World War II, one of the most tireless Hollywood entertainers
on the circuit was Carole Landis. A contract player for Twentieth
Century Fox, she was dubbed with the name, "The Ping
Girl" in the early 1940's. Although Carole had contracts
with both Warner and Fox, she was never able to capture a
lead role that would propel her to true Hollywood stardom.
Lillian Mary Ridste was born on New Years Day, 1919 in Fairchild,
Wisconsin. Her father deserted the family when Frances was
quite young and her mother moved her and her siblings to California.
Born with a natural beauty, young Frances won many beauty
contests before trying to make a break in Hollywood. Her beauty
was never taken for granted however, and even as a girl had
more feminist leanings. She was very interested in sports
and even tried to start and all-girl football team while still
she completed high school, Frances and her husband, Irving
Wheeler went to San Francisco so that she could take a job
as a nightclub dancer and band singer. Using the self-coined
stage name of Carole Landis, her naturally warm and rich vocals
paired with her stunning looks enabled her to land extra parts
in Hollywood. In 1937, she won a contract with Warner Brother's,
but she was only given bit parts in well known films such
as A Star is Born, A Day At The Races and The
Broadway Melody of 1938. This trend continued throughout
1939, until she was approached by Hal Roach to appear in the
lead of his 1940 cavemen epic, One Million B.C. Carole
was chosen for the part because of her athletic abilities.
It was also at this time that her nickname of "The Ping
Girl" was coined by Frank Seltzer, a publicist for Roach.
Apparently it was short for "purring" and Carole
protested strongly and publicly against it; a two-page article
of her protest appeared in Life magazine.
career seemed to be on a definite upswing and Carole was given
a contract to Twentieth Century Fox. There she was featured
in a host of films, frequently as a second female lead. She
appeared in two films with Betty
Grable, Moon Over Miami and I Wake Up Screaming and as
the second female character in the Rita
Hayworth film, My Gal Sal. She spent much of 1943 entertaining
troops overseas and her tireless devotion rendered her weak
from amoebic dysentery, malaria, and near-fatal pneumonia.
It was during her time entertaining the troops that she wrote
a book of her experiences entitled, "Four Jills In A
Jeep, The Rolliking Adventures Of Four Hollywood Stars Who
Entertained The Troops In Bermuda, England, & Africa,"
which was later made in the 1944 film, Four Fills In A Jeep,
which Carole starred alongside Martha Raye, Mitzi Mayfair
and Kay Francis, along with a host of other performers such
as Carmen Miranda and
Betty Grable. Critics
unfairly dismissed the film as being "self-praise."
Within only two years, and three more films, Fox dropped her
contract. Her professional and personal lives seemed to be
in a tailspin. Her flailing fourth marriage to Horace Schmidlapp,
her illnesses and her lack of a contract made Carole's future
prospects very grim. She was rendered to playing in B films
such as Out of the Blue, noose and Brass Monkey.
July 5, 1948, Carole Landis was found dead in her Brentwood
Hills home, a victim of a sleeping pill overdose. The previous
evening, she had dined with Rex Harrison, whom she'd been
having an affair. Apparently, with the impending end of her
affair with Harrison, Carole took her own life. A gorgeous
woman, talented actress and wonderful songstress, Carole Landis
was dead at the age of 29.
biography ©Dawn Marie, bombshells.com, 2002