellen Graham
1942 Glass Key, TheThe Glass Key Janet Henry
1942 I Married a Witch Jennifer
1942 Star Spangled Rhythm Herself
1943 So Proudly We Hail! Lt. Olivia D'Arcy
1944 Hour Before the Dawn, TheThe Hour Before the Dawn Dora Bruckmann
1945 Bring on the Girls Teddy Collins
1945 Out of This World Dorothy Dodge
1945 Duffy's Tavern Herself
1945 Hold That Blonde Sally Martin
1946 Miss Susie Slagle's Nan Rogers
1946 Blue Dahlia, TheThe Blue Dahlia Joyce Harwood
1947 Ramrod Connie Dickason
1947 Variety Girl Herself
1948 Saigon Susan Cleaver
1948 Sainted Sisters, TheThe Sainted Sisters Letty Stanton
1948 Isn't It Romantic? Candy Cameron
1949 Slattery's Hurricane Dolores Greaves
1951 Stronghold Mary Stevens
1966 Footsteps In the Snow Therese
1970 Flesh Feast Dr. Elaine Frederick Alternative title: Time is Terror
Year Title Role Notes
1950 Your Show of Shows Herself - Guest Performer Episode #2.11
1950 Lights Out Mercy Device Episode: "Beware This Woman"
1950–1953 Lux Video Theatre Various 3 episodes
1951 Somerset Maugham TV Theatre Valerie Episode: "The Facts of Life"
1952 Celanese Theatre Abby Fane Episode: "Brief Moment"
1952 Tales of Tomorrow Paula Episode: "Flight Overdue"
1952 Goodyear Television Playhouse Judy "Leni" Howard Episode: "Better Than Walking"
1953 Danger Episode: "Inside Straight"
1954 Broadway Television Theatre Nancy Willard Episode: "The Gramercy Ghost"

Selected stage credits

  • Direct Hit (June 1944)[39]
  • The Voice of the Turtle (Atlanta, February 1951)[40]
  • The Curtain Rises (Olney Theatre, Olney, Maryland, 1951)[41]
  • Peter Pan (Road tour, 1951)
  • Gramercy Hill (1952)[42]
  • The Little Hut (Detroit, 1955)
  • Best Foot Forward (1963)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (New Theatre, Bromley, Kent, 1969)[43]

In popular culture

Clips from her role in The Glass Key (1942) were integrated into the film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) as character Monica Stillpond.

Lake was one of the models for the animated character Jessica Rabbit in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), especially for her hairstyle.[44][45]

In the 1997 film L.A. Confidential (based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel), Kim Basinger won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of a prostitute who is a Veronica Lake look-alike, and who is complimented by a police officer who tells her, "You look better than Veronica Lake".[46][47]

A geographical feature called "Lake Veronica" was a recurring joke in the Rocky and Bullwinkle series and film.[2]

In Moose: Chapters from My Life (the 2013, posthumously released autobiography by Robert B. Sherman), the future Academy Award winning songwriter of Mary Poppins writes about his teenage friendship with Lake.[48]

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Lux Radio Theatre O.S.S.[49]

