Carole Landis

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Carole Landis
Carole Landis in Topper Returns.jpg
in Topper Returns (1941)
Birth name Frances Lillian Mary Ridste
Born January 1, 1919
Fairchild, Wisconsin USA Flag of USA.png
Died July 5, 1948, age 29
Pacific Palisades, CA USA Flag of USA.png

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Early life and family

Carole Landis was born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste in Fairchild, Wisconsin to a Norwegian father, Alfred Ridste, and Polish mother, Clara Stentek Ridste. Her father abandoned the family before Carole was born. It would later be revealed by author E. J. Fleming that Alfred Ridste may not have been Carole's biological father. Her real father was most likely Charles Fenner, Clara Ridste's second husband. Carole was the youngest of five children, though two of her brothers died in childhood (Jerome was burned by scalding water and Lewis was accidentally shot). She had an unhappy childhood filled with poverty and sexual abuse. A feminist at an early age she tried to form an all-female football team in high school. She blossomed into a stunning teenager and began winning local beauty contests. Landis married a neighbor named Irving Wheeler in January 1934 but this marriage was annulled in February 1934 (they later remarried on 25 August 1934, but divorced in 1939). She quit high school at age fifteen and set herself on a path towards a career in show business.

Early career

She worked as a nightclub singer and a hula dancer in San Francisco before her 1937 film debut as an extra in A Star Is Born. Throughout her career she would be plagued by rumors that she had worked as a prostitute but these rumors were false. She dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to "Carole Landis" after her favorite actress, Carole Lombard. Carole landed a contract with Warner Brothers and had a high profile engagement to choreographer Busby Berkeley. She continued appearing in bit parts until 1940 when Hal Roach cast her as a cave girl in One Million B.C. The film was a sensation and Carole became a star as she frolicked about in skimpy costumes, revealing her ample bosom and superb figure. She was nicknamed "The Ping Girl" and "The Chest" due to her impressive 37 DD inch bust. Carole's trademark was a gold cross she always wore around her neck. The cross had been a gift from her friend Diana Lewis. She would later be buried wearing it.


Carole Landis at Armed Forces Radio Studio c.1940s

Tall, lean, glamorous and with a strong singing voice, Landis appeared in a string of films in the early forties, usually as the second female lead. In a time when many actresses were dubbed in their singing roles, Landis' own voice was considered good enough and was used in her few musical roles. Carole landed a contract with 20th Century Fox and began a sexual relationship with Darryl F. Zanuck. Her second marriage, to Willis Hunt Jr. lasted just four months. Carole's many boyfriends included Franchot Tone, Charlie Chaplin, and George Montgomery.

She had two roles playing opposite fellow pin-up girl Betty Grable in Moon Over Miami and I Wake Up Screaming both 1941. Landis became a popular pin-up with servicemen during World War II. She toured with comedienne Martha Raye, dancer Mitzi Mayfair, and actress Kay Francis with a United Service Organizations (USO) troupe in England and North Africa, which became the basis for the book and film titled Four Jills and a Jeep. Carole would spend more times visiting troops than any other actress and nearly died from amoebic dysentery and malaria she contracted while traveling overseas. She married an Air Force captain named Thomas Wallace in 1943 but this marriage also ended in divorce.

Besides being an actress, Landis was also an accomplished author. She penned several newspaper and magazine articles about her experiences during World War II. She also wrote the 1944 book Four Jills In A Jeep which was later made into a movie. She also wrote the forward to Victor Herman's cartoon book Winnie The Wac. In 1945, she starred on Broadway in the musical A Lady Says Yes and began a romantic relationship with her female costar Jacqueline Susann. Jacqueline would base the character of Jennifer North in her book Valley of the Dolls on Carole. In 1945 Carole married Broadway producer W. Horace Schmidlapp. She desperately wanted to become a mother but according to numerous biographies she suffered from endometriosis and was unable to have children.

Depression and death

Carole was plagued by depression her entire life and attempted suicide in 1944 and 1946. By 1948 her career was fading and her marriage with Schmidlapp was failing. She entered into a romance with actor Rex Harrison who was at the time married to actress Lilli Palmer. Landis was reported to be crushed when Harrison refused to divorce his wife in her favor and unable to cope any longer, she committed suicide at Pacific Palisades, California, by taking an overdose of Seconal. Her final night alive had been spent with Harrison and it was Harrison who found her body the next morning. She was 29 1/2 years old.

After Carole's death there were rumors she was pregnant with Rex Harrison's child however her autopsy showed that she suffered from endometriosis and was unable to get pregnant. Carole's mother, Clara Ridste Fenner, and her sister, Dorothy Ross, never believed that Carole committed suicide. They tried for years to prove that Rex Harrison was responsible for her death but could not find enough evidence.

Carole Landis was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California in plot 814 of the "Everlasting Love" section. Among the celebrities at her funeral were Cesar Romero and Pat O'Brien

Pin-up Gallery



Carole Landis at the Internet Movie Database

  • A Star Is Born (1937)
  • A Day at the Races (1937)
  • Fly Away Baby (1937)
  • The Emperor's Candlesticks (1937)
  • Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937)
  • Varsity Show (1937)
  • Alcatraz Island (1937)
  • Hollywood Hotel (1937)
  • The Invisible Menace (1938)
  • Blondes at Work (1938)
  • A Slight Case of Murder (1938)
  • Love, Honor and Behave (1938)
  • Over the Wall (1938)
  • Women Are Like That (1938)
  • Gold Diggers in Paris (1938)
  • When Were You Born (1938)
  • Men Are Such Fools (1938)
  • Four's a Crowd (1938)
  • Penrod's Double Trouble (1938)
  • Boy Meets Girl (1938)
  • Girls on Probation (1938)
  • Three Texas Steers (1939)
  • Daredevils of the Red Circle (1939)
  • Cowboys from Texas (1939)
  • Reno (1939)
  • One Million B.C. (1940)
  • Turnabout (1940)
  • Mystery Sea Raider (1940)
  • Road Show (1941)
  • Topper Returns (1941)
  • Meet the Stars #5: Hollywood Meets the Navy (1941) (short subject)
  • Moon Over Miami (1941)
  • Dance Hall (1941)
  • I Wake Up Screaming (1941)
  • Cadet Girl (1941)
  • Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 2 (1941) (short subject)
  • A Gentleman at Heart (1942)
  • My Gal Sal (1942)
  • It Happened in Flatbush (1942)
  • Orchestra Wives (1942)
  • Manila Calling (1942)
  • The Powers Girl (1943)
  • Show Business at War (1943) (short subject)
  • Wintertime (1943)
  • Four Jills in a Jeep (1944)
  • Secret Command (1944)
  • Having Wonderful Crime (1945)
  • Behind Green Lights (1946)
  • A Scandal in Paris (1946)
  • It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog (1946)
  • Out of the Blue (1947)
  • Brass Monkey (1948)
  • Noose (1948)


She was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Motion Pictures, at 1765 Vine St.


  • E.J. Fleming, Carole Landis: A Tragic Life In Hollywood, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005)

External links


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