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Veronica Lake (November 14, 1922 – July 7, 1973) was an American film actress and pin-up model who enjoyed both popular and critical acclaim, most notably for her femme fatale roles in film noir with Alan Ladd during the 1940s, as well as her peek-a-boo hairstyle.

Early life and career

Veronica Lake was born as Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker. Her father, Harry E. Ockelman, of Danish-Irish descent, worked for an oil company onboard a ship. When she was about one year old, the family moved to Floridamarker but returned to Brooklyn before she was five. Her father died in an industrial explosion in Philadelphiamarker in 1932 when she was 9. Her mother, née Constance Charlotta Trimble (1902-1992), (listed as "Veronica F." on the 1920 census), married family friend Anthony Keane, a newspaper staff artist, a year later, and his step-daughter began using his last name.

"Connie" (as she was known) was sent to Villa Maria, an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Montreal, Canadamarker, which she hated and from which she was expelled. The Keane family later moved to Miami, Floridamarker, where Connie attended high school in Miami, where she was known for her beauty. She had a troubled childhood and was, according to her mother, diagnosed as schizophrenic.

In 1938, Keane moved with her mother and stepfather to Beverly Hillsmarker, where her mother enrolled her in the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting. Her first appearance on screen was for RKO, playing a small role among several coeds in the 1939 film, Sorority House. Similar roles followed, including All Women Have Secrets and Dancing Co-Ed. During the making of Sorority House, director John Farrow first noticed how her hair always covered her right eye, creating an air of mystery about her and enhancing her natural beauty. She was then introduced to the Paramount producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. He changed her name to Veronica Lake because the surname suited her blue eyes. She was still a teenager.

Her contract was subsequently dropped by RKO. She married art director John S. Detlie, 14 years her senior, in 1940. A small role in the comedy, Forty Little Mothers, brought unexpected attention. In 1941 she was signed to a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures. On August 21, 1941, she gave birth to her first child, Elaine Detlie.

1940s icon

Her breakthrough film was I Wanted Wings in 1941, a major hit in which Lake played the second female lead and was said to have stolen scene after scene from the rest of the cast. This success was followed by Hold Back the Dawn later that year. She had starring roles in more popular movies, including Sullivan's Travels, This Gun for Hire, I Married a Witch, The Glass Key, and So Proudly We Hail!. Looking back at her career years later, Lake remarked, "I never did cheesecake; I just used my hair."

For a short time during the early 1940s, Lake was considered one of the most reliable box office draws in Hollywood. She became known for onscreen pairings with actor Alan Ladd. At first, the couple was teamed together merely out of physical necessity: Ladd was just 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) tall and the only actress then on the Paramount lot short enough to pair with him was Lake, who stood just 4 feet 11½ inches (1.51 m). They made four films together.

A stray lock of her shoulder-length blonde hair during a publicity photo shoot led to her iconic "peekaboo" hairstyle, which was widely imitated. During World War II, she changed her trademark image to encourage women working in war industry factories to adopt more practical, safer hairstyles.

Although popular with the public, Lake acquired a reputation as a "difficult" actress. Nonetheless, in So Proudly We Hail!, Lake good-naturedly took part in a song lampooning her hair style, "A Sweater, A Sarong and a Peekaboo Bang", performed with Paulette Goddard and Dorothy Lamour.

Lake's career stumbled with her unsympathetic role as Nazi sympathizer Dora Bruckman in 1944's The Hour Before the Dawn. During filming, she tripped on a lighting cable while pregnant and began hemorrhaging. She recovered, but her second child, William, was born prematurely on July 8, 1943, dying a week later from uremic poisoning. By the end of 1943, her first marriage ended in divorce. Meanwhile, scathing reviews of The Hour Before Dawn included criticism of her unconvincing German accent.

Lake was earning $4,500 per week under her contract with Paramount. Paramount cast Lake in a string of mostly forgotten films. A notable exception was The Blue Dahlia (1946), in which she again co-starred with Ladd. During filming, screenplay writer Raymond Chandler reportedly referred to her as "Moronica Lake". Paramount decided not to renew her contract in 1948.

She married film director Andre De Toth in 1944 and had a son, Andre Anthony Michael De Toth, known as Michael De Toth (October 25, 1945 - February 24, 1991), and a daughter, Diana De Toth (born October 16, 1948). Lake was later sued by her own mother for support.

Later years

After a single film for 20th Century Fox,Slattery's Hurricane, her career collapsed. By the end of 1952, she had appeared in one last film (Stronghold, which she later described as "a dog"), filed for bankruptcy, and divorced de Toth. The IRS seized the remainder of her assets for unpaid taxes. Lake turned to television and stage work, and in 1955, married songwriter Joseph A. McCarthy.

Lake was unable to continue working as an actress. She and McCarthy divorced, after which she drifted between cheap hotels in Brooklyn and New York City and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. A reporter found her working as a barmaid at the all-women's Martha Washington Hotel in Manhattanmarker. At first, Veronica claimed that she was a guest at the hotel and covering for a friend. Soon afterward, she admitted that she was employed at the bar. The reporter's widely distributed story led to some television and stage appearances. In 1966, she had a brief stint as a TV hostess in Baltimore, Marylandmarker, along with a largely ignored film role in Footsteps in the Snow.

Her physical and mental health declined steadily. By the late 1960s, Lake was in Hollywood, Floridamarker, apparently immobilized by paranoia (which included claims she was being stalked by the FBI).

