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Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake still.jpg
Veronica Lake, c. 1952
Constance Frances Marie Ockelman

(1922-11-14)November 14, 1922
Died July 7, 1973(1973-07-07) (aged 50)
Other names Constance Keane
Connie Keane
Education St. Bernard's School (Saranac Lake, New York)
Villa Maria
Miami High School
Occupation Actress
Years active 1939–1954; 1966; 1970
John S. Detlie
(m. 1940; div. 1943)

Andre DeToth
(m. 1944; div. 1952)

Joseph Allan McCarthy
(m. 1955; div. 1959)
Children 4

Constance Frances Marie Ockelman (November 14, 1922 – July 7, 1973), known professionally as Veronica Lake, was an American film, stage, and television actress. Lake was best known for her femme fatale roles in film noirs with Alan Ladd during the 1940s, her peek-a-boo hairstyle, and films such as Sullivan's Travels (1941) and I Married a Witch (1942). By the late 1940s, Lake's career began to decline. She made only one film in the 1950s, but made several guest appearances on television. She returned to the big screen in 1966 in the film Footsteps in the Snow (1966), but the role failed to revitalize her career.

Lake's memoir, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, was published in 1970. Her final screen role was in a low-budget horror film, Flesh Feast (1970). Lake died at the age of 50 in July 1973, from hepatitis and acute kidney injury.

Early life

Lake was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Her father, Harry Eugene Ockelman, was of German and Irish descent, and worked for an oil company aboard a ship. He died in an oil tanker explosion in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania in 1932. Lake's mother, Constance Frances Charlotta (née Trimble; 1902–1992), of Irish descent, in 1933 married Anthony Keane, a newspaper staff artist also of Irish descent, and Lake began using his surname.

The Keanes lived in Saranac Lake, New York, where young Lake attended St. Bernard's School. She was then sent to Villa Maria, an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from which she was expelled. Lake later claimed she attended McGill University and took a premed course for a year, intending to become a surgeon. This claim was included in several press biographies, although Lake later declared it was bogus. Lake subsequently apologized to the president of McGill, who was simply amused when she explained her habit of self-dramatizing. When her stepfather fell ill during her second year, the Keane family later moved to Miami, Florida. Lake attended Miami High School, where she was known for her beauty. She had a troubled childhood and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to her mother.


Constance Keane

In 1938, the Keanes moved to Beverly Hills, California. While briefly under contract to MGM, Lake enrolled in that studio's acting farm, the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting (now the Beverly Hills Playhouse). She made friends with a girl named Gwen Horn and accompanied her when Horn went to audition at RKO. She appeared in the play Thought for Food in January 1939. A theatre critic from the Los Angeles Times called her "a fetching little trick" for her appearance in She Made Her Bed.

Keane's first appearance on screen was as an extra for RKO, playing a small role as one of several students in the film Sorority House (1939). The part wound up being cut from the film, but she was encouraged to continue. Similar roles followed, including All Women Have Secrets (1939), Dancing Co-Ed (also 1939), Young as You Feel (1940), and Forty Little Mothers (also 1940). Forty Little Mothers was the first time she let her hair down on screen.

Name change and stardom

Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels trailer 2
Lake with Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels (1941). As seen, she is sporting her peek-a-boo hairstyle, with her hair covering one of her eyes

Lake attracted the interest of Fred Wilcox, an assistant director, who shot a test scene of her performing from a play and showed it to an agent. The agent, in turn, showed it to producer Arthur Hornblow Jr., who was looking for a new girl to play the part of a nightclub singer in a military drama, I Wanted Wings (1941). Hornblow changed the actress's name to Veronica Lake. According to him, her eyes, "calm and clear like a blue lake", were the inspiration for her new name.

The film became a big hit, and made the teenage Lake a star overnight; even before the film came out, Lake was dubbed "the find of 1941". During filming, Lake's long blonde hair accidentally fell over her right eye during a take and created a "peek-a-boo" effect. The film's success influenced women to copy the style, which became Lake's trademark. However, Lake did not think this meant she would have a long career and maintained her goal was to be a surgeon. "Only the older actors keep on a long time ... I don't want to hang on after I've reached a peak. I'll go back to medical school", she said.

