WEIRDLAND: Carole Landis, a tragic life in Hollywood

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carole Landis, a tragic life in Hollywood

"Don't make sarcastic and catty remarks. Kindness is the secret to true femininity". -Carole Landis

Some of the Radio Appearances of actor John Garfield were on April 14, 1941 at Lux Radio Theatre (CBS) "Dust Be My Destiny" with Claire Trevor, and on May 10, 1943 at Lady Esther Screen Guild Players, (CBS) "Johnny Eager" with Carole Landis.

Carole who was known as "The Chest" thanks to her 36DD rack, had been earlier been dubbed "The Sweater Girl" and "The Pin-Up Girl" names years later conferred on Lana Turner and Betty Grable.

Carole Landis circa 1943

Overdosed with Seconal, Carole's body was discovered by actor Rex Harrison, with whom she was having an affair and with whom she dined the previous night after a 4th of the July (1948) party. She was buried wearing her favorite blue dress and gold cross pendant. Hundreds of people attended Landis’ funeral service at the Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn in Glendale, including Rex Harrison and his wife Lilli Palmer. Landis’ family wanted a Catholic burial, but the church refused, insisting her death was a suicide. Carole’s mother and sister never believed that Landis committed suicide and tried for years to connect Harrison with the death. They never succeeded.

Deanna Durbin celebrating the completion of her film "I'll Be Yours", with Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer (1947)

At the time, Harrison was married to actress Lilli Palmer. On the Official Carole Landis website, run by her great-niece, the Landis family is convinced that Rex Harrison murdered her to avoid scandal surrounding the affair they’d been having.

In the spring of 1947, Palmer was working on "Body & Soul" with John Garfield while Harrison shot "The Foxes of Harrow". Harrison was a chronic liar and womanizer widely disliked in Hollywood.

"Pride and sadness, pride in her extraordinary beauty, sadness in knowing that to live on this beauty is to degrade it. Carole Landis' extraordinary efforts for USO during WWII were the product of the generosity and graciousness witnessed by all who knew her. One Hollywood cliché is that Landis was "Marilyn before Marilyn", but the effect of her suicide was rather to avoid becoming "Marilyn", the postwar tease whose self-caricaturing sensuality was cheesecake of the mind. Landis' dignity would have been more consonant with the honestly assertive sexuality of today's post-feminist age". Source: www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu

"Before she was a glamorous actress, before she was a war-time pin-up star, even before she was Carole Landis, she was Frances Lillian Ridste, an insecure young girl from Wisconsin. She was strikingly beautiful, talented, and on her way to becoming a movie star, yet she spent her entire life searching for love. Though she appeared in more than 60 films during her short career, Landis was better known for her extraordinary beauty and many romantic relationships than for her acting or comedic timing in such films as Topper Returns (1940) and My Gal Sal (1942) over the course of her 11-year career. -"Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood" (2005) by E.J. Fleming

"Despite appearing in twenty-eight movies in little over a decade, Carole Landis (1919-1948) never quite became the major Hollywood star her onscreen presence should have afforded her. Although she acted in such enduring films as 'A Scandal in Paris' and 'Moon over Miami', she was most often relegated to supporting roles. This biography traces Landis's life, chronicling her beginnings as a dance hall entertainer in San Francisco, her career in Hollywood and abroad, her USO performances.

Betty Grable, Victor Mature and Carole Landis in "I Wake Up Screaming" (1941) directed by H. Bruce Humberstone


A scene from "I Wake Up Screaming" 1941 starring Betty Grable, Victor Mature and Carole Landis directed by H. Bruce Humberstone

Promoter Frankie Christopher, being grilled by police in the murder of model Vicky Lynn, recalls in flashback: First meeting her as a waitress, Frankie decides to parlay her beauty into social acceptance and a lucrative career. He succeeds only too well: she’s on the eve of deserting him for Hollywood…when someone kills her. Now Frankie gets the feeling that Inspector Ed Cornell is determined to pin the killing on him and only him. He’s right. And the only one he can turn to for help is Jill, the victim’s sister.

As a radio actress she reprised her her own performance in "I Wake Up Screaming" on April 10, 1942;
she took over Lana Turner's role in "Johnny Eager" with John Garfield in that of Robert Taylor". -"Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl" (2008) by Eric Lawrence Gans

2 comments :

Bill Gerdts said...

Carole Landis's greatest appeal, I think--well, perhaps in addition to her beauty and sexuality--was her projection of approachability. There was not the "glaze" of stardom which so many actresses--great actresses--seem to erect as almost a barrier to their viewers and fans. I think one retains the feeling that the Carole Landis on screen was the Carole Landis one might meet off-screen; anywhere. And would like to do so.

The business Rex Harrison's involvement with her death is just plain silly, beyond her disappointment that the affair was over or at least would never lead to fulfillment.

And Eric Gans's book on her is THE book to read.

Kendra said...

welcome, Mr. Gerdts!

I'd recommend both books for somebody who is really interested in approaching Carole Landis from different angles and versions, although I know the Landis family didn't like Mr. Gans's biography and only endorses E.J. Fleming's.

thanks for your insights about Carole, you have articulated very well her special magnetism, her natural and delicate beauty and her inspiring effect on her admirers.