She published her autobiography, Veronica, and with the proceeds, she co-produced and starred in her last film, Flesh Feast (1970), a very low budget horror movie. She then moved to the UKmarker, where she had a short-lived marriage with an "English sea captain", Robert Carleton-Munro, before returning to the U.S. in 1973, having filed for divorce.

Lake was apparently estranged from her three surviving children, particularly her daughters. Elaine Detlie became known as Ani Sangge Lhamo after becoming a member of the Subud faith in New Zealandmarker. Diana became a secretary for the American Embassy and lived in Rome in the 1970s. Michael De Toth stayed with his mother on and off through the 1960s and 1970s. He married Edwina Mae Niecke. When Lake died, he claimed her body. Towards the end of her life, Lake reportedly had no visitors and was said to be destitute.


Lake died on July 7, 1973 of hepatitis and acute renal failure in Montreal. Her body was moved to Vermontmarker by her last lover, Nat Perlow, who told border agents that she was just sleeping. This had been Lake's wish, as she did not want the public to know that she had died in Montreal, the "Sin City of the North". Montreal Mirror report on death of Veronica Lake

Her ashes were scattered off the Virgin Islands. In 2004, some of Lake's ashes were reportedly found in a New York antique store. Her son Michael died on February 24, 1991, aged 45, in Olympia, Washingtonmarker.

Lake has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 6918 Hollywood Boulevard for her contributions to the motion picture industry.


  • "You could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision."

  • "I've reached a point in my life where it's the little things that matter... I was always a rebel and probably could have got much further had I changed my attitude. But when you think about it, I got pretty far without changing attitudes. I'm happier with that." (1970)

References in popular culture

  • Barry Smolin's song Veronica Lake is about an irresolute sighting of a homeless Veronica Lake at Union Station in Los Angeles.

  • The Archie Comics character Veronica Lodge was partially named after Veronica Lake, who was in the midst of her early celebrity when the comic book character was introduced in the spring of 1942.

  • In Alfred Hitchcock's suspense film Shadow of a Doubt (1941), the young daughter named Ann says her prayers before going to sleep... "God bless Mama, Papa, Captain Midnight, Veronica Lake, and the President of the United States."

  • Hellacopters recorded a tribute song called "Veronica Lake" on their latest album, Head Off! The song was originally written by the New Bomb Turks.

  • The Bugs Bunny cartoon A-Lad-In His Lamp features a lake called Veronica Lake.
  • Clips of Veronica Lake were used in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, a 1982 spoof of film noir starring Steve Martin.
  • In the 2009 video game Still Life 2, a sequel to the 2005 game, Veronica Lake is the favourite actress of game's villain. He is obsessed with her movies, especially The Blue Dahlia.


Year Title Role Other notes
1939 Sorority House Coed Uncredited, Alternative title: That Girl from College
The Wrong Room The Attorney's New Bride Credited as Connie Keane
Dancing Co-Ed One of Couple on Motorcycle Uncredited, Alternative title: Every Other Inch a Lady
All Women Have Secrets Jane Credited as Constance Keane
1940 Young As You Feel Bit part Credited as Constance Keane
Forty Little Mothers Granville girl Uncredited
1941 I Wanted Wings Sally Vaughn
Hold Back the Dawn Movie Actress Uncredited
Sullivan's Travels The Girl
1942 This Gun for Hire Ellen Graham
The Glass Key Janet Henry
I Married a Witch Jennifer
Star Spangled Rhythm Herself
1943 So Proudly We Hail! Lt. Olivia D'Arcy
1944 The Hour Before the Dawn Dora Bruckmann
1945 Bring on the Girls Teddy Collins
Out of This World Dorothy Dodge
Duffy's Tavern Herself
Hold That Blonde Sally Martin
1946 Miss Susie Slagle's Nan Rogers
The Blue Dahlia Joyce Harwood
1947 Ramrod Connie Dickason
Variety Girl Herself
1948 Saigon Susan Cleaver
The Sainted Sisters Letty Stanton
Isn't It Romantic? Candy Cameron
1949 Slattery's Hurricane Dolores Greaves
1950 Your Show of Shows TV, 1 episode
Lights Out TV, 1 episode
1950-1953 Lux Video Theatre Various TV, 3 episodes
1951 Somerset Maugham TV Theatre Valerie TV, 1 episode
Stronghold Mary Stevens
1952 Celanese Theatre TV, 1 episode
Tales of Tomorrow Paula TV, an episode
Goodyear Television Playhouse Judy "Leni: Howard TV, 1 episode
1953 Danger TV, 1 episode
1954 Broadway Television Theatre TV, 1 episode
1966 Footsteps in the Snow
1970 Flesh Feast Dr. Elaine Frederick Alternative title: Time is Terror


  1. U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, State of New York, County of Kings, enumeration district 1657, page 8-B, family 151, Constance Ockelman (sic), age 7 years, born in Brooklyn. Her father, Harry Ockelman, Jr., is listed as unmarried in the 1920 U.S. Census of Pennsylvania.
  2. Veronica's paternal grandfather was born in Denmark as were his parents, and her paternal grandmother was born in Ireland as were her parents. U.S. Census, Jan. 1, 1920, State of Pennsylvania, County of Delaware, enumeration district 188, p. 9-B, family 186.
  3. Veronica's maternal grandmother and maternal grandfather were the children of Irish immigrants. U.S. Census, Jan. 1, 1920, State of New York, County of Kings, enumeration district 290, p. 8-A, family 189. U.S. Census, April 15, 1910, State of New York, County of Kings, enumeration district 655, p. 5-A, family 125.
  4. " Veronica Lake's Ashes For Sale?"

Further reading

  • Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN #1-59393-320-7.

External links

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