They were one of the hottest duos in the 1940s, rivaling even Bogart and Bacall.
Alan Ladd once said of himself that he had the face of an aging choirboy.
Born in 1913 in Hot Springs, Ark., he endured a hard scrabble childhood that more than occasionally left him malnourished. He was undersized as a result (his nickname was “Tiny”). At 5-foot, 6-1/4-inches, the fully-grown Ladd was indeed one of the shortest leading male figures in Hollywood history.
Although never a favorite of critics, he was hugely popular with general audiences who flocked to see the seven movies he made with favorite costar, Veronica Lake, from 1942 to 1946.
At least one of these — 1946’s The Blue Dahlia with a screenplay by Raymond Chandler –is a film noir classic that stands up well to this day.
By the early-to-mid 1940’s Ladd was at the height of his reign as Paramount Pictures’ biggest male star. One thing that Ladd and Lake shared — both were exceptionally diminutive.
And, now, one of our readers, Larry:
Veronica Lake was quite short which is why she was teamed with (Ladd) at the same studio. She previously had very little acting experience.
Other than “The Blue Dahlia,” she didn’t care much for the movies she made nor was (she) that great friends with Alan off screen. But they did stay in touch from time to time. She also seemed to live a miserable, somewhat pauper’s life even after so-called fame. (Taken from Lake’s autobiography).
Lake, who actually stood just 4-foot, 11-1/2 inches tall was indeed a perfect physical match for the undersized Ladd. The daughter of a German-Danish seaman and a veteran of beauty contests in her youth, she made her 1939 picture debut under the name of Constance Keane at RKO, but later changed her name at Paramount.
She had a meteoric career in the Forties, emerging as a 19-year-old star in her first big Hollywood movie, 1941’s I Wanted Wings costarring Ray Milland and William Holden.
She was a star favorite throughout the World War II years whose distinctively flowing hair style drew an official government warning to the droves of Rosie the Riveters working near dangerous equipment on factory floors. (Use that hairnet. Don’t try an emulate Lake’s coiffure during working hours!)
By the early Fifties, with more about 30 movie titles under her belt, Lake was gone. TV and stage appearances on the East Coast took over from there. She died four husbands later in Vermont — at age 50 — in 1973 of hepatitis. To fans of director Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels) and of memorable film noirs (The Blue Dahlia, This Gun For Hire), Veronica Lake lives on.
After her movie career went south post WW II, she declared bankruptcy, and years later was found working as a Manhattan restaurant hostess. A mid-Sixties comeback also fizzled, and Lake died at 54 of hepatitis in 1973.
She and Ladd remain the stuff of movie legend.