She arrived a teenager in Hollywood on July 4, 1938, after winning beauty contests in Florida. The move from the East Coast followed what she described as a relatively happy and secure childhood spent in Brooklyn and other locales.
The level-headed Constance Ockleman (changed to Connie Keane when her father died and her mother remarried) stuck around Hollywood for the next 14 years, transforming herself into Veronica Lake (a name thrust upon her, one she never got fully used to), and emerging as “the peek-a-boo” girl — whose hair style captivated film fans and the nation at large in the 1940’s.
Along the way, she proved to be a lonely straight shooter who married badly and acquired odd skills (such as piloting small airplanes). By 1952 at age 30, with her career (28 movies by then) sharply on the downswing, she left Hollywood for good to face of series of personal struggles including alcoholism and domestic and financial woes.
She died four husbands later in Vermont — at age 50 — in 1973 of hepatitus. 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.
How much do you know about this underrated actress? Please take our Monday Quiz to find out. Our inspiration here is Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, published two years before her death. (It’s a good read; see if you can locate a copy.) Ok, let’s get going. Answers tomorrow.
1) Question: How did Constance Ockleman become Veronica Lake? Who chose the marquee name and how was it chosen? a) MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, who put names in a hat and pulled out “Veronica Lake”; b) Producer Arthur Hornblow Jr., who cast Lake in the 1941 war drama, I Wanted Wings; c) Agent Henry Willson, who later came up with “Tab Hunter“; or d) Lake herself, who just liked the sound of the name.
2) Question: Who gave Veronica Lake her first kiss? a) William Holden; 2) William Bendix; c) Sonny Tufts; or d) Robert Preston.
3) Question: Which one of the following was the first to correctly predict that Lake’s distinctive peek-a-boo hair style would be popular among movie audiences? a) Eddie Cantor; b) Busby Berkeley c) Mervyn Leroy or d) Bob Hope.
4) Question: Lake was much taller than Alan Ladd, her most famous leading man, and was forced to stand in recessed slit ditches in scenes with him in order to hide the discrepancy. a) True; or b) False.
5) Question: Lake occasionally got physical on the sets of her early movies, and manhandled one actor whom she particularly disliked. Can you name him? a) Brian Donlevy; b) Fredric March; c) Ray Milland; or d) George Reeves.
6) Question: Lake began a longstanding love affair with costar Alan Ladd when the two toplined in 1942’s This Gun For Hire. a) True; or b) False.
7) Question: Lake cites one movie in particular was her worst, and proved to be “the beginning of a great (career) slide down.” Which one of the following was she referring to? a) I Married A Witch; b) So Proudly We Hail; c) Forty Little Mothers; or d) The Hour Before Dawn.
8) Question: Lake so alienated Preston Sturges — the most famous director she ever worked with, who cast her opposite Joel McCrea in the 1941 comedy Sullivan’s Travels — that he never worked with her again. a) True; or b) False.
9) Question: Which of Lake’s four husbands was her most disappointing lover? a) Andre de Toth; b) Robert Carleton-Munro; c) Joseph McCarthy or d) John Detlie.
10) Question: Which one of the following titles was Lake’s first movie in color? a) Bring on the Girls; b) Slattery’s Hurricane; c) Stronghold; or d) Footsteps in the Snow.