Paramount announced Lake to star in China Pass and a remake of Blonde Venus. Instead, she was cast in Preston Sturges's Sullivan's Travels with Joel McCrea; and film noir This Gun for Hire (1942) with Robert Preston and Alan Ladd. Her scenes with Ladd in the latter became popular with audiences, prompting Paramount to reteam them in The Glass Key, with Lake replacing Patricia Morison in the leading role. Lake was meant to be reunited with McCrea in the comedy I Married a Witch, but his withdrawal from the project led to a delay in production; Fredric March was eventually cast as his replacement. Both films were highly successful, but also prevented a reunion with Hornblow for Hong Kong in which she was meant to co-star with Charles Boyer.

Upon the United States' entrance into World War II, Lake traveled throughout the United States to raise money for war bonds. She also became a popular pin-up girl for soldiers, and participated in awareness campaigns to help decrease accidents involving women getting their hair caught in machinery. Lake's only 1943 releases were both patriotic-themed. She made an appearance in Paramount's all-star musical revue Star Spangled Rhythm performing "A Sweater, Sarong and a Peek-A-Boo Bang" with Paulette Goddard and Dorothy Lamour. Her only film of the year was So Proudly We Hail! (1943) with Goddard and Claudette Colbert, in which she received acclaim for her role of a nurse. At the peak of her career, she was earning $4,500 a week.

Personal struggles and box-office disappointments

Despite her initial success, Lake suffered a series of setbacks that ultimately derailed her career. Her complex personality quickly led to her to acquire a reputation for being difficult to work with. On Sullivan's Travels, Lake did not disclose she was six months pregnant when filming began, upsetting director Preston Sturges to the point he had to be physically restrained. Lake also clashed with co-star McCrea to the point that he dropped out of I Married a Witch, reportedly saying that "Life's too short for two films with Veronica Lake" (although he did later go on to work with her in Ramrod (1947)). His replacement Frederic March also clashed with Lake after he made crude remarks about her during pre-production. I Married A Witch director René Clair had a differing view of Lake, saying "She was a very gifted girl, but she didn't believe she was gifted." Lake's behavior eventually spilt over into public view during a publicity stunt in which Lake's services as a dishwasher and revue performer were auctioned off for war bonds. One paper claimed Lake's "talk was on the grim side", while columnist Hedda Hopper claimed that "Lake clipped her own wings in her Boston bond appearance ... It's lucky for Lake, after Boston, that she isn't out of pictures".

With her role in The Hour Before the Dawn (1944), Lake changed her trademark hairstyle to encourage women working in war industry factories to adopt more practical, safer hairstyles. Lake had done so at the urging of the government to help decrease accidents involving women getting their hair caught in machinery. The film was not a success; Lake's image change and her unsympathetic role of Nazi spy Dora Bruckman earned negative reviews.

In late 1943, Lake took time off after undergoing a series of personal struggles. After tripping on a lighting cable while on the set of The Hour Before Dawn, Lake went into premature delivery and gave birth to a son who died shortly after birth. Within weeks, Lake had also filed for divorce from her husband.

Upon returning to work in 1944, Lake took stock of her career, claiming, "I had to learn about acting. I've played all sorts of parts, taken just what came along regardless of high merit. In fact, I've been a sort of general utility person. I haven't liked all the roles. One or two were pretty bad".

Lake returned with roles in the musical Bring On the Girls (1945) with Eddie Bracken and Sonny Tufts; and Hold That Blonde with Bracken. Lake enjoyed making the film, saying "it's a comedy, rather like what Carole Lombard used to do ... It represents a real change of pace". However, neither film was successful, as were minor roles in Out of This World and Miss Susie Slagle's (1946).

