Carole Landis

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Carole Landis
Carole Landis in Topper Returns.jpg
Landis in Topper Returns (1941)
Frances Lillian Mary Ridste

(1919-01-01)January 1, 1919
DiedJuly 5, 1948(1948-07-05) (aged 29)
Cause of deathSuicide by barbiturate overdose
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Other namesThe Ping Girl
Education San Bernardino High School
OccupationActress, Singer
Years active1937–1948
  • Irving Wheeler
    (m. 1934;annulled 1934)
  • Irving Wheeler
    (m. 1934;div. 1939)
  • Willis Hunt Jr.
    (m. 1940;div. 1940)
  • Thomas C. Wallace
    (m. 1943;div. 1945)
  • W. Horace Schmidlapp(m. 19451948)

Carole Landis (born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste; January 1, 1919 – July 5, 1948) was an American actress and singer. She worked as a contract-player for Twentieth Century-Fox in the 1940s. Her breakthrough role was as the female lead in the 1940 film One Million B.C. , with United Artists. Landis was known as "The Ping Girl" and "The Chest" because of her curvy figure. [1]

<i>One Million B.C.</i> 1940 film by D. W. Griffith, Hal Roach, Hal Roach, Jr.

One Million B.C. is a 1940 American fantasy film produced by Hal Roach Studios and released by United Artists. It is also known by the titles Cave Man, Man and His Mate, and Tumak.

United Artists American film studio

United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American film and television entertainment studio. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, the studio was premised on allowing actors to control their own interests, rather than being dependent upon commercial studios. UA was repeatedly bought, sold, and restructured over the ensuing century. The current United Artists company exists as a successor to the original; as a distributor of films across MGM and third-party titles and as a provider of digital content, in addition to handling most of its post-1952 in-house library and other content it has since acquired. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired the studio in 1981 for a reported $350 million.


Landis committed suicide on July 5, 1948, at the age of 29 by taking a barbiturate overdose. [2]

Early life

Landis was born on January 1, 1919, in Fairchild, Wisconsin, the youngest of five children of Clara ( née Stentek), a Polish farmer's daughter, and Norwegian-American Alfred Ridste, a drifting railroad mechanic who abandoned the family after Landis' birth. [3] [4] [5] According to Landis' biographer E.J. Fleming, circumstantial evidence supports that Landis was likely the biological child of her mother's second husband, Charles Fenner. Fenner left Landis' mother in April 1921 and remarried a few months later. [6]

Fairchild, Wisconsin Village in Wisconsin, United States

Fairchild is a village in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 550 at the 2010 census. The village is located within the Town of Fairchild.

Given name name typically used to differentiate people from the same family, clan, or other social group who have a common last name

A given name is a part of a person's personal name. It identifies a person, and differentiates that person from the other members of a group who have a common surname. The term given name refers to the fact that the name usually is bestowed upon a person, normally to a child by their parents at or close to the time of birth. A Christian name, a first name which historically was given at baptism, is now also typically given by the parents at birth.

In 1923, Landis' family moved to San Bernardino, California. Landis' mother worked menial jobs to support the family. [7] At the age of 15, Landis dropped out of San Bernardino High School and set forth on a career path to show business. [8] She started out as a hula dancer in a San Francisco nightclub, where she was described by her boss as a "nervous $35-a-week blonde doing a pathetic hula at her opening night at the old Royal Hawaiian on Bush [Street]...that'll never get anyplace in show business" and apparently who employed her only because he felt sorry for her; [9] she later sang with a dance band. She bleached her hair blonde and changed her name to "Carole Landis" after her favorite actress, Carole Lombard. After saving $100 she moved to Hollywood. [3]

San Bernardino, California City in California, United States

San Bernardino is a city located in the Riverside–San Bernardino metropolitan area and that serves as the county seat of San Bernardino County, California, United States. As one of the Inland Empire's anchor cities, San Bernardino spans 81 square miles (210 km2) on the floor of the San Bernardino Valley and as of 2017 has a population of 216,995. San Bernardino is the 17th-largest city in California and the 102nd-largest city in the United States. San Bernardino is home to numerous diplomatic missions for the Inland Empire, being one of four cities in California with numerous consulates. The governments of Guatemala and Mexico have also established their consulates in the downtown area of the city.

San Bernardino High School San Bernardino, California, United States

San Bernardino High School (SBHS) is an American public high school located at 1850 North E Street in San Bernardino, California and a member of the San Bernardino City Unified School District. SBHS was granted charter as a city in 1963, under the name Cardinal City after the school's mascot, the Cardinal. SBHS is the oldest high school in the City of San Bernardino.

