Veronica Lake was a film sensation in the 1940s, but today, she is hardly a household name. The so-called "Veronica Lake waves" spawned the birth of a popular hairstyle in the United States and she starred in some major films that were a hit at the box office. But just as Lake's star began to rise, it sank. What happened to Veronica Lake? Mental health and addiction issues led to the decline of her career. Once the latest Hollywood "It Girl," Lake died alone and broke at 50.
Lake's life is a Hollywood tragedy. While beautiful and captivating on screen, Lake's personal life was filled with trouble. She was divorced four times, struggled with schizophrenia, and lost a child in a tragic accident. These and many other factors led her to fall out of favor in Hollywood. The story of this forgotten star is a fascinating reminder of the fleeting nature of fame.
- Photo: The Hour Before the Dawn / Paramount Pictures
An On-Set Accident Led To The Loss Of Her Baby
Lake suffered a tragedy during her film career. During the filming of the 1944 film The Hour Before the Dawn, a pregnant Lake tripped over a cable. She quickly began to hemorrhage and was rushed to the hospital. The baby was delivered alive, but only survived for a week.
Her Ashes Ended Up On Display In A Curiosity Shop
Sadly, Lake passed alienated from many friends and family members. Lake's ashes ended up being stored in a Virginia funeral home and were not displayed during her poorly attended funeral. Stories vary, but Lake’s ghostwriter, Donald Bain, allegedly had Lake’s ashes mailed to his apartment in New York City. He then claimed to have given the ashes to William Roos, a friend of Lake’s. Roos said he would scatter the ashes in Miami.
An off-Broadway producer was captivated by the urn containing the ashes when he visited Roos. Roos ended up mailing the producer Lake’s ashes rather than the urn. It’s unclear what Roos’s motivations were, but it’s possible it was some kind of misunderstanding. The ashes eventually ended up on display in an antique store in the Catskills, New York.
She Suffered From Schizophrenia
Veronica Lake’s life was not easy. One of the reasons for her on-set difficulties and tumultuous personal life was a mental health diagnosis she received early in life. Lake was diagnosed with schizophrenia in childhood. Lake would struggle with the illness throughout her life and career. She displayed symptoms such as auditory hallucinations, paranoia, muddled thinking, and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships.
- Photo: Sullivan's Travels / Paramount Pictures
She Was Reportedly Difficult To Work With
A big contributing factor to Lake’s decline was her behavior on set. She developed a reputation as being difficult to work with, making directors hesitant to cast her. She earned the nickname "The B*tch" for her actions. Her Sullivan’s Travels costar Joel McCrae turned down an offer for a role alongside Lake in I Married A Witch. He was quoted as saying, “Life’s too short for two films with Veronica Lake.”
She Developed Acute Paranoia Before Her Death
Lake became increasingly paranoid as she grew older. She was living in Hollywood, Florida and had become reclusive. She told a friend that she believed the FBI was tapping her phone. She eventually moved back to New York, but was quickly transferred to a Vermont hospital due to acute hepatitis brought on by years of alcoholism.
Doctors did not expect her to live long. She spent her final days signing autographs for nurses and actually seemed relatively optimistic during her final days. She eventually passed away due to kidney failure on July 7th, 1973.
Her Unique Hairstyle Was A '40s Fad
Lake sported a unique hairstyle during her career. She kept her long and thick hair brushed over her right eye. The look caught on and was so popular it became a safety concern during World War II. Government officials requested Lake change her look, as they feared the impaired vision could potentially cause accidents in assembly line workers.
The look was actually an accident. During a rehearsal of one of her first films, her hair happened to fall across her face. Lake and directors liked the look, so it stuck and quickly became a fad across the United States.