Carole Landis was one of the blondes who worked for Hal Roach after Thelma Todd.
Landis in Topper Returns (1941)
|Born||Frances Lillian Mary Ridste|
(1919-01-01)January 1, 1919
Fairchild, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Died||July 5, 1948(1948-07-05) (aged 29)|
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
Willis Hunt Jr.
Thomas C. Wallace
W. Horace Schmidlapp
(m.1945-1948; her death)
She died of an intentional drug overdose the age of 29 in 1948. After her death, newspapers headlined stories about the actress, some with the title "The Actress Who Could Have Been...But Never Was."
Early life and familyLandis was born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste in Fairchild, Wisconsin. Her mother, Clara (née Stentek), was a Polish farmer's daughter. A Time magazine article published the month of her death identifies her father as a "drifting railroad mechanic"; according to a 2005 biography, the mother was married to Norwegian Alfred Ridste, who abandoned the family before Landis was born, and it was Charles Fenner, her mother's second husband, who most likely was Landis' biological father. She was the youngest of five children, two of whom died in childhood. Her early years were filled with poverty and sexual abuse.
In January 1934, 15-year-old Landis married her 19-year-old neighbor, Irving Wheeler, but the marriage was annulled in February 1934. They later remarried on August 25, 1934. Wheeler named Busby Berkeley in an alienation of affections lawsuit in 1938 involving Landis, and they divorced in 1939.
Early yearsLandis dropped out of high school at age 15 and set forth on
Film careerHer 1937 film debut was as an extra in A Star Is Born; she also appeared in various horse operas. She posed for hundreds of cheesecake photographs. She continued appearing in bit parts until 1940 when Hal Roach cast her as a
Landis appeared in a string of successful films in the early '40s, usually as the second female lead. In a time when the singing of many actresses was dubbed in, Landis's own voice was considered good enough and was used in her few musical roles. Landis landed a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox and began a sexual relationship with Darryl F. Zanuck. She had roles playing opposite fellow pin-up girl Betty Grable in Moon Over Miami and I Wake Up Screaming, both in 1941. When Landis ended her relationship with Zanuck, her career suffered and she was assigned roles in B-movies.
Her final two films Noose and Brass Monkey were both made in Great Britain.
USO ToursIn 1942, she toured with comedienne Martha Raye, dancer Mitzi Mayfair and actress Kay Francis with a USO troupe in England and North Africa. Two years later, she entertained soldiers in the South Pacific with Jack Benny. Landis traveled more than 100,000 miles during the war and spent more time visiting troops than any other actress. Landis became a popular pin-up with servicemen during World War II.
BroadwayIn 1945 she starred on Broadway in the musical A Lady Says Yes with Jacqueline Susann, with whom she reportedly had an affair. Susann purportedly based the character Jennifer North in her book Valley of the Dolls on Landis.
WritingLandis wrote several newspaper and magazine articles about her experiences during the war, including the 1944 book Four Jills in a Jeep, which was later made into a movie, costarring Kay Francis, Martha Raye, and Mitzi Mayfair. She also wrote the foreword to Victor Herman's cartoon book Winnie the WAC.
Personal lifeIn June 1939, director-choreographer Busby Berkeley proposed to Landis, but later broke it off. In 1940 she married yacht broker Willis Hunt Jr., a man she called "sarcastic" and left after two months. Two years later, she met an Army Air Corps captain named Thomas Wallace in London, and married him in a church ceremony; they divorced a couple of years later. Landis wanted to have children but was unable to conceive due to endometriosis.
In 1945, Landis married Broadway producer W. Horace Schmidlapp. By 1948, her career was in decline and her marriage with Schmidlapp was collapsing. She entered into a romance with actor Rex Harrison, who was then married to actress Lilli Palmer.
DeathLandis was reportedly crushed when Harrison refused to divorce his wife for her; unable to cope any longer, she committed suicide in her Pacific Palisades home at 1465 Capri Drive by taking an overdose of Seconal. She had spent her final night alive with Harrison.
