In case your wondering, the sun disappeared again. Not ten minutes after we finished yesterday’s pictures, it started to rain. Of course it did. Typical. Anyway, since this is not actually a weather blog, I’ll stop talking about it now. (sorry I think its an irish thing, this obsession with weather) Today I bring you another super happy story of another 1930’s Hollywood starlet….. Not. At this stage, Im beginning to wonder if anyone had it easy, but I wont spoil it for you just yet, read on to learn more about the woman, who invented the famous ‘peek-a-boo’ hairstyle, Veronica Lake.
Veronica Lake’s real name was Constance Frances Marie Ockelman. (Oh dear, another unfortunate, mouthful of a name, I’m beginning to see why no one used their real names in Hollywood back then) She was born in New York, in 1922. When she was 10, her father died in an industrial explosion at work, from then on her mother described her as having a difficult childhood, one that saw her expelled from boarding school and diagnosed with mild schizophrenia . (is it just me, or does it seem like the common diagnosis for anyone having a tough time back in the 30’s and 40’s, was schizophrenia? hmm)
Veronica’s family moved to Beverly Hills in 1938, where she enrolled in acting school and was soon making movies. Her first big hit was in 1941, with a film called ‘I wanted Wings’. For the next few years, Lake was one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood. Her Peek-a-Boo hair, was actually just a result of a grown out perm, but it added to her performance, making her appear both mysterious and alluring. Copied by thousands around the world, it became a health hazard to women during WWII, who worked assembly lines in factories and she was asked by the government to change her hairstyle. (she did)
Behind the scenes, Lake was considered difficult to work with and had earned herself the name “The Bitch”. (charming) She was drinking heavily at this point and that along with her, eh hem, schizophrenia, people began to refuse working with her. Her co star from ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ Joel McCrea, turned down a role in ‘So I married a witch’ and is quoted as saying “Life’s too short for two films with Veronica Lake” and screenplay writer Raymond Chandler nicknamed her Moronica Lake.
Her private life, wasnt much better. She had married a man 15 years her senior in 1940 and had already given birth to her first child before ‘I wanted wings’ . Her 2nd child born in 1943, was born premature after an accident on set, and died a few days later. She divorced and remarried film producer Andre de Toth (a man who got married no less than 7 times, through out his life) within the year. Her career had all but died by 1950,yet her mother still sued her for support payments (much like Mary Astor’s horrid parents), she divorced de’Toth, filed for bankruptcy and the IRS took what was left because of unpaid taxes.
At this point she began waitressing in a hotel in Manhattan and her drinking was at an all time high. She was arrested several times due to public drunkenness, and when a reporter found her working in the bar during the 1960s,she claimed she was a guest at the hotel. With the publication of the story, her career found a short revival and she had several tv and stage appearances, until the late 1960’s, when her health deteriorated so badly, she refused to leave her room, due to extreme paranoia.
During the next few years, she somehow managed to get herself together enough to write ‘Veronica: an auto-biography’, in 1972. When it was published, she used the proceeds to go the England, where she had another brief marriage, divorced, and returned in 1973. She was immediately hospitalized and died a few months later, due to hepatitis and renal failure, both results of the heavy drinking through out her years. She was only 53.