Veronica Lake was born Constance Marie Ockleman on November 14, 1919 (some sources claim 1922) in Brooklyn, New York. While still a child, Veronica's parents moved to Florida when she wasn't yet a year old. By the time she was five, the family had returned to Brooklyn. Her father died in an oil tanker explosion when she was 12 (or 15) and her mother quickly remarried. The new family moved around a lot, from Brooklyn, to Montreal, to upstate New York and finally back to Miami. While she was living in Montreal, Veronica was expelled from an all-girls Catholic boarding school for frequent misbehavior in class. Around this time, her mother became concerned about her antisocial and delusional behavior. She took her to a doctor, where she was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Though she was diagnosed early in life, Veronica never received significant treatment for the disease.
By the time she had graduated high school, Veronica had competed in several beauty pageants, and had even won the title of “Miss Florida” in 1937. The next year she convinced her family to move out to Hollywood where she enrolled in acting school. She quickly got several bit parts playing college co-eds in RKO movies, for these roles she was credited under the name Constance Keane. In 1940 she eloped and married MGM art director John Detlie. In 1941, she won a large role in the film I Wanted Wings and Paramount Pictures legally changed her name to Veronica Lake.
Her performance in I Wanted Wings instantly made her a star. Her thin and unruly hair, which annoyed Veronica by constantly falling over her eye, was suddenly the center attention. Women everywhere began trying to copy her “Peek-a-boo” hairstyle, and many of them ended up losing their own hair by trying to copy her platinum blond coloring. For the next several years she became one of the biggest (yet still one of the shortest) female stars in Hollywood, often paired up with diminutive leading man Alan Ladd thanks to her small 5’2” stature. Veronica appeared in both comedies and dramas, every movie she appeared in became a big hit.
As the 1940s progressed, Veronica began to lose her appeal with the public. The hair gimmick was fading and the studio gave her poor roles, assuming her popularity would draw the crowds. Her increasingly cocky behavior on the set, most of it common symptoms of schizophrenia, earned her the nickname "the bitch". Her last decent movie was the film-noir hit The Blue Dahlia in 1946. In 1948 Paramount dumped her contract.
Through all of this, her marriage to John was breaking up. In 1942 Veronica gave birth to a daughter named Elaine. She had been happy when she became pregnant, but after Elaine was born, she became indifferent to and uninvolved with her new baby. This is only one of the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia that Veronica began to show with alarming frequency. When Veronica became pregnant again, she hadn't seen John for months. During the pregnancy, Veronica tripped over a cable on a movie set. She was rushed to the hospital, where she gave birth early. The child died of uremic poisoning soon after. Though John attended services for the baby, the marriage was over.
She married Hungarian director Andre DeToth in 1944. DeToth had an explosive temper and was constantly replaced on films. He was also manipulative of Veronica and spent her money to the brink of bankruptcy. They had two children, Michael and Diane, but the marriage only lasted until 1952.
Veronica took the children to New York and found an apartment in Greenwich Village. There she enjoyed success on TV and in her first stage roles. She also met and married songwriter Joe McCarthy Jr.. The marriage was only peaceful when they were drinking. They divorced in 1959.
From 1952 to 1966, Veronica made television appearances and even tried her hand at the stage, but found no success. By now alcohol was the order of the day, she was down on her luck and drank heavily. In 1963 she moved into the Martha Washington Hotel and began working as a barmaid in the hotel lounge. A few years later she got a job as the hostess of an afternoon movie show in Baltimore. She introduced and made a few comments about each movie. Sometimes she even introduced her own films. Encouraged by the success of the show, she moved to London and tried stage acting again. Veronica turned out to be a big hit and continued to get acting jobs there. She also married one last time and published her autobiography to great acclaim.
In 1970 she starred in the low-budget horror film Flesh Feast, a story about flesh eating maggots, as her last movie role. On July 7, 1973, Veronica died in Burlington, Vermont of hepatitis brought on by her heavy drinking. The beautiful actress with the long blonde hair was dead at the age of 53.
Veronica is proably best known to today's audiences as the actress Kim Basinger was supposed to look like in L.A. Confidential (she was pretty damn close). Like the women of the 40s, Basinger lost quite a bit of her hair trying to copy Veronica's style.
Flesh Feast (1970) ............. Dr. Elaine Frederick
Footsteps in the Snow (1966)
Stronghold (1951) ................. Mary Stevens
Slattery's Hurricane (1949)... .... Dolores Greaves
Isn't It Romantic? (1948) ......... Candy Cameron
The Sainted Sisters (1948)... .... Letty Stanton
Saigon (1948) ..................... Susan Neaves
Variety Girl (1947) ............... Herself
Ramrod (1947) ..................... Connie Dickason
The Blue Dahlia (1946) ........... Joyce Harwood
Miss Susie Slagle's (1946) ........ Nan Rogers
Duffy's Tavern (1945) ............. Herself
Out of This World (1945) .......... Dorothy Dodge
Hold That Blonde (1945) ........... Sally Martin
Bring on the Girls (1945) ......... Teddy Collins
The Hour Before the Dawn (1944) .. Dora Bruckmann
So Proudly We Hail! (1943) ........ Lieutenant Olivia D'Arcy
The Eyes Have It (1942) .......... Herself
I Married a Witch (1942) .......... Jennifer
Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) ....... Herself
The Glass Key (1942) ............. Janet Henry
This Gun for Hire (1942) ........ Ellen Graham
Sullivan's Travels (1942) ...... The Girl
Hold Back the Dawn (1941) .... Movie actress
I Wanted Wings (1941) ............. Sally Vaughn
Young as You Feel (1940) (as Constance Keane) .... Bit Part
Forty Little Mothers (1940) (as Constance Keane) .... Girl
Sorority House (1939) .... Coed
All Women Have Secrets (1939) (as Constance Keane) .... Jane
Dancing Co-Ed (1939) .... One of Couple on Motorcycle
Wrong Room (1939) (as Connie Keane) .... The Blonde