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Thursday, November 30, 2017

1939-1940 Hal Roach and "The Ping Girl"


In the Fall of 1939 director Hal Roach gave twenty year old Carole the lead role in his science fiction film One Million B.C. Although the movie got mixed reviews the publicity Carole received made her a star. Hal Roach was so impressed with her performance that he gave her a seven year contract. Carole starred opposite John Hubbard in the comedies Turnabout and Road Show. She also appeared in Topper Returns, a sequel to the hit movie Topper. While working at the Roach studio Carole underwent a physical transformation. She lost nearly 20 pounds, dyed her hair platinum blonde, and had cosmetic surgery on her nose. In 1940 she was loaned to Paramount to star in the drama Mystery Sea Raider. Carole had brief romances with assistant director Hal Roach Jr. and agent Pat DiCicco.


She married yacht broker William Hunt on July 4, 1940 after a whirlwind romance. They divorced four months later. Frank Seltzer, Hal Roach's head of publicity, gave Carole the nickname "The Ping Girl: Because She Makes You Purr". The idea came from an automobile ad slogan that said "change ping to purr". Carole hated this nickname probably because the word "ping" was also slang for a male erection. When Hal Roach threw a party at Ciro's to introduce "The Ping Girl" Carole refused to attend. She said  "I was never consulted  about the scheme nor do I approve the appellation they would like to inflict upon me. For these reasons I will not be present at my own reception to ping, purr, or even coo."


 Carole was so upset that she sent letters to all the newspaper editors to complain. She wrote:

 "This is the lament of a fugitive from a leg-art career. I want a fair chance to prove myself something more than a curvaceous cutie. I want to get out of bathing suits and into something more substantial. Unfortunately the publicity department of my studio does not agree. They have conceive the brilliant idea of selling me to the public as "The Ping Girl" - because she makes you purr. This flash of genius is to be illustrated with a series of pictures out of their files suggestive of anything but acting talent. I haven't any legal redress. There isn't I am advised any way to stop the publicity department. Therefore I am asking you to help me nip the scheme in the right place - in the pages of your newspaper."

Carole also asked that the newspapers not publish any more of her bathing suit pin-ups. Her protest got her a lot of attention and some critics thought it was all just a publicity stunt. In December of 1940 she left Hal Roach's studio and signed a new contract with 20th Century Fox.









Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Trivia About Carole


* Carole was born under the astrological sign of Capricorn. She studied astrology and she often went to psychics for advice. A psychic once warned her that she "must beware of emotional entanglements with men you can't entirely possess".

* She knew how to fly a plane. Carole started taking flying lessons with her second husband Willis Hunt and got her pilots license in 1941. During World War 2 she flew for the Civilian Air Patrol.

* One of her hobbies was decorating. Carole decorated many of her homes with an Asian theme. She even made her own drapes.


* She was supposed to star in the 1941 drama Blood & Sand but was replaced by Rita Hayworth. Fox claimed that Carole had refused to dye her hair red. However the real reason she lost the part was because she ended her sexual relationship with Darryl Zanuck.

* Carole was very athletic and loved sports. She played tennis, badminton, and golf. In high school 
she was a pitcher on the baseball team.

* She could play the piano. Carole had a piano in her living room so she could practice. In 1941 she started taking lessons with renowned conductor Jacques Rachmilovich.


* Carole was a feminist at an early age. She tried to form an all female football team at her high school but the principal stopped her because it was unladylike.

* She filmed several scenes for the 1944 drama Wilson. Her entire part was cut out of the movie before it was released.

* On April 24, 1942 she legally changed her name from Frances Ridste to Carole Landis. She had picked the name out of a phone book in 1936. Her mother Clara started calling herself "Clara Landis". 


* Carole always wrote a small gold cross necklace. Her close friend Diana Lewis gave it to her in 1938.

* She was never nominated for an Oscar. Carole was a presenter in 1944 and caused a commotion at the 1941 ceremony when her slip fell out of her dress.

* During World War 2 she refused to perform in front of segregated audiences. At her camps shows she insisted that the black soldiers be allowed to sit with the white soldiers.

* She enjoyed eating and hated to diet. Her favorite foods were eggs, donuts, and corn on the cob.Carole's last meal on July 4, 1948 as roast chicken, a tossed salad, and lemon chiffon pie.

* Carole was a very talented photographer. She liked to take pictures of her friends and pets. There was a dark room in her house where she could develop her own pictures.


* Carole has been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to motion pictures. The ceremony took place on February 8, 1960. You can visit Carole's star at 1765 Vine Street. It is across the street from the Capital Records building.

* She was going to star in the 1948 movie The Amazing Mr. X but she died before filming began. Lynn Bari was given her part in the movie.

* Carole wanted to become a serious dramatic actress. She thought Turnabout and A Scandal In Paris were her best movies. Her least favorite role was in Behind Green Lights.