The next afternoon, Harrison and the maid discovered her on the bathroom floor. Harrison waited several hours before he called a doctor and the police. According to some sources, Landis left two suicide notes, one for her mother and the second for Harrison who instructed his lawyers to destroy it. During a coroner's inquest, Harrison denied knowing any motive for her suicide and told the coroner he did not know of the existence of a second suicide note. Landis' official web site, which is owned by her family, has questioned the events of Landis' death and the coroner's ruling of suicide.
Carole Landis was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California in plot 814 of the "Everlasting Love" section. Among the celebrities at her funeral were Cesar Romero, Van Johnson, and Pat O'Brien. Harrison attended with his wife.
Landis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1765 Vine Street.
|1937||King and the Chorus Girl, TheThe King and the Chorus Girl||Chorine||Uncredited|
|1937||Star Is Born, AA Star Is Born||Girl in beret at Santa Anita bar||Uncredited|
|1937||Day at the Races, AA Day at the Races||Dance Extra|
|1937||Fly Away Baby||Blonde at airport|
|1937||Emperor's Candlesticks, TheThe Emperor's Candlesticks||Bit part|
|1937||Broadway Melody of 1938||Dancer|
|1937||Over the Goal||Co-ed||Uncredited|
|1937||Hollywood Hotel||Hat check girl with coat|
|1938||Invisible Menace, TheThe Invisible Menace||Woman waiting to go with her Johnnie|
|1938||Blondes at Work||Carol|
|1938||Slight Case of Murder, AA Slight Case of Murder||Partygoer leaning on piano during song|
|1938||Love, Honor and Behave||Wheel watcher at party||Uncredited|
|1938||Over the Wall||Peggy, girl at beach||Uncredited|
|1938||Women Are Like That||Cocktail party guest||Uncredited|
|1938||Adventures of Robin Hood, TheThe Adventures of Robin Hood||Guest at banquet||Uncredited|
|1938||Gold Diggers in Paris||Golddigger||Alternative title: The Gay Impostors|
|1938||Men Are Such Fools||June Cooper|
|1938||When You Were Born||Ship passenger||Uncredited|
|1938||Penrod's Double Trouble||Girl at fair||Uncredited|
|1938||Four's a Crowd||Myrtle, Lansford's 2nd Secretary|
|1938||Boy Meets Girl||Commissary cashier||Uncredited|
|1939||Three Texas Steers||Nancy Evans||Alternative title: Danger Rides the Range|
|1939||Daredevils of the Red Circle||Blanche Granville|
|1939||Cowboys from Texas||June Jones|
|1940||One Million B.C.||Loana|
|1940||Mystery Sea Raider||June McCarthy|
|1941||Road Show||Penguin Moore|
|1941||Topper Returns||Ann Carrington|
|1941||Moon Over Miami||Barbara Latimer, aka Miss Sears|
|1941||Dance Hall||Lily Brown|
|1941||I Wake Up Screaming||Vicky Lynn||Alternative title: Hot Spot|
|1941||Cadet Girl||Gene Baxter|
|1942||Gentleman at Heart, AA Gentleman at Heart||Helen Mason|
|1942||My Gal Sal||Mae Collins|
|1942||It Happened in Flatbush||Kathryn Baker|
|1942||Orchestra Wives||Natalie Mercer|
|1942||Manila Calling||Edna Fraser|
|1943||Powers Girl, TheThe Powers Girl||Kay Evans|
|1943||Show Business at War||Herself|
|1944||Secret Command||Jill McGann|
|1944||Four Jills in a Jeep||Herself|
|1945||Having Wonderful Crime||Helene Justus|
|1946||Behind Green Lights||Janet Bradley|
|1946||Scandal in Paris, AA Scandal in Paris||Loretta de Richet||Alternative title: Thieves' Holiday|
|1946||It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog||Julia Andrews|
|1947||Out of the Blue||Mae Earthleigh|
|1948||Noose||Linda Medbury||Alternative title: The Silk Noose|
|1948||Brass Monkey||Kay Sheldon||Alternative title: Lucky Mascot|
- "Casually in Hollywood". Time. July 19, 1948. http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,798846,00.html. Retrieved 2009-12-19.
