Nationality: American. Born: Constance Ockelman, in Brooklyn, New York, 14 November 1919. Family: Married 1) John Detlie, 1940 (divorced 1943); 2) the director Andre de Toth, 1944 (divorced 1952); 3) Joseph A. McCarthy, 1955 (divorced 1959). Education: Attended Bliss Hayden School of Acting. Career: 1939—got small parts in films, beginning with Sorority House ; several successful films before being teamed with Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire made her a star. Died: Of hepatitis, in Burlington, Vermont, 7 July 1973.
(as Constance Keane)
The Wrong Room (Brock—short); Sorority House ( That Girl from College ) (Farrow); All Women Have Secrets (Neumann)
Young as You Feel (St. Clair); Forty Little Mothers (Berkeley)
(as Veronica Lake)
I Wanted Wings (Leisen) (as Sally Vaughn); Hold Back the Dawn (Leisen); Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges) (as The Girl)
This Gun for Hire (Tuttle) (as Ellen Graham); The Glass Key (Heisler) (as Janet Henry); I Married a Witch (Clair) (as Jennifer)
Star Spangled Rhythm (Marshall); So Proudly We Hail (Sandrich) (as Lt. Olivia D'Arcy)
The Hour before the Dawn (Tuttle) (as Dora Bruckmann)
Bring on the Girls (Lanfield) (as Teddy Collins); Out of This World (Walker) (as Dorothy Dudge); Duffy's Tavern (Walker) (as guest); Hold That Blonde! (Marshall) (as Sally Martin)
Miss Susie Slagle's (Berry) (as Nan Rogers); The Blue Dahlia (Marshall) (as Joyce Harwood); Ramrod (De Toth) (as Connie Dickason)
Variety Girl (Marshall) (as guest)
Saigon (Fenton) (as Letty Stanton); Isn't It Romantic? (McLeod) (as Candy); The Sainted Sisters (Russell) (as Letty Stanton)
Slattery's Hurricane (De Toth) (as Dolores)
Stronghold (Sekeley) (as Mary Stevens)
Footsteps in the Snow (Green)
Flesh Feast ( Time for Terror ) (Grinter) (as Dr. Elaine Frederick, + co-pr)
Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake , with Donald Bain, London, 1969.
Lenburg, Jeff, Peekaboo: The Story of Veronica Lake , New York, 1983.
Braun, Eric, "Veronica Lake: Hollywood Comet," in Films and Filming (London), May 1974.
Sheppard, G., "Veronica Lake: The Peek-a-boo Blonde," in Hollywood Studio , no. 4, 1984.
Film Dope (Nottingham), March 1985.
* * *
Veronica Lake, the girl with the "peek-a-boo hairstyle," is a consummate product of the Hollywood star machine. In the golden years of the studio system, stars were created overnight by media hype and studio-released "hot tips." It was this system that transformed aspiring actress Constance Ockelman into glamour sensation Veronica Lake. Her image "sold" so well that, in the early years of the war, Lake herself was asked to appeal to women factory workers to clip their copycat tresses to avoid industrial accidents.
Veronica Lake emerged in 1938 when, following an unsuccessful screen test at MGM, her film clip reached the desk of a producer at Paramount. Paramount was then suffering a drought and the producers were looking for a new face. In 1941 they cast Lake in the war film I Wanted Wings . An eight-year contract with Paramount followed. Later that year, Preston Sturges noticed Lake and cast her opposite Joel McCrea in the classic social comedy Sullivan's Travels . Her sultry, dry-humored vamp was the perfect complement to actors of McCrea's type. It was this success that motivated the studio to pair Lake with Alan Ladd in what became billed as one of the romantic duos of the decade.
Many feel that Ladd and Lake created a model for the "toughs and vamps" breed of acting that was later to be perfected by Bogart and Bacall. Four major films highlight this most successful period of Lake's career: This Gun for Hire , followed by The Glass Key , The Hour before Dawn , and Saigon . In 1948, when her contract expired, Lake left Hollywood. Interviews suggested that she felt she had outgrown her stereotypic vamp image. Yet, in spite of her frustration at being typecast, she did not escape the image in her one notable role of her post-Hollywood period, in an action picture called Stronghold , independently produced in Mexico, partly with her own money.