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.
Lake suffered a tragedy during her early film career. During the filming of the 1944 film The Hour Before 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.
Sadly, Lake died 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 ghost writer, 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 then 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.
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.
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 Bitch" for her actions. Her Sullivan’s Travel 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.”