Comet Over Hollywood. Please visit Comet Over Hollywood for a complete list of contributors and subjects. Thanks to the blogathon I've read some very interesting and informative posts over the past 24 hours.
I've always been fond of actress Carole Landis, who starred in three of my favorite 20th Century-Fox films of the early '40s. Landis was a beautiful, talented woman who was also a patriot who worked tirelessly visiting troops around the world during World War II. Carole seemed to "have it all," and yet by the age of 29 she was dead, an apparent suicide.
Carole's Hollywood career began with bit roles in "A" films such as FOUR'S A CROWD (1938) and GOLD DIGGERS IN PARIS (1938), and she played leading roles in "B" films such as the early John Wayne Western THREE TEXAS STEERS (1939). Her career moved into high gear with ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1940), opposite Victor Mature, and it seemed as though perhaps major stardom would be hers.
Carole subsequently played major supporting roles in a pair of Betty Grable films which were as good as they were different. MOON OVER MIAMI (1941) was a colorful musical with the two women hunting for rich husbands at a resort, a tried-and-true story which Fox remade many times. In I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941), sometimes credited as the first film noir, Carole played Grable's sister, who wants wealth and glamour but comes to a bad end. Carole was reunited with her ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. costar Victor Mature in this film.
Landis had another supporting role in ORCHESTRA WIVES (1942), a highly diverting musical starring George Montgomery, Ann Rutherford, and Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. (A sad side note: one of Landis's costars in the film, Cesar Romero, would later serve as a pallbearer at her funeral.)
1942's films also included the so-so IT HAPPENED IN FLATBUSH, a baseball story costarring Lloyd Nolan, and MY GAL SAL, a Technicolor film starring Rita Hayworth and (once again) Victor Mature.
During this period Landis was busy with another project which she found very rewarding, touring military bases in the United States and around the world. Her most notable effort in this regard was the "Four Jills" tour undertaken along with Kay Francis, Martha Raye, and Mitzi Mayfair; the tour, which lasted from October 1942 to March 1943, included two months in North Africa under dangerous conditions. It provided the basis for a book by Carole and the subsequent film FOUR JILLS IN A JEEP (1944), in which the title actresses played themselves.
Landis continued to act steadily -- perhaps her most notable later credit was Douglas Sirk's A SCANDAL IN PARIS (1946) -- but her career never really fired on all cylinders.
Tragically, Carole overdosed on Seconal on July 5, 1948. Her body was found by Rex Harrison, with whom she was engaged in an unhappy love affair. Carole also suffered from chronic illness, having contracted amoebic dysentery during one of her WWII tours, and it appears she feared aging. Our blogathon hostess, Jessica, wrote a thoughtful post on Carole's death last summer.
For more information on the life of Carole Landis, I highly recommend reading CAROLE LANDIS: A MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL by UCLA professor Eric Gans. Gans treats Landis's life in a thorough, non-sensational manner, providing as much insight as possible into Carole's too-short life and career. The book, which was published in 2008 by the University Press of Mississippi, is 282 pages, including nearly 30 pages of exhaustive footnotes and a lengthy bibliography.
Update: I've now posted a second post in the Gone Too Soon blogathon, on tragic actress Gail Russell.