Rhonda Fleming, film star of ‘40s and ‘50s, dies at 97

LOS ANGELES — Actress Rhonda Fleming, the fiery redhead who seemed with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan and different movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s, has died. She was once 97.

Fleming’s assistant Carla Sapon informed The New York Instances that Fleming died Wednesday in Santa Monica, California.

From her first movie in colour, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court docket ” (1949) with Bing Crosby, Fleming changed into immensely well liked by manufacturers as a result of her vibrant hues. It was once an appeal she would later remorseful about.

“All at once my inexperienced eyes had been inexperienced. My purple hair was once flaming purple. My pores and skin was once porcelain white,” Fleming remarked in a 1990 interview. “There was once all of sudden all this consideration on how I regarded slightly than the jobs I used to be taking part in.

“I’d been painted right into a nook via the studios, who by no means sought after extra from me than my having a look just right and waltzing thru a parade of movies like ‘The Redhead and the Cowboy.’ ”

Ahead of Reagan entered politics, the actress co-starred with him in “Hong Kong,” “Tropic Zone,” “The Ultimate Outpost” and “Tennessee’s Spouse.”

“He shocked everybody as a result of he by no means regarded in a replicate,” she as soon as mentioned of Reagan. “What number of actors are you able to say that about?”

Fleming possessed a wonderful making a song voice, and later in her occupation sang onstage in Las Vegas and in a traveling act.

Within the big-studio technology, many new personalities had been publicized as having been found out in quirky tactics: Kim Novak whilst using a bicycle previous an agent’s place of work, Lana Turner noticed in a malt store.

In Fleming’s case, younger Marilyn Louis was once reported to were headed to magnificence at Beverly Hills Prime Faculty when a person adopted her in a large black automotive and informed her, “You wish to be in photos.” She eluded him, however he grew to become up at her house and introduced to be her agent.

Legend or no longer, at 19 Louis was once awarded a six-month contract on the studio of David O. Selznick and a brand new title: Rhonda Fleming. She performed a bit of phase within the 1944 wartime drama “Since You Went Away,” after which Alfred Hitchcock selected her to play a nymphomaniac in “Spellbound,” starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.

“I rushed house, and my mom and I regarded up ‘nymphomaniac’ within the dictionary,” she recalled. “We had been each surprised.”

“Spellbound” resulted in every other suspense movie, “The Spiral Staircase,” during which she was once strangled via the villain, George Brent. With Selznick concentrating at the occupation of his spouse, Jennifer Jones, he misplaced hobby in his contract avid gamers, and Fleming left the studio to freelance.

Her subsequent motion pictures: “Abilene The town,” a Randolph Scott Western; “Out of the Previous,” a movie noir with Robert Mitchum; and “Journey Island,” a tropics mystery starring Rory Calhoun.

She gained a job in “A Connecticut Yankee,” a Crosby musical according to the Mark Twain tale, after Deanna Durbin dropped out to retire to France. Crosby was once so inspired that he beneficial her to Bob Hope, with whom she starred in “The Nice Lover.”

Satirically, the Crosby/Hope motion pictures that established her as a luminary proved to be ones she was once by no means in a position to most sensible. She remained a celeb for 15 years, however with the exception of for the Lancaster-Douglas “Gunfight on the OK Corral,” maximum of her performances got here in B photos that exploited her seems.

“I made the error of doing lesser motion pictures for just right cash,” she mirrored in a 1976 interview. “I used to be sizzling — all of them sought after me — however I didn’t have the steerage or background to pass judgement on for myself.”

Amongst her 1950s motion pictures had been “Whilst the Town Sleeps,” directed via Fritz Lang and co-starring Dana Andrews. She performed Cleopatra within the 1953 movie “Serpent of the Nile.”

However many titles had been forgettable: “The Eagle and the Hawk,” “The Ultimate Outpost,” “Little Egypt,” “The Killer Is Unfastened,” “Somewhat Scarlet,” “Crosswinds” and “Pony Specific” (with Charlton Heston), “Inferno,” “The ones Redheads from Seattle,” “Yankee Pasha,” and “Gun Glory.”

After her movie occupation cooled off, Fleming took a making a song act to Las Vegas, seemed in TV presentations and advertisements, starred on Broadway in a revival of “The Girls” and sang because the temptress Lalume in “Kismet” for the Los Angeles Civic Gentle Opera.

She was once born in Los Angeles in 1923. Her mom, Effie Graham, had seemed in a 1914 Broadway musical with Al Jolson, and her grandfather was once a theatrical manufacturer in Salt Lake Town. She studied appearing, however as a backup additionally took categories in shorthand, typing and bookkeeping.

Whilst nonetheless in her teenagers, Fleming married her highschool sweetheart, Thomas Lane. A son, Kent, was once born in 1941. When Lane returned from Military carrier, Rhonda had change into a celeb, and the wedding resulted in 1947. 3 different marriages additionally resulted in divorce, to Beverly Hills surgeon Lewis Morrill (1952-1958); actor Lang Jeffries (1960-1962); and producer-director Corridor Bartlett (1966-1972).

In 1977 Fleming married tycoon Ted Mann, who constructed the Mann Theater chain, and the wedding lasted till his loss of life in 2001. For a few years, they lived in matching four,300-square-foot condominiums, one on most sensible of the opposite in a Century Town high-rise. “I treasure my privateness, and Ted wishes his,” she as soon as defined. “We like each and every different very a lot. I’m a lot more fulfilled as of late than at any time in my existence.”

After Fleming’s sister, Beverly Engel, died of most cancers in 1991, Fleming and her husband established the Rhonda Fleming Mann Useful resource Heart for Girls with Most cancers on the UCLA Scientific Heart. Additionally they was once lively in quite a lot of different charities for most cancers sufferers, kids and the homeless.

A few years after Mann died, Fleming married for a 6th time, to Derol W. Carlson, who died in 2017.


The overdue Related Press correspondent Bob Thomas compiled subject matter for this tale.

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