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whatever happened to veronica lake?


VERONICA LAKE & THE PEEK-A-BOO BANG.

Veronica Lake's career is hard proof that it takes a great film or two to create a timeless screen legend. Having worked steadily for a simple five or so years, she became a sought after actress, with starring roles in classic films like Sullivan's Travels in nineteen-forty one and the film noir, The Blue Dahlia, in nineteen-forty six. Then her later career was marked and painted over with personal struggles, tragedies, mental health issues, and alcoholism. She was once one the era's top actresses, but her success didn't last as longs as others, as she was left broke, alone, and dead at the age of fifty-three.

Her signature blonde peek-a-book bangs swept the nation, as women curled and copied, and even today we want her signature locks, but without learning the name behind them. This is where I come in, this post is about the life and afterlife of screen star Veronica Lake.


YOUTH

Born Constance (Connie) Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn, a borough in New York City. Her mother, also Constance Francis remarried after Lake's father, Harry Eugene Ockelman died in an industrial explosion in nineteen-thirty two, to Anthony Keane, a newspaper artist. Come nineteen-thirty three, Lake would begin to use his surname. Lake attended a handful of schools throughout her child and teenhood, including St. Bernard's School, Villa Maria, an all girl's Catholic boarding school in Canada, and after her stepfather fell ill during her second year at McGill University, the family moved to Miami, Florida. Lake would attend Miami High School, it was here where she would enter and win a handful of beauty contests. During one of these contest, her mother was told her daughter should be in Hollywood. This was a large push for her stage mother.

EARLY CAREER

In nineteen-thirty eight, she moved with her mother and stepfather to Beverly Hills, California. She enrolled in Bliss-Hayden School of Acting while under contract to MGM studios, though this was short-lived. A theatre critic called her "a fetching little trick" after she appeared in She Made Her Bed

Her first screen roles were of extras, her first was for an RKO production, though it was cut from the film. She had similar roles in All Women Have Secrets and Dancing Co-Ed. In nineteen-forty, she continued her education. During this time, she was in the picture Forty Little Mothers, this would be the first time she let her hair down on film. 

She then attracted the interest of an assistant director, Fred Wilcox, who shot a secret test during one of her play performances and showed it to an agent, who then showed it to Arthur Homblow Jr., a producer who was looking for a fresh face for a part as a nightclub singer for the film I Wanted Wings. She couldn't sing for the part but she began method acting for the drunk stance her character would take, by sneaking out of her parent's house and into Hollywood clubs and bars, on an almost nightly base. She was fitted for the film, in gowns the showed off her 4'11 figure, in tight gowns that showed off her full breasts. In the same year, she married her first husband, an art director named John Detlie. After a false report about an affair she wasn't in surfaced, she left the studio and drove to be with her husband, through horrid snow. But before she made it, she was in an accident, the car rolled and rolled, and when it stopped, her toes had been broken. By the time the studio found her, it had been three shooting days. When the studio tried to scold her, Veronica said she only cared about her marriage and would drop the film in a second.

It was up to this time, that she was billed under her natural name Constance Keane. It was during this film, she was advised to change it. Hornblow suggested "Lake" for the placid blueness of her eyes, he was reported saying, "calm and clear like a blue lake", and the name "Veronica" because of her classic looks, and the fact that his secretary's name was also Veronica. This role, while still in her teens, would create a star. 

When I Wanted Wings premiered, it was greeted with rave reviews and papers calling her hair "Startling." Before the film was released, she made $75 dollars a week, after she became the breakout star, it was raised to $750, only after Lake wanted a $1,000 raise. She began being labeled as "difficult".

THE FIRST PHOTO THE NATION SAW.

STARDOM.

She had a new name and newfound fame at the hands of a large studio. Another boost for her career came with the classic Sullivan's Travels, where she was almost six months pregnant with her first child, which she tried to keep secret, she finally told her costume designer, who agreed to create costumes that would hide her bump as long as she told the truth about it to the director, who found it funny that she tried to hide it, though the studio was mad and thought they would lose their new sex symbol. She proved she could be more when she wore more hobo style clothing during the film and her hair tucked into a hat.

For the nineteen-forty film, I Married a Witch she was supposed to reunite with Joel McCrea, her co-star for Sullivan's Travels. But McCrea said he wouldn't act with her again, stating, "Life's too short for two films with Veronica Lake." Because of this, production was stalled, which gave her the chance to be reunited with another costar, Alan Ladd in The Glass Key. They would become famous for their films together. Veronica felt that this role was a step backward, as she was back acting with her hair and breasts, unlike her role in Sullivan's Travels. When I Married a Witch was being filmed, the director said of Lake, "She was a very gifted girl, but she didn't believe she was gifted." Most of her co-stars and behind the scenes co-workers all began to speak ill of her, as she was deemed "unprofessional" and almost never knew her lines when the cameras rolled.  


She became pregnant with her second child, with a married producer who wouldn't take control of the situation. It was said that during the pregnancy Lake tripped over a cable on set, though her biographer said she leaped from a stool, saying "I don't want this baby." The baby was born prematurely and passed a week later. Her first marriage also ended that same year, in divorce, as her husband didn't like feeling second to his wife's career and also wasn't fond of the way the mother of his child was being portrayed on screen. At this time, she became World War II's platinum blonde and became one of the biggest box office draws for the next few years, in Hollywood, the star-maker. 

