Carole Landis

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

(1919-01-01)January 1, 1919
Died July 5, 1948(1948-07-05) (aged 29)
Cause of death Suicide by barbiturate overdose
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Other names The Ping Girl
Education San Bernardino High School
Occupation Actress, Singer
Years active 1937–1948
    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. 1945⁠–⁠1948)

            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]

            Early life

            Landis was born on January 1, 1919, in Fairchild, Wisconsin, the youngest of five children of Clara (née Sentek), a Polish farmer's daughter, and Norwegian-American Alfred Ridste, a drifting railroad mechanic who abandoned the family after Landis' birth.[2][3][4] 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.[5]

            In 1923, Landis' family moved to San Bernardino, California. Landis' mother worked menial jobs to support the family.[6] At the age of 15, Landis dropped out of San Bernardino High School and set forth on a career path to show business.[7] 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;[8] 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.[2]


            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.[2] She posed for hundreds of cheesecake photographs.[2] She continued appearing in bit parts until 1940 when Hal Roach cast her as a cave girl in One Million B.C..[9] The movie was a sensation and turned Landis into a star. A press agent nicknamed her "The Ping Girl" (an awkward contraction of "purring").[2]

            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.

            Her final two films Noose and 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, from her best-selling novel, Valley of the Dolls, in part on Landis.


            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).[2] 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.[2] 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".[9][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

            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 website, 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.[2]

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


            Year Title Role Notes
            1937 The King and the Chorus Girl Chorine Uncredited
            1937 A Star Is Born Girl in beret at Santa Anita bar Uncredited
            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
            1937 Alcatraz Island Uncredited
            1937 Over the Goal Co-ed Uncredited
            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
            1938 Love, Honor and Behave Wheel watcher at party Uncredited
            1938 Over the Wall Peggy, girl at beach Uncredited
            1938 Women Are Like That Cocktail party guest Uncredited
            1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood Guest at banquet Uncredited
            1938 Gold Diggers in Paris Golddigger Alternative title: The Gay Impostors
            1938 Men Are Such Fools June Cooper
            1938 When You Were Born Ship passenger Uncredited
            1938 Penrod's Double Trouble Girl at fair Uncredited
            1938 Four's a Crowd Myrtle, Lansford's 2nd Secretary
            1938 Boy Meets Girl Commissary cashier Uncredited
            1939 Three Texas Steers Nancy Evans Alternative title: Danger Rides the Range
            1939 Daredevils of the Red Circle Blanche Granville
            1939 Cowboys from Texas June Jones
            1939 Reno Mrs. Humphrey Uncredited
            1940 One Million B.C. Loana
            1940 Turnabout Sally Willows
            1940 Mystery Sea Raider June McCarthy
            1941 Road Show Penguin 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 Lynn Alternative 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
            1943 The Powers Girl Kay 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 Richet Alternative title: Thieves' Holiday
            1946 It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog Julia Andrews
            1947 Out of the Blue Mae Earthleigh
            1948 Noose Linda Medbury Alternative title: The Silk Noose
            1948 Brass Monkey Kay Sheldon Alternative title: Lucky Mascot

            Radio appearances

            Year Program Episode/source
            1938 Warner Brothers Academy Theater Special Agent[30]
            1942 Command Performance June 11


            1. ^ "Metonymy". Life. Time Inc. 18 (8): 115. February 19, 1945. ISSN 0024-3019.
            2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Casually in Hollywood". Time. July 19, 1948. Retrieved December 19, 2009.
            3. ^ Gans, Eric Lawrence. Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 205. ISBN 1-604-73013-7.
            4. ^ Fleming, E.J. Fleming (2005). Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood. McFarland. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-786-48265-6.
            5. ^ (Fleming, 2005 & p 8)
            6. ^ (Fleming, 2005 & pp 10, 12)
            7. ^ (Fleming, 2005 & pp 14)
            8. ^ Caen, Herb (1950). Baghdad: 1951. Doubleday & Company, Inc. p. 40.
            9. ^ a b "Carole Landis, State Film Star, Takes Own Life". The Rhinelander Daily News. July 6, 1948. p. 1. Retrieved July 22, 2016 – via open access
            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. ^ a b "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.

            Further reading

            • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Carole Landis". The Name Below the Title: 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 146–150. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

            External links