Thursday, May 23, 2013

Carole Landis

Carole Landis was one of the blondes who worked for Hal Roach after Thelma Todd.

She was a hit in ONE MILLION BC, and became a star. But like Thelma Todd and Jean Harlow, who had been at the Roach studio before her, Carole Landis would come to an untimely end.

Carole Landis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Carole Landis

Landis in Topper Returns (1941)
BornFrances Lillian Mary Ridste
(1919-01-01)January 1, 1919
Fairchild, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedJuly 5, 1948(1948-07-05) (aged 29)
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
Cause of deathSuicide
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Years active1937-1948
Spouse(s)Irving Wheeler
(m.1934-1939; divorced)
Willis Hunt Jr.
(m.1940; divorced)
Thomas C. Wallace
(m.1943-1945; divorced)
W. Horace Schmidlapp
(m.1945-1948; her death)
Carole Landis (January 1, 1919 – July 5, 1948) was an American film and stage actress, who worked as a contract-player for Twentieth Century-Fox in the 1940s. Her breakthrough role was as the female lead in the 1940 film One Million B.C., with United Artists.
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 family

Landis was born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste in Fairchild, Wisconsin. Her mother, Clara (née Stentek), was a Polish farmer's daughter.[1][2] A Time magazine article published the month of her death identifies her father as a "drifting railroad mechanic";[1] 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.[3] She was the youngest of five children, two of whom died in childhood. Her early years were filled with poverty and sexual abuse.[4]
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,[3] and they divorced in 1939.


Early years

Landis dropped out of high school at age 15 and set forth on a career path to show business. She started out as a hula dancer in a San Francisco nightclub and later sang with a dance band.[1] She dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to "Carole Landis" after her favorite actress, Carole Lombard. After saving $100 she moved to Hollywood.[1]

Film career

Her 1937 film debut was as an extra in A Star Is Born; she also appeared in various horse operas.[1] She posed for hundreds of cheesecake photographs.[1] She continued appearing in bit parts until 1940 when Hal Roach cast her as a cave girl in One Million B.C.. The movie was a sensation and turned Landis into a star. A press agent nicknamed her "The Ping Girl" (because "she makes you purr").[1]
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 Tours

In 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.


In 1945 she starred on Broadway in the musical A Lady Says Yes with Jacqueline Susann, with whom she reportedly had an affair.[5] Susann purportedly based the character Jennifer North in her book Valley of the Dolls on Landis.


Landis 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 life

In 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.[1] 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.[1]
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.


Landis 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.[6][7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] Landis' official web site, which is owned by her family, has questioned the events of Landis' death and the coroner's ruling of suicide.[11]
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.[12] Harrison attended with his wife.[1]
Landis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,[13] at 1765 Vine Street.


1937King and the Chorus Girl, TheThe King and the Chorus GirlChorineUncredited
1937Star Is Born, AA Star Is BornGirl in beret at Santa Anita barUncredited
1937Day at the Races, AA Day at the RacesDance Extra
1937Fly Away BabyBlonde at airport
1937Emperor's Candlesticks, TheThe Emperor's CandlesticksBit part
1937Broadway Melody of 1938Dancer
1937Varsity ShowStudent
1937Alcatraz IslandUncredited
1937Over the GoalCo-edUncredited
1937Adventurous BlondeUncredited
1937Hollywood HotelHat check girl with coat
1938Invisible Menace, TheThe Invisible MenaceWoman waiting to go with her Johnnie
1938Blondes at WorkCarol
1938Slight Case of Murder, AA Slight Case of MurderPartygoer leaning on piano during song
1938Love, Honor and BehaveWheel watcher at partyUncredited
1938Over the WallPeggy, girl at beachUncredited
1938Women Are Like ThatCocktail party guestUncredited
1938Adventures of Robin Hood, TheThe Adventures of Robin HoodGuest at banquetUncredited
1938Gold Diggers in ParisGolddiggerAlternative title: The Gay Impostors
1938Men Are Such FoolsJune Cooper
1938When You Were BornShip passengerUncredited
1938Penrod's Double TroubleGirl at fairUncredited
1938Four's a CrowdMyrtle, Lansford's 2nd Secretary
1938Boy Meets GirlCommissary cashierUncredited
1939Three Texas SteersNancy EvansAlternative title: Danger Rides the Range
1939Daredevils of the Red CircleBlanche Granville
1939Cowboys from TexasJune Jones
1939RenoMrs. HumphreyUncredited
1940One Million B.C.Loana
1940TurnaboutSally Willows
1940Mystery Sea RaiderJune McCarthy
1941Road ShowPenguin Moore
1941Topper ReturnsAnn Carrington
1941Moon Over MiamiBarbara Latimer, aka Miss Sears
1941Dance HallLily Brown
1941I Wake Up ScreamingVicky LynnAlternative title: Hot Spot
1941Cadet GirlGene Baxter
1942Gentleman at Heart, AA Gentleman at HeartHelen Mason
1942My Gal SalMae Collins
1942It Happened in FlatbushKathryn Baker
1942Orchestra WivesNatalie Mercer
1942Manila CallingEdna Fraser
1943Powers Girl, TheThe Powers GirlKay Evans
1943WintertimeFlossie Fouchere
1943Show Business at WarHerself
1944Secret CommandJill McGann
1944Four Jills in a JeepHerself
1945Having Wonderful CrimeHelene Justus
1946Behind Green LightsJanet Bradley
1946Scandal in Paris, AA Scandal in ParisLoretta de RichetAlternative title: Thieves' Holiday
1946It Shouldn't Happen to a DogJulia Andrews
1947Out of the BlueMae Earthleigh
1948NooseLinda MedburyAlternative title: The Silk Noose
1948Brass MonkeyKay SheldonAlternative title: Lucky Mascot