* She loved holidays! Carole always had a party on New Year's Day (her birthday), Mother's Day, and the Fourth of July.

* Carole hated wearing nail polish. She thought that nail polish looked vulgar so she would only put it on for photo shoots.

 * In 1945 she was cast in the musical Doll Face but she quit right before filming began. Vivian Blaine replaced her in the movie.

* Carole was a big fan of classical music and had a large collection of classical records. Her favorite composers were Debussy and Sibelius. 

* She once told a reporter that she always slept in the nude when she was alone. Carole said that if someone was with her she slept in a black nightgown. She also liked to swim in her pool naked!  

* Carole was smart and she loved to read. She was a fan of Ernest Hemingway, Noel Coward, and W. Somerset Maugham. In 1941 Ernest Hemingway gave her a set of autographed books.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dorothy Ridste Ross ~ Carole's Sister

 
Carole with her sister Dorothy

My grandma Dorothy Ridste Ross was Carole's sister and her best friend. Dorothy was born in Montana in 1917 two years before Carole. They had a hard childhood...my grandmother always told me stories during chores when I fussed over pulling weeds in the garden or having to get up on my summer vacation when the sun was barely rising itself. My grandmother was a very hard worker, very devoted to her family and God. She was the most loving, patient, and caring person I've ever known in my life. She was a true role model and she was always teaching her children and grandchildren the ways of life and that you should always have your head up and stay positive in the hard times. Their mother Clara raised them alone and was always working. She would have two jobs and also took in laundry on the side to be ironed or altered. So being that she was also a hard worker my grandmother Dorothy was responsible for Carole. She told me of having to wash the diapers, help with the "extra" work her mom brought in, and take care of the house and cook dinner. When I asked her what age she was she said she was five!! I was blown away at my own age of seven that she had so much to do...she never made it sound that she was complaining but that she had to do what it took to help keep the family keep going.

Dorothy and Carole (right)                      Dorothy (right) with her grandmother, mother, and Carole  

Dorothy raised Carole and there is no doubt she was the "second" mommy!! She loved on her, played with her, did her hair, and would make special clothes for Carole's dolls. I remember that my Grandmother said she had gotten old socks that had been darned too many times and made a doll for Carole. She was the little girl that loved dressing up and wanted many things to say the least. They weren't allowed to go outside very much when they were really young. When Clara was at work they had to stay in and wait for her to come home. Then they would get some time until Clara had to leave to go to her other job. Carole was talking by a early age so her and Dorothy would make up stories. That was one of their favorite thing to do. And as you all know Carole loved writing as well as my Grandmother. Dorothy and Carole were best friends! My grandmother loved and adored her sister. When she talked of Carole she had a smile on her face and you could tell she was feeling her sister near by. I felt growing up that Carole was not dead - she was alive in my grandmother's heart and soul and she transferred Carole into my heart and soul.

Dorothy and Carole (right)                                                      Dorothy with her husband Walter

One of the stories that is so Carole and shows how she knew she could win my grandmother over is this...one day my grandmother and I were out "tuning up the roses" as she called it. I just hated getting scratched everywhere but when she sat down and took off her shoes she had a bunion on her foot. She was rubbing it and I asked her "how she got that ugly thing on her foot". She laughed and started to tell the story that it was all Carole's fault and some was her fault for giving in to her sister. Clara would let the children take turns buying new shoes and Carole already had her turn so it was Dorothy's turn. Clara gave Dorothy the money and told her to go straight there with Carole and come straight home. When they got the shoe store Dorothy was looking for the shoes that would be in the price range and Carole was all over the store looking at the very expensive ones. She couldn't stand it that she couldn't get another pare of shoes. So Dorothy found the pair she wanted and tried them on and Carole was being "moppie" my grandmother would put it so she asked her "whats wrong". Carole told her "she had to have this shoes or she was going to die!!" So being the loving sister she was Dorothy bought those pretty shoes for Carole. My grandmother had to put her raggy shoes back on and wait for her turn to get shoes. Well her feet grew and that's how she got her painful bunions but Dorothy couldn't say no to Carole ;-)

 Dorothy (kneeling) with Carole in 1945                                                      Dorothy with her father Alfred Ridste

The sisters shared everything including boyfriends. Dorothy met my grandfather, Walter "Babe" Ross, when he dated Carole. They eloped in 1935 and had four children - Diane Carole (named after Carole), Buck, Sharon (my mom), and Bill. Carole was jealous of Dorothy's happy family life. She used to say that Dorothy should give her one of the kids because she had so many. Dorothy and Walt didn't like the Hollywood scene. At a party Bing Crosby patted Dorothy's bottom and Walt punched him! Dorothy was a selfless person, sister, mother, and grandmother. She had a spirit and unique way about her. She had everyone's interest at heart and always wanted the best. I believe that part of who Carole was and her giving heart came from my grandmother. Dorothy and Carole were like one soul and they always will be. My grandmother told me Carole was like her baby! When Carole passed away it was very painful and heartbreaking for Dorothy but she has always carried her memory on through her family. I'm so thankful that she did that for me and for my children to see that our family has relatives that are giving, loving, and wonderful. They are the ones to inspire us and to freely be who we are made to be and we can achieve anything!!!