Show business vernacular term for all aspects of entertainment

Show business, sometimes shortened to show biz or showbiz, is a vernacular term for all aspects of the entertainment industry. From the business side, the term applies to the creative element and was in common usage throughout the 20th century, although the first known use in print dates from 1850. At that time and for several decades, it typically included an initial the. By the latter part of the century, it had acquired a slightly arcane quality associated with the era of variety, but the term is still in active use. In modern entertainment industry, it is also associated with the great fashion industry and acquiring intellectual property rights from the invested research in the entertainment business.


Film career

Landis made her film debut as an extra in the 1937 film A Star Is Born ; she also appeared in various horse operas. [3] She posed for hundreds of cheesecake photographs. [3] She continued appearing in bit parts until 1940 when Hal Roach cast her as a cave girl in One Million B.C. . [2] The movie was a sensation and turned Landis into a star. A press agent nicknamed her "The Ping Girl" (an awkward contraction of "purring"). [3]

<i>A Star Is Born</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by William A. Wellman

A Star Is Born is a 1937 American Technicolor romantic drama film produced by David O. Selznick, directed by William A. Wellman from a script by Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell, and starring Janet Gaynor as an aspiring Hollywood actress, and Fredric March as a fading movie star who helps launch her career. The supporting cast features Adolphe Menjou, May Robson, Andy Devine, Lionel Stander, and Owen Moore.

A horse opera, hoss opera, or oater is a Western movie or television series that is clichéd or formulaic. The term, which was originally coined by silent film-era Western star William S. Hart, is used variously to convey either disparagement or affection. The name "horse opera" was also derived in part from the musical sequences frequently featured in these films and TV series which depicted a cowboy singing to his horse on-screen. The term "horse opera" is quite loosely defined; it does not specify a distinct subgenre of the Western.

Hal Roach Film producer

Harold Eugene Roach Sr. was an American film and television producer, director, and actor who was active from the 1910s to the 1990s. He is best known today for producing the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang film comedy series.

Landis appeared in a string of successful films in the early 1940s, usually as the second female lead. In a time when the singing of many actresses was dubbed in, Landis's own voice was considered good enough and was used in her few musical roles. Landis landed a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox and began a sexual relationship with Darryl F. Zanuck. She had roles playing opposite fellow pin-up girl Betty Grable in Moon Over Miami and I Wake Up Screaming , both in 1941. When Landis ended her relationship with Zanuck, her career suffered and she was assigned roles in B-movies.

Darryl F. Zanuck American film producer

Darryl Francis Zanuck was an American film producer and studio executive; he earlier contributed stories for films starting in the silent era. He played a major part in the Hollywood studio system as one of its longest survivors. He earned three Academy Awards as producer for Best Picture during his tenure, but was responsible for many more.

Betty Grable American actress, pin-up girl, dancer, model, and singer

Elizabeth Ruth Grable was an American actress, pin-up girl, dancer, model, and singer. Her 42 films during the 1930s and 1940s grossed more than $100 million, and she set a record of 12 consecutive years in the top 10 of box office stars. The U.S. Treasury Department in 1946 and 1947 listed her as the highest-salaried American woman; she earned more than $3 million during her career.

<i>Moon Over Miami</i> (film) 1941 film by Walter Lang

Moon Over Miami is a 1941 Technicolor musical film directed by Walter Lang, with Betty Grable and Don Ameche in leading roles and co-starring Robert Cummings, Carole Landis, Jack Haley, and Charlotte Greenwood. It was one of Haley's last appearances in a major, large-budgeted film; after 1943, he made mostly B-pictures. The film's original songs were written by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger.

Her final two films Noose and The Brass Monkey were both made in Great Britain.

USO Tours

In 1942, she toured with comedian Martha Raye, dancer Mitzi Mayfair and actress Kay Francis with a USO troupe in England and North Africa. Two years later, she entertained soldiers in the South Pacific with Jack Benny. Landis traveled more than 100,000 miles during the war and spent more time visiting troops than any other actress. Landis became a popular pin-up with servicemen during World War II.


In 1945 she starred on Broadway in the musical A Lady Says Yes, with future novelist Jacqueline Susann in a small role. Susann is said to have based the character of Jennifer North in part on Landis in her best-selling novel, Valley of the Dolls .


Landis wrote several newspaper and magazine articles about her experiences during the war, including the 1944 book Four Jills in a Jeep , which was later made into a movie, costarring Kay Francis, Martha Raye, and Mitzi Mayfair. She also wrote the foreword to Victor Herman's cartoon book Winnie the WAC.