- Gans, Eric Lawrence. Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 205. ISBN 1-604-73013-7.
- Fleming, E.J. (2005). Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co. ISBN 978-0-7864-2200-5, p. 49
- The Early Years
- Nicholas Wapshott (1991) Rex Harrison, p. 111
- Parish, James Robert (2002). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols (3 ed.). Contemporary Books. pp. 315. ISBN 0-8092-2227-2.
- Gans, Eric Lawrence (2008). "The Good Die Young (1948)". Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 197–199. ISBN 978-1-60473-013-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=4m7nPlavJi8C&pg=PA197&lpg=PA197&ct=result#PPA199,M1. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
- Mosby, Aline (July 6, 1948). "Carole Landis Mystery Death Clues Hunted". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
- Gans, Eric Lawrence (2008). Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 190. ISBN 1-60473-013-7.
- Actor Rex Harrison answering questions from coroner Ira Nance at inquiry on Carol Landis' suicide, a July 1948 Los Angeles Times photograph from the UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library website
- Powell, Tammy. "Was Carole Murdered?". carolelandisofficial. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. http://web.archive.org/web/20110708122125/http://www.carolelandisofficial.com/murder.html. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Mosby, Aline (July 11, 1948). "Scores Attend Funeral of Carole Landis". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
- Carole Landis from the Hollywood Walk of Fame website
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Carole Landis|
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Carole Landis adopted the name "Carole" because of Carole Lombard, who herself was really named Jane Peters. Her spelling of "Carole" seems to have caused some controversy at that time, and PICTURE PLAY refused at first to even spell it that way, finally relenting after a fairly long interval during which other publications had regularly been using that spelling. By the time Carole Landis adopted the name, the once controversial spelling was commonly accepted.
Carole Landis in an early role in a "Three Musketeers" picture with John Wayne, THREE TEXAS STEERS.
ONE MILLION BC with Victor Mature was the picture that made her a star.
Carole Landis was termed "The Ping Girl" by Roach publicity, a term she was said to reject at the time. Occasionally you come across such explanations as it being derived from "purring". Actually it appears to be then common slang for "making contact" ( the use of the term for sonar during World War II is related to this ) and in romantic terms was meant to be interperted as "Love at first sight".
The sad fate of Carole Landis has been covered in a number of books on "Hollywood's Unsolved Mysteries", including the ones by former Hollywood reporter John Austin. I was able to communicate with John Austin myself a number of years ago. Here is an e mail message that he sent me on August 5, 2002 concerning Carole Landis:
"I knew Carole very well toward the end of WWII and her camp shows and, in fact, as a Special Service Officer for the U.S, Army, travelled with her and her troupe through the North African Campaign and, later in Great Britain.
I also saw a lot of her when we both returned to California following WWII and the filming of Four Jills In A Jeep. Unfortunately, Carole had "bad press," aka word of mouth, from a coterie of gossiping Bel Air matrons and was also unfortunate in her choice of men such as the slimy, pompous Englishman Rex Harrison. He led her down the garden path and. eventually, to her death even though she was pregnant with his child.
It was too bad. She was a wonderful person, beautiful, and a good, journeyman actress. I have thought about her a lot her since her death because we had a good time together in London at the end of the war.
The poorly explained death of Carole Landis continues to raise questions to this day. Rumor had it that she had killed herself because she'd gotten pregnant and didn't know what to do, which was the same story that was told about Lupe Velez. But according to the records, Carole Landis was not pregnant and suffered from a medical condition that prevented her from having children.
There was also some doubt as to if she had actually comitted suicide. Some members of her family thought that she was murdered.
Rex Harrison's own testimony made it sound as if she was still alive when he found her and then he did nothing to help her, although the usual version had it that she was already dead when he got there. No one seemed to worry at the time that he had at very least failed to report a death of someone he had professed to love.
She deserved better.
Carole Landis sighs for the troops during WW2
Four Jills in a newsreel
"SNAFU" from "Command Performance".