Final years at Paramount and freelance

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

After her role in Miss Susie Slagle's, producer John Houseman cast Lake in the film noir The Blue Dahlia (1946). The film reunited her with Alan Ladd, who had become one of Paramount's top stars since their last pairing in The Glass Key. Lake was pleased with the role, but her performance in the film did not impress its screenwriter Raymond Chandler, who referred to her as "Moronica Lake". Nonetheless, it became her first success since So Proudly We Hail! and the largest of her career.

For the first time in her career, Lake ventured outside of Paramount with the United Artists Western Ramrod (1947). The film was directed by her then-husband Andre DeToth, in their first collaboration together. The film also reunited her with Joel McCrea, despite his earlier insistence that he would not work with her again. The film was also successful, continuing her comeback.

Following a cameo in Variety Girl (1947), Lake and Ladd reunited again for the crime film Saigon (1948). Lake returned to her former peek-a-boo hairstyle for the film, which unlike their previous films was not a noir. Reaction to the film was mixed; although financial success, it received a more mixed critical reception in comparison to the couple's earlier vehicles. Coupled with the flops The Sainted Sisters and Isn't It Romantic?, Paramount opted not to renew Lake's contract in 1948.

Following her release from Paramount, Lake took a supporting role in Slattery's Hurricane (1949). The film, directed by DeToth, was released by 20th Century Fox. She also appeared with Zachary Scott in the Western Stronghold (1951). Shot in Mexico for Lippert Pictures, Lake later described the film as "a dog" and sued for unpaid wages on the film.

Lake and DeToth announced plans to make Flanagan Boy and Before I Wake, the latter from a suspense novel by Mel Devrett. However, neither were made as the couple ran into financial difficulties. In April 1951, the IRS seized their home for unpaid taxes. Later that same year, Lake and DeToth filed for bankruptcy. Bankrupt and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Lake left DeToth and flew alone to New York.

Lake performed in summer stock theatre and in stage roles in England. In October 1955, she collapsed in Detroit, where she had been appearing on stage in The Little Hut.

Later years

After her third divorce, Lake drifted between cheap hotels in New York City, and was arrested several times for disorderly conduct. In 1962, a New York Post reporter found her living at the all-women's Martha Washington Hotel in Manhattan, working as a waitress downstairs in the cocktail lounge. She was working under the name "Connie de Toth". Lake said she took the job in part because "I like people. I like to talk to them".

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 as "a matter of pride". 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". The story did revive some interest in Lake and led to some television and stage appearances, including the 1963 off-Broadway revival of the musical Best Foot Forward.

In 1966, she had a brief stint as a television hostess in Baltimore, Maryland, along with a largely ignored film role in Footsteps in the Snow. She also continued appearing in stage roles. She went to Freeport in the Bahamas to visit a friend and ended up living there for a few years.

Flesh Feast trailer 2
Lake in Flesh Feast (1970), her final film

Lake's memoirs, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, which she dictated to writer Donald Bain, were published in the United Kingdom in 1969 and in the United States the following year. In the book, Lake discusses her career, her failed marriages; romances with Howard Hughes, Tommy Manville and Aristotle Onassis; and her guilt over not spending enough time with her children. In the book, Lake stated to Bain that her mother pushed her into a career as an actress. Bain quoted Lake, looking back at her career, as saying, "I never did cheesecake like Ann Sheridan or Betty Grable. I just used my hair".

When she visited the UK to promote her book in 1969, she received an offer to appear on stage in Madam Chairman. Also in 1969, Lake essayed the role of Blanche DuBois in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire on the English stage; her performance won rave reviews. With the proceeds from her autobiography, after she had divided them with Bain, she co-produced and starred in her final film, Flesh Feast (1970), a low-budget horror movie with a Nazi-myth storyline.

Personal life

Lake's first marriage was to art director John S. Detlie, in 1940. They had a daughter, Elaine (born in 1941), 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. Lake and Detlie separated in August 1943 and divorced in December 1943.

In 1944, Lake married film director Andre DeToth with whom she had a son, Andre Anthony Michael III (known as Michael DeToth), and a daughter, Diana (born October 1948). Days before Diana's birth, Lake's mother sued her for support payments. After purchasing an airplane for de Toth, Lake earned her pilot's license in 1946. She later flew solo between Los Angeles and New York when leaving him. Lake and DeToth divorced in 1952.

