Sunday, January 15, 2017

Carole In San Francisco & Hollywood (1935-1937)

When Carole was just sixteen years old she dropped out of school and decided to become a singer. She said "Although I avoided dramatics - and everything else - in school. I wanted to be a success on the stage, the screen, or the radio. So I saved my money and when I had bus fare and $16.82 over, I told my mother, Clara, I was going to leave home. She was heartbroken, but she believed in me." Carole left San Bernardino and moved to San Francisco in the Spring of 1935. She went from one nightclub to another looking for a job. Carole was hired to sing and dance at the popular Royal Hawaiian nightclub on Bush Street.

Carole at age 16

She later explained "The manager of the Royal Hawaiian club in San Francisco was interviewing girls to sing and dance in the floor show and when he asked me if I could sing and dance I blithely said 'Of course, I'm great!' when actually I was a greenhorn at both. Luckily the chorus was learning a new hula routine and in the resultant confusion no one noticed I didn't know my right foot from my left.". Carole wore a skimpy hula outfit and performed three shows a night. Many of Carole's early biographies claim she sang with Carl Ravazza's band but this is incorrect. Although she auditioned to sing with Carl Ravazza he didn't hire her. Instead he helped her get a singing job at the Rio Del Mar nightclub.

Carole loved living in San Francisco. She spent her evenings performing and went to the beach every afternoon. It was during this time that she began using "Carole Landis" as her professional name. She said "One day I just sat down and wrote 200 names and I decided that Carole Landis was the best of them." There have been rumors that Carole worked as a call girl when she was in San Francisco. These stories are NOT TRUE. Carole always had a steady job when she lived there. She even kept her old wedding ring on so men would not bother her. In the Fall of 1936 Carole quit her singing job and went to Hollywood to be an actress.

 Carole, Lyle Talbot, and Evelyn O'Brien

She was signed by Ken Dolan, Frances Langford's manager. One of her first jobs was being an extra in the MGM film The Emperor's Candlesticks. Carole had a group of close friends that included actor Lyle Talbot and make-up artist Evelyn O'Brien. She and her friends went on a ski trip together and celebrated her 18th birthday in Ocean Park. Carole moved into a modest apartment at 1933 North Bronson Avenue. She invited her mother Clara (now divorced from her third husband) to move in with her. In 1937 Carole had bit parts in several movies including A Day At The Races and The King And The Chorus Girl.

 Carole with her friends (Carole wrote that description herself)

Carole in 1936

Carole on the MGM lot in 1937

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Letters From Carole

Carole loved writing to her friends and fans. Although she was very busy Carole typed (and in some cases hand wrote) all of the letters herself. Here is a collection of eighteen letters from Carole ...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Carole's Early Years (1919-1934)

Carole Landis at age eight

Carole's early days were filled with heartache and dreams of stardom. She was born on January 1, 1919 in Fairchild, Wisconsin. Her birth name was Frances Lillian Ridste - she had been named after her maternal grandmother Francis Sentek.  Carole was the youngest of five children. Sadly her brother Jerome had died in 1917 after being burned by boiling water.  Her father Alfred Ridste was a railroad worker and her mother Clara Sentek Ridste was a housewife. In the Spring of 1919 the family moved to Denton, Montana. Clara began having a relationship with a farmer named Charles Fenner. She filed for divorce and Alfred sued Charles for alienation of affection.

Left to Right: Carole's brother Lewis, her brother Lawrence, Carole, her mother Clara, her sister Dorothy

A 1919 newspaper article about Clara & Alfred Ridste's divorce

Clara married Charles Fenner in December of 1919 but the marriage only lasted eighteen months, Then she took the children to San Diego, California where she reunited with Alfred. In 1923 t
he entire family relocated to San Bernardino and
moved into a tiny home at 175 Bryant Street. Alfred walked out on Clara leaving her to raise the children alone. They were very poor and Carole's older sister Dorothy often watched her while their mother worked.
According to family sources Carole was sexually molested by a relative during her childhood. Tragically in 1925 Carole's ten year old brother Lewis died after he was accidentally shot with gun.
 Left to Right: Carole's brother Lewis, her sister Dorothy. her father Alfred, Carole, her brother Lawrence

A 1925 newspaper article about Lewis Ridste's death

Carole was such a beautiful child that everyone called her "Baby Doll".  From a young age she dreamed about becoming a movie star. She loved watching The Gish sisters and covered her walls with photos of Kay Francis and Mary Astor. When Carole seven she won her first talent contest by singing "Yes Sir That's My Baby" and dancing the Charleston. She started taking dance lessons and she performed with her sister in local clubs. By the time Carole was twelve she was winning beauty contests. She attended Sturges junior high school where she was boy crazy and often skipped her classes. Carole said "I always seemed so much older than the other kids my age - they seemed like tots."

Left to right: Carole's sister-in-law Helen Ridste, her sister Dorothy, her mother Clara, and Carole

A 1932 newspaper article mentioning France Ridste (Carole Landis)

Carole enjoyed playing sports especially baseball and volleyball. She even tried to start an all girl football team! Carole was raised a Catholic and attended church every Sunday. Her philosophy was "Pass the good deed along". In the Fall of 1933 she met twenty year old Irving Kay Wheeler, a civilian conservation corps worker. They eloped on January 14, 1934 in Yuma, Arizona. Because Carole was only fifteen her mother had the marriage annulled and Irving was arrested. In August of 1934 the couple got Alfred Ridste's consent and were married again.

   Carole, her first husband Irving Wheeler, and her sister Dorothy in 1933

A 1934 newspaper article about Carole's marriage annulment

Carole and Irving moved into a one room apartment with no refrigerator. After three weeks of marriage she walked out on her husband. She dropped out of school and got a job working at a restaurant where she earned $2 a day plus tips. Carole started saving money so she could move away and become an actress. Years later her father Alfred said "When she was five years old we knew she had unusual talents. Without any professional training whatever she learned to sing an dance beautifully - and we were confident she would achieve her goal to become an actress."

Carole at age three

Carole with her maternal grandparents Francis and Ludvig Sentek

Carole (right) with her sister Dorothy and brother Lawrence

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Magazine Covers

Carole became one of the most famous women in the world. She appeared on dozens of magazine covers during her career ...