The 1940s movie star Veronica Lake, an actress, experienced a lot in her short life. Before giving up on Hollywood, she was married four times, had three children, and made more than 25 movies (via The Sun). Lake passed away in a Vermont hospital in 1973 at the age of 51 from hepatitis and renal failure.
In New York, Veronica Lake was born in November 1919. Constance was her name at the time of her birth. Veronica didn’t adopt her more famous stage name until she was just beginning her Hollywood career. When she was only 10 years old, her father, who worked for an oil firm, was tragically killed in an accident. Veronica’s mother got remarried after her father passed away. She had the idea to get Veronica interested in show industry about this time.
Veronica wasn’t very interested in performing when she was younger. But she was encouraged by her mother to join the entertainment business. After relocating the family to Florida, Veronica’s mother encouraged her daughter to participate in the local beauty pageant scene. Veronica’s mother was motivated to go for Hollywood stardom when she succeeded in the local contests. After the family relocated to California, Veronica started studying acting and going on film auditions to appease her mother.
Veronica was diagnosed as a schizophrenic when the family relocated from New York to Miami, according to a statement made by her mother.
In 1939, Veronica Lake made her debut in a major motion picture in a supporting part in the film Sorority House. Constance Keane was Veronica’s name at the time; Keane was the last name of the man her mother had remarried after her father passed away. After Veronica’s first part in a feature film, she could have smaller roles in Dancing Co-Ed and All Women Have Secrets.
Following her early small appearances in the late 1930s, Veronica was able to appear in two major films in 1940. Forty Little Mothers and Young as You Feel were these movies. The star wouldn’t achieve popularity, however, until a year later, when she switched to her more well-known stage name. Veronica was married for the first time in 1941, the same year that her two first great songs were released. In the same year that she gave birth to a daughter, she wed John Detlie, an art director. For Veronica, 1941 was a very significant year since it was when she landed her first significant cinema parts.
In 1941’s I Wanted Wings, Veronica had her first significant movie role. Alongside William Holden, Veronica featured in the film, which also saw the debut of her new stage name. The name “Veronica Lake” was proposed by producer Arthur Hornblow Jr., who assisted Veronica in moving up the Paramount Pictures corporate ladder. Veronica gained fame and fortune after changing her name!
Lake also had success with movies like “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941), starring Joel McCrea, and “This Gun for Hire” (1942), starring Alan Ladd (above). Numerous ladies were inspired to mimic her signature hairdo of having her long blonde hair flow over one eye, known as the peek-a-boo look. Her personal hardships, however, were not depicted on television. Closer Weekly said that she was binge drinking. Whatever the case, it had a long-lasting effect on her health. She may have done this as a means of coping with her mental condition.
Veronica had all the typical markers of the mental illness that might manifest in late adolescence, including peculiar speech patterns, hazy thinking, auditory hallucinations, paranoid tendencies, and overt indications of a dysfunctional social life.
According to researcher John Bennett’s article on Scott Michael’s celebrity website Findadeath.com, “It was the beginning of a downward spiral of alcoholism and mental illness from which four marriages, three children, and a powerful mother were unable to save her.” Veronica, however, “But Veronica never abandoned her conviction to lead life as she saw fit, with great courage and a certain grace.”
Veronica had become pregnant with her second child close to the end of 1942. In July 1943, the infant was delivered too soon and passed just a week later. For Veronica, the incident was highly traumatic, and before the end of the year, her first marriage would dissolve.
The fact that Veronica Lake’s second spouse could be abusive toward her doesn’t seem to have helped the actress’s escalating mental health issues. Both Veronica’s second marriage and her career were in disarray. In 1948, after being fired from Paramount Pictures, Veronica briefly worked for 20th Century Fox. The relatively unsuccessful movies Slattery’s Hurricane and Stronghold were the result of this collaboration. Veronica’s career was finished by the 1950s.
In addition to these personal issues, Veronica also experienced some unfavorable press in 1944 for her purportedly subpar performance in the World War II movie The Hour Before Dawn, in which she played a Nazi sympathizer.
Film reviewers criticized Veronica Lake’s unconvincing German accent in the movie The Hour Before Dawn. This performance was Veronica’s first significant setback in Hollywood after a string of triumphs. After that, Paramount Pictures started to lose a little bit of faith in the actress and started using her in roles that didn’t fully showcase her abilities. Her roles in the movies Hold That Blonde and Out of This World were among the actress’s other missteps at that time.
By 1950, Lake’s career opportunities dwindled and she made a few television appearances before giving up on Hollywood, per IMDb. Additionally, she had one brief marriage that barely lasted from 1940 to 1943 with art director John Detlie, and her second marriage was in trouble (via Turner Movie Classics). According to the Los Angeles Times, she and Detlie had two children together, but one of them passed very soon after birth. She married the film director Andre de Toth in 1944. The couple had two children together, but their marriage was on the rocks by 1951, when they formally divorced. The marriage was experiencing a financial difficulty at this time as well since they filed for bankruptcy the same year.
According to Veronica, if she had revealed what she knew about Hollywood in her 1970 autobiography, there would be a wave of divorces and at least a hundred individuals would pass away from apoplexy.
According to Turner Movie Classics, Lake’s third marriage, to music publisher Joseph A. McCarthy, lasted from 1955 until 1960. Veronica had an ankle injury the same year they divorced, which resulted in her losing her job. She started the 1960s in much worse financial difficulties than she had in the 1950s, when her star power had significantly eroded.
Now that she was binge drinking alone and with others, her schizophrenia was worsening.
Early in the 1960s, Veronica tried to resurrect her career by doing theatre performances. She could be performing with Liza Minnelli in the off-Broadway show Best Foot Forward. Veronica tried to become a theatrical actor, but her efforts weren’t very successful. She resorted to alcohol more often to ease her anguish as her professional failures increased. She often was arrested for being intoxicated in public before fading from view.
A newspaper article describing Veronica’s squalor-filled mid-1960s existence was published years after her failed off-Broadway comeback effort. The actress was reportedly serving Manhattan cocktails and residing at a hotel at the time.
Veronica was seen in New York City tending bar at the Blarney Stone, now Desmond’s Tavern, an Irish pub at 433 Park Ave. One night, a fan went to Veronica’s Greenwich Village flophouse.
By the late 1960s, Veronica had adopted a nomadic lifestyle and had relocated once again, this time returning to Florida.
“And when it became clear to me that the only way to survive was to get out, I left,” she told the Los Angeles Times. She was unable to escape, however, from her own drug usage problems, which ultimately led to her early demise.
Lake seemed to be paying the price for years of hard living. When Sue Cameron, a reporter, spoke with the once well-known World War II pinup girl in 1970, she was taken aback by Lake’s state. Cameron expected to meet up with a glamorous celebrity, “But there sat a woman who looked like a cleaning lady. … You could see she was very damaged,” she explained to Fox News. . According to Cameron, Lake appeared to be decades older than her actual age of 47.
According to the Herald-Tribune, Lake made one more attempt to find happiness with her fourth husband, Robert Carelton-Munro. He was a former officer in the British navy. She also made an effort to go back into the limelight by performing in a few plays in England and publishing her autobiography, “Veronica,” in 1971. (via The Virgin Islands Daily News). But by 1973, she once again seemed depressed. While working for her fourth divorce, Lake remained in the Virgin Islands. There, a horrible turn in her health occurred.
Veronica’s physical and mental health had deteriorated noticeably while she was in England. She ultimately died in July 1973 from hepatitis. Only 54 years old at the time. It was said that few people showed up for her burial in Manhattan. Although Veronica passed away quietly, she is still regarded as a significant actress from the Golden Age.