One of our very favorite actresses, Rhonda Fleming, died last Wednesday in Santa Monica, Cal. She was 97.
We’ve delayed the answers to our Jane Wyman Quiz one day in Rhonda’s honor.
This gorgeous redhead, who graced a broad range of pictures in the late Forties and Fifties, was often presented as an unnervingly beautiful, sexy, unscrupulous vixen, testing the likes of Robert Mitchum, Dana Andrews and Robert Ryan, among others, in five of the best film noirs ever made.
She was a nasty piece of work, and not to be fooled with. For example, she costars with tough guy Ted DeCorsia as a blazing redhead in Allan Dwan’s 1956 thriller, Slightly Scarlett, and winds up blowing a hole in DeCorsia’s chest using a harpoon gun. Ouch!
Please check out Rhonda in any title she’s in. Don’t miss her in 1947’s noir classic, Out of the Past.
The Ronald Reagan outings? We provide no guarantees. But, please, enjoy her work — she logged some 65 acting credits (and marrying six times along the way).
Offscreen, Fleming was a smart, savvy woman with her head screwed firmly in place. She was a generous donor to a host of worthy causes and charities, loves sports, the idea of adopting rescue dogs, was highly religious and politically conservative. She was one fine actress.
Our obituary notes not only Fleming’s distinguished noir work but her wide range of movies from comedies to sci-fi, an occasional Italian epic and westerns. And, yes, she really was discovered by an agent who actually asked: Have you ever thought of being in motion pictures?
As Rhonda tells it, a large black limousine one day pulled up beside Fleming enroute to Beverly Hills High School. Out popped Henry Willson who actually asked, have you ever thought of being in motion pictures?
Willson, a prominent agent of the late Forties and Fifties (who “discovered” and renamed Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter), later boasted to Hunter: You like this hot redhead, Rhonda Fleming? You wouldn’t know her if she was still Marilyn Louis. I changed it (her name).
That’s Henry with Rock below.
Fleming actually contemplated a career as an opera singer. Her early idol was Deanna Durbin.
Fleming was notable for her vocal abilities. One of her favorite memories was performing in front of a full orchestra at the Tropicana in Las Vegas –as a singer. “It was great,” she recalled. She was also part of a gospel quartet,”The Four Girls,” comprised by Jane Russell, Beryl Davis and Connie Haines in addition to Fleming.
Fleming in her early 20’s played a nymphomaniac in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound. She says that didn’t know what the word meant, and had to look it up. Spellbound’s Ingrid Bergman was Fleming’s favorite female costar. She regarded her highly both offscreen and on, noting especially how considerate Bergman (seen below administering to Rhonda) was.
Fleming made two pictures with Bob Hope, The Great Lover in 1949 and Alias Jesse James a decade later. It was a good pairing.