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.
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.
Her Funeral Was Poorly Attended
Lake's funeral was only sparsely attended. None of her four ex-husbands showed up to the service. Her second husband, Andre de Toth, was particularly hostile. Lake’s son, Michael, requested money from de Toth for Lake’s cremation. De Toth refused and responded with a series of obscenities. Michael had to take out a loan to go to Vermont and claim Lake’s body, and her ashes remained at the funeral home for two years before a friend (and Lake's ghostwriter) paid $200 to obtain them.
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
She Landed Her Breakout Role In 'I Wanted Wings'
Lake’s breakout role came with I Wanted Wings, a 1941 drama about romances between Air Corps recruits. Lake’s interesting look and performance caught the attention of director Preston Sturges. This led to Lake being hired in a series of successful films and changing her name to Veronica Lake. These subsequent roles secured Lake’s place as a new Hollywood star.