~ Written by Tammy Powell, Carole's great-niece and Dorothy's granddaughter

Dorothy and her children at Carole's grave                                                     Dorothy with her mother and children

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dorothy Ridste Writes About Carole


Carole was very close to her older sister Dorothy Ridste Ross. In 1985 Dorothy wrote about their 
childhood and Carole's road to stardom ...

How do you become a movie star? Well, let me tell you some about Carole - Frances Lillian Ridste. As we grew up in San Bernardino she was a very vivacious and beautiful little girl. Mother called her “Baby Doll” and she always signed her letters to mother as “Baby”. She was literally born singing and dancing, always performing when someone was near. She read every movie magazine she could get and had pictures of the stars on our bedroom walls. Her favorites were Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Mary Astor and Kay Francis. The intrigue of the Gish sisters was of course the names - Frances Lillian and Dorothy. They were silent movie stars and we saw them frequently at the Saturday matinees.

Carole (sitting) and Dorothy                                                                             Dorothy and Carole (wearing a headband)   

It is interesting that Mary Astor and Kay Francis were both a big part of her movie life. She made pictures with them and they were good friends. Kay Francis of course was on some of the USO Tours and was at Carole and Tommy’s wedding. Also in the movie Four Jills In A Jeep, which Carole wrote of their USO Tours. BUT I’m getting ahead of the story! When Frances was about seven years old the Fox Theater chain built a big, beautiful theater in our town and the management had talent contests. Frances was very outgoing and of course she was one of the first to enter. Without any fear and enjoying every minute she won first prize. She sang “Yes Sir That’s My Baby” and danced the Charleston. That victory really spurred her on and her dreams became greater to be a movie star.

Carole playing dress-up                                                                                      Carole (left) and Dorothy

The owners and dance instructor of the (only) dance studio in our town offered to give Frances free dancing lessons if she would appear in shows to be given at Resort Hotels and other places. Of course she was all for it, but my mother would not let her unless I was with her so the owners made the bargain for both of us. We worked hard, studied and practiced for weeks and then the night of our first appearance came. It was to be at a hotel in The Valley of the Moon, which is in the Big Bear Mountains. I can well remember the night we drove up there. It was a cold winter night. The moon was full and the sky soft with fluffy clouds that passed over the moon making everything kind of scary, but it was so beautiful as we drove the winding road through the beautiful pine trees and well worth the trip.

                        18 year old Carole                                                                Carole, Dorothy, and their mother                       

Our performance was successful and we were given dinner for it. Lest I imply that the dance group was just Frances and me I had better mention we had eight girls in the group. About that time the Fox theaters were sponsoring a beauty contest. It was in three of the Fox theaters in San Bernardino, Redlands, and Riverside. The winner of the first contest and several of the runner-ups went on to the next town. Frances and I went to all three. She won first in all of them and I made second in the last contest. The Rose Room was a dance hall in town that held Saturday matinees for the younger crowd and you can believer that Frances was always there. Again, mother would not let her go without me so I sat and watched her dance, dance, dance! She was so popular, such a marvelous dancer and won so many dance contests. She was really a natural - her life was singing and dancing.

                                                                                    
Finally on to Hollywood!! She stood in the extras lines for hours on end and days on end taking any bit part she could get. She was given a part in the chorus line in the picture Varsity Show, a musical starring Dick Powell and the Lane Sisters (there were four of them). Busby Berkeley saw and took her out of the line and she was on her way as a starlet for Warner Brothers Studio. She worked hard, studied much, took singing lessons, golf, tennis, horseback riding, learned French and other foreign languages and seemed successful through work and perseverance in all she attempted to do.

Carole during World War 2

She went on from movie to movie, to New York stage plays and then made One Million B C. That was her big thrill because it had its world premiere in her hometown of SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA, at the very Fox theater where she won her first contest singing and dancing. As the War came (World War II) she went on U.S. bond selling tours all over the United States, to the Stagedoor Canteens to entertain service men and on USO tours here stateside as well as England, Africa, and the South Pacific. She was a warmhearted person who loved her family and all she met giving freely of herself, her time and talents. She was loved by all…

~ Written by Dorothy Ridste Ross (1917-1997), sister of Carole Landis

Sunday, October 29, 2017

1942 Manila Calling


In 1942 Carole starred in the World War 2 drama Manila Calling. She plays Edna, a beautiful American showgirl who gets trapped on an island in the Philipines. The cast includes Lloyd Nolan, Cornel Wilde, James Gleason, and Elisha Cook Jr. Manila Calling is available on DVD and you can watch some scenes from the movie here ....


 


 With Lloyd Nolan