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Casually in Hollywood". Time. July 19, 1948.,8816,798846,00.html. Retrieved 2009-12-19.
  2. ^ Gans, Eric Lawrence. Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 205. ISBN 1-604-73013-7.
  3. ^ a b 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
  4. ^ The Early Years
  5. ^ Nicholas Wapshott (1991) Rex Harrison, p. 111
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.,M1. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  8. ^ Mosby, Aline (July 6, 1948). "Carole Landis Mystery Death Clues Hunted". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
  9. ^ Gans, Eric Lawrence (2008). Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 190. ISBN 1-60473-013-7.
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Powell, Tammy. "Was Carole Murdered?". carolelandisofficial. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  12. ^ Mosby, Aline (July 11, 1948). "Scores Attend Funeral of Carole Landis". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
  13. ^ Carole Landis from the Hollywood Walk of Fame website

External links

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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.


This movie was based on a Thorne Smith book in which a man and a woman swap bodies, a plot Roach had already used with Charley Chase and Jeanie Roberts in OKAY TOOTS!, 1935.

An early publicity picture.

Autographed photo. 

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 Original Sweater Girl" was another early nickname.

Which doesn't seem to have been used very much in publicity due to censorship disapproval of the term. 

Bathing beauty Carole Landis.

 The censors didn't seem to mind the bathing beauty pictures, but it was said that there were other problems. Some of the other women in Hollywood were jealous.

 In April 1943, upon request, Carole Landis sighed for the troops on the World War II radio program COMMAND PERFORMANCE. Although done on a radio show, the sigh was recorded for posterity by a film camera.

The business about sighing over the radio on COMMAND PERFORMANCE was also reused in the movie FOUR JILLS IN A JEEP, which was based on the real - life tour by Carole Landis, Martha Raye, Mitzi Mayfair, and Kay Francis in which they entertained the troops overseas.

The "Four Jills in a jeep"

Carole Landis at left, with Mitzi Mayfair, Kay Francis, and Martha Raye. None seemed to be popular with the studios at the time, although wartime audiences loved them.

"Four Jills in a jeep"

Carole Landis at left, with Martha Raye, Mitzi Mayfair, and Kay Francis.

In addition to the movie, there was a book Carole Landis wrote a book with the same title about their experiences entertaining the troops on the tour.

The movie was based on Mitzi Mayfair's account, according to the historical record.

The "Four Jills" also appeared together on the World War II radio program COMMAND PERFORMANCE. But there would be no more movies teaming them, and no more tours together. Carole Landis did spend a lot of time entertaining the troops during World War II, but not more than any other actress, as has sometimes been said. That distinction belongs to Marlene Dietrich. But Carole Landis was not far behind, and Martha Raye would not only return to entertain the troops later in the war, but would go out again to entertain the troops in Korean and Vietnam.

Two years later, Carole Landis went on a tour with Jack Benny to entertain troops in the south Pacific.

WW2 candid of Carole, Martha Tilton, Jack Benny, and Larry Adler

With Jack Benny and a native.

Carole Landis was outspoken in her opposition to racism. This was another thing that turned certain people against her.

 Carole Landis shows them how it's done.

Whatever it is they're doing.

Chow time.


 War's aftermath.

Although Hollywood made a movie based on their exploits, the "Four Jills" were not really appreciated by Hollywood. They didn't seem to do well in the movies after the war, despite the sacrifices they had made and the hardships they had endured to help our fighting men. Carole Landis contacted Malaria and amoebic dysentery and was never really the same again.

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.

Best regards,

John Austin"

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".

Pin-Up Girl

Carole Landis Official Site:

Carole Landis - Eric Gans' Site:

The Carolers  ( Yahoo Group ):

Carole Lombard and PICTURE PLAY:


Episodes with Carole Landis you can listen to online:


1 comment:

  1. I am a spaniard film colector and Carol Landis fan from spain. My favorite movie are 1000000 years BC.and hot Spot.

    She was beautiful and joy. A type of actress Who has no more. Carol is not dead , just sleeping, like the sleeping beauty in Charles Perraut fairy tale, if you watch one of her Old movie the Princess awake and retourn to live.