See also



  1. ^ U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, State of Washington, County of Kings, enumeration district 1657, page 8-B, family 151, Constance Ockelman (sic), age 7 years, born in Seattle. Her father, Harry Ockelman, Jr., is listed as unmarried in the 1920 U.S. Census of Pennsylvania.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Parrish, Robert James (1972). The Paramount Pretties. Arlington House. p. 410.  
  4. ^ Thomas, Calvin Beck (1978). Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors. Macmillian. p. 169.  
  5. ^ Burroughs Hannsberry, Karen (1998). Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film. McFarland. p. 300.  
  6. ^ "I, Veronica". Life (Time, Inc.) 14 (20): 78. May 17, 1943.  
  7. ^ (Chierichetti 2004, p. 70)
  8. ^ "I, Veronica". Life (Time, Inc.) 14 (20): 77. May 17, 1943.  
  9. ^ a b c Peek-a-Boo' Star Veronica Lake Hepatitis Victim"'". The Victoria Advocate. July 8, 1973. p. 6-A. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  10. ^ (Terkel 1999, p. 168)
  11. ^ a b "'"Ladd, Lake Together In 'Saigon. The Deseret News. March 3, 1948. p. 13. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Veronica Lake's remains resurface". October 12, 2004. Retrieved June 2, 2008. 
  13. ^ (Starr 2003, pp. 128–129)
  14. ^ a b c Brenner, John Lanouette (August 26, 1967). "Veronica Lake Gives Telegraph Exclusive Personal Interview". The Telegraph. p. 9. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  15. ^ (Donnelley 2003, p. 392)
  16. ^ (Parish & Pitts 2003, p. 480)
  17. ^ Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies, October 6, 2010
  18. ^ (Hiney 1999, p. 154)
  19. ^ Schallert, Edwin (July 8, 1945). "Change of Pace in Roles Beckons Veronica Lake: Star to Pause at Career's Crossroads Roles to Shift for Veronica". The Los Angeles Times. p. C1. 
  20. ^ "Veronica Lake Says She's Bankrupt". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. August 17, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Actress Loses Home For Not Paying Tax". Lodi News–Sentinel. April 7, 1951. p. 8. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b c d Klemesrud, Judy (March 14, 1971). "What Ever Happened to Veronica Lake?". The Palm Beach Post. p. C6. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Veronica Lake In Hospital". The Age. October 28, 1955. p. 1. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Veronica Lake is a Waitress Now". The Milwaukee Journal. March 22, 1962. p. 11. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  25. ^ a b "Actress Veronica Lake Dies In Vermont Hospital". The Virgin Island Daily News. July 9, 1973. p. 2. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  26. ^ a b "Peek-A-Boo Veronica Lake Dies At 51". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. July 8, 1973. p. 9-A. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  27. ^ a b (Burroughs Hannsberry 2009, p. 307)
  28. ^ "Turner Classic Movies". Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  29. ^ a b "Veronica Lake Wins Divorce". The Miami News. December 2, 1943. p. 1. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Veronica Lake's Baby, Born Prematurely, Dies". Reading Eagle. July 16, 1943. p. 18. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Veronica Lake Sued By Mother". The Tuscaloosa News. October 12, 1948. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Veronica Lake Wins Divorce From Director". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (June 3, 1952). p. 12. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Veronica Lake Weds Ex-County Tunesmith". The Herald. September 4, 1955. p. 2. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  34. ^ Vermont Death Records, 1909–2003. Published by Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, Montpelier, Vermont.
  35. ^ "Veronica Lake To Be Buried In Islands". The Virgin Islands Daily News. July 11, 1973. p. 1. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  36. ^ "Rites for Miss Lake Today". The New York Times. July 11, 1973. 
  37. ^ Johnston, Lauren (October 12, 2004). "Veronica Lake's Ashes For Sale?". Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  38. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: Veronica Lake". Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Veronica Lake Is Added To War Loan Show Cast: Bay State Quota Other Ovations". The Christian Science Monitor. June 9, 1944. p. 2. 
  40. ^ "Veronica Taking Lead Role". The New York Times. July 20, 1951. p. 13. 
  41. ^ "Veronica Lake Will Hit Strawhat Trail at Olney". The Washington Post. August 26, 1951. p. L-2. 
  42. ^ Calta, Louis (October 25, 1952). "Stage Lead for Veronica Lake: Film Actress May Make Debut on Broadway in 'Masquerade,' Birchard-Stagg Comedy". The New York Times. p. 2. 
  43. ^ Ghisays, Robert (October 25, 1952). "Veronica Lake Opens in London 'Streetcar'". The Los Angeles Times. p. E11. 
  44. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (August 1, 1988). "'"An Animator Breaks Old Rules and New Ground in 'Roger Rabbit.  
  45. ^ (Hischak 2011, p. 214)
  46. ^ "Video: Period films connected by the past". The Los Angeles Daily News. April 17, 1998. Retrieved July 7, 2012.   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  47. ^ (Hare 2008, p. 219)
  48. ^ Sherman, Robert B., (2013) "Veronica" in Moose: Chapters From My Life, AuthorHouse. p. 301-304
  49. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest 41 (2): 32–41. Spring 2015. 


  • Bloomfield, Gary L.; Shain, Stacie L.; Davidson, Arlen C. (2004). Duty, Honor, Applause: America's Entertainers in World War II. Globe Pequot.  
  • Burroughs Hannsberry, Karen (2009). Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film. McFarland.  
  • Chierichetti, David (2004). Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume. HarperCollins.  
  • Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade To Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press.  
  • Hare, William (2008). L.A. Noir: Nine Dark Visions of the City of Angels. McFarland & Company.  
  • Hiney, Tom (1999). Raymond Chandler: A Biography. Grove Press.  
  • Hischak, Thomas S. (2011). Disney Voice Actors: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland & Company.  

Further reading

  • Lake, Veronica; Bain, Donald (1970). Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake. Citadel Press. ISBN 0-806-50225-8
  • Lenburg, Jeff, Peekaboo: The Story of Veronica Lake. iUniverse, 2001. ISBN 978-0-595-19239-7.
  • Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59393-320-3.

External links