Personal life

Landis was married four times and had no children (she was unable to conceive due to endometriosis). [3] In January 1934, 15-year-old Landis married her first husband, 19-year-old Irving Wheeler. Her mother had the marriage annulled in February 1934. Landis convinced her father Alfred Ridste (who had left the family shortly after Landis was born and who, by coincidence, lived near the family in San Bernardino) to allow her to remarry Wheeler. He finally relented, and the two were remarried on August 25, 1934. After three weeks of marriage, Landis and Wheeler got into an argument and Landis walked out. Neither filed for divorce and Landis began pursuing an acting career. [10] In 1938, Wheeler reappeared and filed a $250,000 alienation of affections lawsuit against director and choreographer Busby Berkeley. Even though Landis and Wheeler were estranged, he claimed that Berkeley had enticed and otherwise persuaded Landis to transfer her affections. Landis maintained that she had not seen Wheeler in years and heard from him only the previous year when he claimed to want a divorce. [11] Wheeler's lawsuit was later dismissed, and Landis and Wheeler were divorced in 1939. [12] In June 1939, Berkeley proposed to Landis, but later broke it off. On July 4, 1940, she married yacht broker Willis Hunt, Jr. in Las Vegas. [13] Landis left Hunt after two months of marriage. [3] They were divorced in November 1940. [14]

While touring Army camps in London in 1942, she met United States Army Air Forces Captain Thomas Wallace. [15] They were married in January 1943 but separated in May 1945. [16] They divorced in July 1945. [15]

On December 8, 1945, Landis married Broadway producer W. Horace Schmidlapp. [17] They separated in 1947 and Landis filed for divorce in May 1948 charging Schmidlapp with "extreme mental cruelty". [2] [18] During her separation from Schmidlapp, Landis entered into a romance with actor Rex Harrison, who was then married to actress Lilli Palmer. The affair became an open secret in Hollywood. [19] After Landis' death however, Harrison downplayed their relationship and publicly claimed that she was merely a close friend of his and Palmer. [20]


Grave of Carole Landis at Forest Lawn Glendale Carole Landis Grave.JPG
Grave of Carole Landis at Forest Lawn Glendale

Landis was reportedly crushed when Harrison refused to divorce his wife for her; unable to cope any longer, she committed suicide in her Pacific Palisades home at 1465 Capri Drive by taking an overdose of Seconal. [21] [22] Harrison was the last person to see her alive, having had dinner with Landis the night before she committed suicide. [23]

The next afternoon, Harrison and Landis' maid discovered her on the bathroom floor. Harrison waited several hours before he called a doctor and the police. [24] According to some sources, Landis left two suicide notes, one for her mother and the second for Harrison who instructed his lawyers to destroy it. [25] During a coroner's inquest, Harrison denied knowing any motive for her suicide and told the coroner he did not know of the existence of a second suicide note. [26] Landis' official web site, which is owned by her family, has questioned the events of Landis' death and the coroner's ruling of suicide. [27] She is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, in plot 814 of the "Everlasting Love" section. Among the celebrities at her funeral were Cesar Romero, Van Johnson, and Pat O'Brien. [28] Harrison attended with his wife. [3]

Landis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, [29] at 1765 Vine Street.


