She began her life as Constance Frances Marie Ockleman,
but the world would come to know her as Veronica Lake. She
was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 14, 1922, the
daughter of Harry Ockleman, a ships master for an
oil company, and his wife, the former Constance Charlotta
At the age of twelve she lost her father in a ship explosion.
A year after the accident her mother married a staff artist
for the New York Herald Tribune named Anthony Keane. Over
the years the family moved around quite often, living in
Canada, New York State, and Miami, Florida, before finally
settling in Beverly Hills, California in 1938.
Now in her teens, Veronica was a beautiful yet troubled
young woman. She was diagnosed as a classic schizophrenic
and it is said that her mother saw acting as a form of treatment
for her daughters condition. She enrolled her in the
Bliss Hayden School of Acting in Hollywood and it wasnt
long before casting agents took notice of her striking beauty.
In 1939 she made her screen debut under the name Constance
Keane in the RKO film Sorority House. Other small
roles followed, until an appearance in the 1940 film 40
Little Mothers gave her career an unexpected boost
: a wayward lock of hair fell over her eye during a publicity
photo shoot, and her trademark peek-a-boo hairstyle
was born. Executives at Paramount Studios took notice of
the sultry blonde and after a successful screen test signed
her to a long term contract in 1941.
Earlier, in 1940, she had married art director John Detlie,
the first of her four husbands. Elaine Detlie, their first
child, was born August 21, 1941. With a new baby and a contract
at Paramount Studios things appeared to be going well for
the rising star. She landed her breakout role as a torch-singing
vamp in the film I Wanted Wings (1941), for which
producer Arthur Hornblow Jr. changed her professional name
to Veronica Lake. The movie was a huge success and was quickly
followed by a string of hits, including Hold Back the
Dawn (1941) and the comedy classic Sullivans
Travels (1941), which sported the tagline, Veronica
Lake is on the take.. She quickly became one of Paramounts
most bankable stars and in 1942 she received top billing
for the film-noir classic This
Gun for Hire, a movie which teamed her for the first
time with her most successful screen partner, Alan Ladd.
Their on-screen chemistry didnt escape the notice
of studio executives and the two were quickly reunited that
same year in another film-noir classic, The Glass Key.
Veronica Lake was at the height of her popularity during
the war years. Her hairstyle was so widely copied by women
of the day that the War Womanpower Commission made a formal
request that she wear her hair up for the duration of the
war, in order to discourage working women from wearing peek-a-boo
bangs on the job, as they feared the hairstyle would lead
to more accidents. She complied, and Paramount released
a newsreel in 1943 showing her adopting a new upswept look.
The publics adoration for Veronica Lake wasnt
shared by her colleagues. She had quickly earned a reputation
early in her career as someone who was difficult on the
set. Despite their on-screen chemistry its widely
reported that Alan Ladd was anything but fond of her, and
Eddie Bracken, her co-star in Star Spangled Rhythm
(1942) said of her, She was known as The Bitch
and she deserved the title.. Her personal life was
also less than ideal. On July 8, 1943 her second child,
William Detlie, was born prematurely after she tripped on
a lighting cable while filming The Hour Before the Dawn.
He died seven days later from uremic poisoning. By December
of that same year her marriage to John Detlie ended in divorce.
A year later she married director André de Toth,
and on October 25, 1945 gave birth to their son, André
Michael de Toth III. During this time her film career was
starting to crumble. Her only movie in 1944, The Hour
Before the Dawn, was savaged by the critics and became
her first major bomb. Heavy drinking was taking its
toll on her career, making her increasingly more difficult
to work with, and directors and actors were becoming reluctant
to do so. Paramount placed her in one forgettable film after
another, the one exception being The
Blue Dahlia (1946) which again teamed her with Alan
Ladd. However, the films success wasnt enough
to stop the downward spiral of her career, and in 1948 Paramount
decided not to renew her contract.
That same year on the 16th of October, her fourth child,
Diana de Toth, was born . She was also sued by her mother
for support payments. In 1949 she appeared in Slatterys
Hurricane for 20th Century Fox, then all but disappeared
from the screen. By the early 50s, her career in tatters,
she and de Toth filed for bankruptcy. They divorced in 1952.
She made one more film appearance - 1952s Stronghold,
a film she described as a dog, - before turning
her attention to TV and the stage. In 1955 she married her
third husband, Joseph A. McCarthy, a music publisher and
In 1959 a severe ankle break forced an end to her TV and
stage work. She divorced McCarthy then disappeared from
public view until 1962, when a reporter discovered her working
as a barmaid in Brooklyn, New York. She attempted a comeback
as a Baltimore TV hostess and in 1966 returned to the big
screen in Footsteps in the Snow.
Her final screen appearance was in the dismal low-budget
film Flesh Feast (1970), which she co-produced.
In 1972 she married her last husband, Robert Carelton-Munro,
a British sea captain. They were reportedly undergoing a
divorce when Veronica Lake died of hepatitis while visiting
friends in Vermont in 1973.