During this time, however, she became broke: the split from her husband, support to her parents, medical bills, drinks almost nightly, and lavish clothes to keep up the movie star image, all put a dent in her wallet. Then her next film, in nineteen-forty four, The Hour Before Dawn, opened with poor reviews and criticism about her horrible German Accent. This made it, even more, harder to ask for a raise. In her book, she said, "This was the start of the end of her stardom."The studio tried her with different films and even lifting her salary to $5,000 a week. Around this time, she found her second husband and cut her unsupportive mother out of her life. 

Her last successful film, The Blue Dahlia, in nineteen-forty six. There was a "bad girl" part, then the part Lake had: the hairdo was back, but the costumes were covering. And at this time, her mother said she drank so much and was sent home from the studios. The film was a major hit and said to be her return to stardom, though screenwriter Raymond Chandler referred to her as "Moronica Lake". Her new husband took over the management of her career but with a notable lack of success. Her drinking increased and her husband, who was reportedly a violent man, did not encourage her to seek medical help. One night, at the Stork Club in New York, the couple were leaving when a male fan touched her hair, her husband punched the man until another person had to step in. It was said that during this time, her mental health was all over the place and that she would lock herself in a closet and listen to the score from Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound. Though she never mentioned this in her book. But she did mention that the couple drank almost constant.

DECLINE.

After a string of flops, she was dropped by Paramount Pictures in nineteen-forty eight. Following a few B-films, her film career soon collapsed. She was popular with the war crowd, a crowd that had moved on and left Lake with it. Then in nineteen-fifty one, she filed for bankruptcy and a month later, divorce. It was around this time she decided she was done and packed up her three children and left for New York. After a few years of stage work, the children went back to her second husband. 

She had her third marriage in nineteen-fifty five, her drinking buddy, then lost her apartment when they also divorced after she couldn't find acting work. By the early nineteen sixties, she was working minimum paying jobs, trying to get by. She then drifted further into alcoholism, She was several times arrested for public drunkenness and then virtually disappeared from the public eye.

In nineteen-sixty three, a reporter living in a cheap women's hotel and working as a waitress under the name "Connie de Toth." She said she liked it, meeting new people and occasionally seeing one of her films on the bar television. "You could hear a pin drop, no one drank when my movies played." It was at this bar she met her next drinking buddy, a marine named Andy who became her lover and didn't recognize the once actress.

Her book "Veronica" came out in the late nineteen-sixties, almost out of nowhere and was well-received, she talked about her past romances and her struggle with alcoholism. The proceeds from the book sales allowed her to co-finance and star in a low budget horror film, Flesh Feast. This film was not successful. She was almost unrecognizable. 

DEATH.

In nineteen-seventy three, while promoting her book, she went to see a doctor, complaining of stomach pains. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, a result of her drinking. She checked into a hospital and died there a month later. Her son Michael claimed her body and arranged for her to be cremated, though the funeral home would hold them as Michael was unable to afford them.

A few years later, the ghostwriter of Veronica paid the bill. 

In two thousand and four, some of the once star's ashed were reportedly found in an antique store in New York, by this time the cult of Lake had bloomed and a reported 20,000 dollars had been offered for them.

HER MOTHER.

A few stories had gone around over the years that Lake suffered from psychiatric problems, these stories originated from her mother, a classic "stage mom" so to speak, not a doctor. It also should be noted that during various times in Lake's life, she broke ties with her mother, cutting all contact with her. Her mother even sued Lake for "non-support", she felt that she deserved some of her daughter's money. Her mother and Jeff Lenburg combined to write; "Peekaboo: The Story of Veronica Lake". This is the only place where allegations of psychiatric issues appear. 

THE HAIR.


The nineteen-forties, though had popular short hairstyles and lengths, long-haired styles were in before the short cuts in the nineteen-fifties, entered our homes. During the filming of I Wanted Wings, Lake accident discovered her signature look. "I was playing a sympathetic drunk, I had my arm on the table...it slipped...and my hair  it was always baby fine and had this natural — break fell over my face...It became my trademark and purely by accident," she recalled. This story is also told in another way, that the director of the film told her to come over for some directions, and as she bent over to hear, her breasts popped out and her bang swept over one eye. Lake didn't notice her breasts, as she spent the rest of the screen test, trying to get the hair out of her eye.

She thought the hair had reunited her screen test, though this what landed her the part in her first major role.

WARTIME HAIRDO.

When women began working during the war, safety issues came into play, especially with hair and factory machines. Women's hair was untamable in these conditions, as many emulated Lake. The U.S Government then got involved. U.S NEWS REVIEW: ISSUE NO. FIVE, produced by the Office of War Information, Bureau of Motion Pictures, and starring Lake as she takes her witch-locks and creates a safe, yet attractive updo.



AFTERLIFE.

Her hair has lived on passed her fame and short career. Actresses of this age in time strut on red carpets time and time again, with long locks and a peek-a-boo bang, and their hairstylist all point to Veronica Lake as the inspiration. Websites and beauty blogs constantly give tutorials on how to achieve the sultry style.


And though Veronica "Connie" Lake's star burned only for a short time, her legacy and iconic status have remained, untouched.

LAST LINE IN VERONICA'S BOOK.
"LONG LIVE SHORT HAIR."

R.