1919 - 1948
Actress Carole Landis, who became one of Hollywood’s victims, died of a drug overdose on July 5, 1948. She was 29.
Landis was born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste on January 1, 1919 in Fairchild, Wisconsin. She displayed a flair for singing and dancing at age seven when she won an amateur talent show.
Her good looks resulted in beauty pageant trophies. At the same time, she was a sports enthusiast. She raised the ire of her high school principal when she helped organize a girls’ football team. The team was disbanded by the administration.
At 15 she married a man by the name of Irving Wheeler. Their marriage was annulled because of her age, but they later re-married and moved to California.
In San Francisco, Landis landed a job as lead singer and hula dancer at the Royal Hawaiian Club. A Warner Brothers talent scout signed her to a movie contract in 1937, and she began to get small roles in such films as A Star is Born, Hollywood Hotel and The Emperor’s Candlesticks.
Two years later she was divorced from Wheeler, and her film career seemed to be going nowhere. But in 1940, producer Hal Roach signed her to do a movie called One Million B.C. The movie showcased her beauty and athletic ability.
Landis became a staple of the B movie circuit, low budget films that did not get the publicity of the movies starring established performers. She made several movies during the early 1940’s, many of them comedies such as Turnabout, Road Show and Topper Returns.
She finally got some good notices in 1941’s I Wake Up Screaming and 1942’s Orchestra Wives and My Gal Sal.
Landis became a favorite USO performer during the World War II years, joining Martha Raye, Kay Francis and Mitzi Mayfair in a tour of Britain. She wrote a book on the tour called Four Jills in a Jeep. It was made into a film short.
Back in America, she became a big fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
And while she was having mediocre success with her movie career, her personal life suffered. She was married and divorced three more times in the mid 1940’s.
Landis’ film contract with 20th Century Fox was terminated, and her final two films were released in 1948, both low budget films. The number of films she had appeared in to this point was 49.
On July 5, 1948, the body of Carole Landis was found in her Brentwood Heights, California home. She had taken her own life with an overdose of Seconal.