In September 1955, she married songwriter Joseph Allan McCarthy. They were divorced in 1959. In 1969, she revealed that she rarely saw her children.


In June 1973, Lake returned from her autobiography promotion and summer stock tour in England 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, and on June 26, she checked into the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

She died there on July 7, 1973, of acute hepatitis and acute kidney injury. Her son Michael claimed her body. Lake's memorial service was held at the Universal Chapel in New York City on July 11.

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.


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


Veronica Lake Paramount
Lake, c. 1940s
Veronica Lake in So Proudly We Hail trailer
Lake sporting a different hairstyle to the peek-a-boo one in So Proudly We Hail (1943)
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 First featured role
1941 Hold Back the Dawn Movie Actress Uncredited
1941 Sullivan's Travels The Girl Directed by Preston Sturges
1942 This Gun for Hire Ellen Graham First film with Alan Ladd
1942 Glass Key, TheThe Glass Key Janet Henry With Alan Ladd
1942 I Married a Witch Jennifer Directed by René Clair
1942 Star Spangled Rhythm Herself One of a number of Paramount stars making cameos
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 One of a number of Paramount stars making cameos
1945 Hold That Blonde Sally Martin
1946 Miss Susie Slagle's Nan Rogers
1946 Blue Dahlia, TheThe Blue Dahlia Joyce Harwood With Alan Ladd
1947 Ramrod Connie Dickason Directed by her then-husband Andre DeToth; first film made outside Paramount since becoming a star
1947 Variety Girl Herself One of a number of Paramount stars making cameos
1948 Saigon Susan Cleaver Last film with Alan Ladd
1948 Sainted Sisters, TheThe Sainted Sisters Letty Stanton
1948 Isn't It Romantic? Candy Cameron
1949 Slattery's Hurricane Dolores Greaves Directed by André de Toth
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

Play Venue Her run
Thought for Food Bliss Hayden Theatre, Beverly Hills 1939: January–February
She Made Her Bed Bliss Hayden Theatre, Beverly Hills 1939: July–August
Private Confusion Bliss Hayden Theatre, Beverly Hills 1940: October
Direct Hit 1944: June
The Voice of the Turtle Atlanta 1951: February
The Curtain Rises Olney Theatre 1951
Peter Pan Road tour 1951
Brief Moment 1952
Gramercy Hill 1952
Masquerade Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia 1953
The Little Hut Road tour, including:
Erlanger Theatre, Buffalo
Murat Theatre, Indianapolis
Shubert Theatre, Detroit
Shubert Theatre, Cincinnati
Bell Book and Candle 1956
Fair Game Road tour, including:
Arena Playhouse, Atlanta
Hinsdale Strawhatter, Chicago
1959: July
Best Foot Forward Stage 73 (Off-Broadway), Manhattan 1963
Madam Chairman Tour of English provinces 1969
A Streetcar Named Desire New Theatre, Bromley 1969

Radio appearances

Date Program Episode/source
March 30, 1943 Lux Radio Theater I Wanted Wings
February 9, 1943 Bob Hope Guest star Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake
February 16, 1943 Burns and Allen Guest star Veronica Lake
November 1, 1943 Lux Radio Theater So Proudly We Hail!
January 8, 1944 Command Performance Guest star Veronica Lake
February 18, 1945 Charlie McCarthy Guest stars Ginny Simms and Veronica Lake
April 2, 1945 The Screen Guild Theater This Gun for Hire
November 18, 1946 Lux Radio Theatre O.S.S.
April 20, 1947 Exploring the Unknown The Dark Curtain
April 21, 1949 The Screen Guild Theater The Blue Dahlia
March 6, 1950 Lux Radio Theatre Slattery's Hurricane
December 15, 1950 Duffy's Tavern "Archie Wants Veronica Lake to Help Promote a New Latin Singer"
December 12, 1954 The Jack Benny Program "A Trip to Palm Springs"

See also

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