1937 The King and the Chorus Girl ChorineUncredited
1937 A Star Is Born Girl in beret at Santa Anita barUncredited
1937 A Day at the Races Dance Extra
1937 Fly Away Baby Blonde at airport
1937 The Emperor's Candlesticks Bit part
1937 Broadway Melody of 1938 Dancer
1937 Varsity Show Student
1937Alcatraz IslandUncredited
1937 Over the Goal Co-edUncredited
1937 The Adventurous Blonde Uncredited
1937 Hollywood Hotel Hat check girl with coat
1938 The Invisible Menace Woman waiting to go with her Johnnie
1938 Blondes at Work Carol
1938 A Slight Case of Murder Partygoer leaning on piano during song
1938Love, Honor and BehaveWheel watcher at partyUncredited
1938Over the WallPeggy, girl at beachUncredited
1938Women Are Like ThatCocktail party guestUncredited
1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood Guest at banquetUncredited
1938 Gold Diggers in Paris GolddiggerAlternative title: The Gay Impostors
1938Men Are Such FoolsJune Cooper
1938When You Were BornShip passengerUncredited
1938Penrod's Double TroubleGirl at fairUncredited
1938 Four's a Crowd Myrtle, Lansford's 2nd Secretary
1938Boy Meets GirlCommissary cashierUncredited
1939 Three Texas Steers Nancy EvansAlternative title: Danger Rides the Range
1939 Daredevils of the Red Circle Blanche Granville
1939 Cowboys from Texas June Jones
1939RenoMrs. HumphreyUncredited
1940 One Million B.C. Loana
1940 Turnabout Sally Willows
1940 Mystery Sea Raider June McCarthy
1941Road ShowPenguin Moore
1941 Topper Returns Ann Carrington
1941 Moon Over Miami Barbara Latimer, aka Miss Sears
1941 Dance Hall Lily Brown
1941 I Wake Up Screaming Vicky LynnAlternative title: Hot Spot
1941 Cadet Girl Gene Baxter
1942 A Gentleman at Heart Helen Mason
1942 My Gal Sal Mae Collins
1942 It Happened in Flatbush Kathryn Baker
1942 Orchestra Wives Natalie Mercer
1942 Manila Calling Edna Fraser
1943The Powers GirlKay Evans
1943 Wintertime Flossie Fouchere
1943 Show Business at War Herself
1944 Secret Command Jill McGann
1944 Four Jills in a Jeep Herself
1945 Having Wonderful Crime Helene Justus
1946 Behind Green Lights Janet Bradley
1946 A Scandal in Paris Loretta de RichetAlternative title: Thieves' Holiday
1946 It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog Julia Andrews
1947 Out of the Blue Mae Earthleigh
1948 Noose Linda MedburyAlternative title: The Silk Noose
1948 The Brass Monkey Kay SheldonAlternative title: Lucky Mascot

Radio appearances

1938Warner Brothers Academy Theater Special Agent [30]

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  1. "Metonymy". Life. Time Inc. 18 (8): 115. February 19, 1945. ISSN   0024-3019.
  2. 1 2 3 "Carole Landis, State Film Star, Takes Own Life". The Rhinelander Daily News. July 6, 1948. p. 1. Retrieved July 22, 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Casually in Hollywood". Time . July 19, 1948. Retrieved December 19, 2009.
  4. Gans, Eric Lawrence. Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 205. ISBN   1-604-73013-7.
  5. Fleming, E.J. Fleming (2005). Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood. McFarland. pp. 7–8. ISBN   0-786-48265-6.
  6. ( Fleming, 2005 & p 8 )
  7. ( Fleming, 2005 & pp 10, 12 )
  8. ( Fleming, 2005 & pp 14 )
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  10. ( Fleming, 2005 & pp 11-12 )
  11. Spivak, Jeffrey (2011). Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley. University Press of Kentucky. p. 158. ISBN   0-813-12643-6.
  12. Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Music Sales Group. p. 399. ISBN   0-711-99512-5.
  13. "Carole Landis Marries Again". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida'. July 5, 1940. p. 9. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  14. "Now She's Legally Carole Landis". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida'. April 24, 1942. p. 1. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  15. 1 2 "Divorce Granted to Carole Landis". The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. July 20, 1945. p. 19. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  16. "Divorce for Carole". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Daytona Beach, Florida. May 4, 1945. p. 10. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  17. ( Donnelly 2003 , p. 400)
  18. "Carole Landis Sues Fourth Husband For Divorce". Lewiston Evening Journal. Lewiston, Maine. March 23, 1948. p. 9. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  19. ( Fleming, 2005 & pp 217, 218 )
  20. Morgan, Michelle (2013). The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals. Running Press. pp. 253–254. ISBN   0-762-44946-2.
  21. Parish, James Robert (2002). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols (3 ed.). Contemporary Books. p. 315. ISBN   0-8092-2227-2.
  22. Gans, Eric Lawrence (2008). "The Good Die Young (1948)". Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 197–199. ISBN   978-1-60473-013-5 . Retrieved June 13, 2009.
  23. Petrucelli, Alan J. (2009). Morbid Curiosity: The Disturbing Demises of the Famous and Infamous. Penguin. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  24. Mosby, Aline (July 6, 1948). "Carole Landis Mystery Death Clues Hunted". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
  25. Gans, Eric Lawrence (2008). Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 190. ISBN   1-60473-013-7.
  26. Actor Rex Harrison answering questions from coroner Ira Nance at inquiry on Carol Landis' suicide Archived July 28, 2012, at , a July 1948 Los Angeles Times photograph from the UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library website
  27. Powell, Tammy. "Was Carole Murdered?". carolelandisofficial. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  28. Mosby, Aline (July 11, 1948). "Scores Attend Funeral of Carole Landis". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
  29. Carole Landis [ permanent dead link ] from the Hollywood Walk of Fame website
  30. "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013.