Monday, November 16, 2015

Carole's Early Years (1919-1935)

Carole at age eight

Carole's early days were filled with heartache and dreams of stardom. She was born on Janaury 1, 1919 in the small town of Fairchild, Wisconsin. Her real name was Frances Lillian Ridste - she had been named after her Polish grandmother Francis Sentek. She was such a beautiful baby that everyone called her "Baby Doll". Carole was the youngest of five children. Her father, Alfred Ridste, abandoned the family and her mother Clara married a farmer named Charley Fenner. There are rumors that Charley is Carole's biological father. Clara divorced Charles in 1921 and took the children to San Diego, California where she reunited with Alfred. Eventually the entire family relocated to San Bernardino.

 Carole at age three

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

The family moved into a tiny home at 175 Bryant Street. 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 two of her brothers died very young. Sixteen month old Jerome was killed in 1917 when a pot of boiling water fell on him. Ten year old Lewis died in 1925 after he was accidentally shot with gun. At the age of nine Carole ran on stage during a local talent show and began singing That's My Weakness Now.

Carole in 1933
Left to Right: Carole's brother Lewis, her sister Dorothy. her father Alfred, Carole, her brother Lawrence

Carole loved watching movies and covered her walls with photos of Mary Astor, Russ Columbo, and Clark Gable. Using make-up tricks to look older she started entering beauty pageants when she was twelve. Carole won a pair of silk stockings but her mother made her stop competing because she was too young. She attended Sturges junior high school where she was"boy crazy" and often skipped her classes. Carole loved to play sports especially baseball and volleyball. She even tried to start an all girl football team!

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

Carole was raised a Catholic and attended church every Sunday. Her philosophy was "Pass the good deed along". To earn extra money she worked at a hamburger stand and a movie theater. She married her first love, twenty year old Irving Kay Wheeler, on January 14, 1934. Because Carole was only fifteen her mother had the marriage annulled. The couple got married again (with her father's consent) but Carole walked out on Irving three weeks later.

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

In 1935 Carole left home to become an actress. She later 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." When Carole became a star her father 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 fifteen

Carole with her Polish grandparents Ludvig and Francis Sentek

 Young Carole playing dress up with a friend
This is Carole's brother older Jerome who died tragically in 1917 two years before she was born

 This is Carole's father Alfred Ridste who was rarely a part of her life

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Christmas With Carole

Celebrate Christmas with Carole and her Hollywood friends ...

Charles Mitchell, Marguerite Chapman, Rory Calhoun, and Carole

Larry Parks, Betty Garrett, and Carole

 Horace Schmidlapp, Betty Garrett, Rory Calhoun, Carole, Franchot Tone, and Charles Mitchell

Carole, Horace Schmidlapp, Jean Wallace, Betty Garrett, Larry Parks, and Franchot Tone

 Kay Francis and Carole

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Carole's 1949 Estate Auction

According to Carole's will she wanted all of her possessions to be given to her mother. Unfortunately Carole had a lot of debts when she died and her creditors wanted to be paid. Her estranged husband Horace Schmidlapp also demanded that he get a large part of the estate. Carole's bank account only had $412 in it. Her Pacific Palisades home, located at 1465 Capri Drive, was sold for $67,000. After all the lawyers and creditors were paid the estate was still in debt. In March of 1949 Carole's family was forced to auction off her furnishings, clothing, and jewelry. Her mother Clara and sister Dorothy bid on many of the items so they could keep them in the family. More than 1600 of Carole's fans attended the auction. Her topaz ring sold for $1,250 and a cigarette lighter sold for $75. Carole's mother weeped as strangers bought her daughter's personal items. She said "It's a shame to see the things she loved being sold to strangers."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Carole's Songs

Carole had a beautiful voice and she loved to sing. She had started her career as a nightclub singer in San Francisco. Carole sang duets on the radio with stars like Groucho Marx and Bob Hope. She also recorded several songs for the troops during World War 2. You can listen to some of her songs here ...

Carole sings Personality

Carole sings Sunday Monday, and Always with Martha Raye and Mitzi Mayfair

Carole sings I'm An Old Cowhand with Bob Hope

Carole sings I'm Your Pin-Up Girl

Carole sings O The Desert O The Prairie with Groucho Marx

  Carole sings SNAFU with Mitzi Mayfair and Martha Raye

Mitzi Mayfair, Carole, and Martha Raye perform Snafu

Fay McKenzie, Groucho Marx, and Carole sing on the radio

Friday, October 30, 2015

Carole's Friendship With Lyle Talbot

Lyle Talbot 

In 1936 Carole became friends with actor Lyle Talbot. He was a very popular leading man who had starred in the films Three On Match and Page Miss Glory. Unfortunately we don't know how Carole met Lyle. They were both single at the time so it's possible they were dating. Carole, Lyle, and a group of their friends went on a ski trip together. They also celebrated New Year's Day 1937 (Carole's 18th birthday) in Ocean Park. Here are some photos from Carole's personal collection ...

 Carole, Lyle Talbot, and Evelyn O'Brien

 Lyle Talbot, Carole, and another friend

Carole, Lyle Talbot, Evelyn O'Brien, and Dorothy Davis (Carole wrote that description herself)

Personal Letters To Lt. Troy

We recently found a rare collection of personal letters Carole wrote to her dear friend Lieutenant Troy. Carole met Lt. Troy during World War 2 and she spent time with him in England. The last letter from Carole was written on July 2, 1948 just two days before her death.

Thank you to Carole's fan, Flora Jenner, for sharing these letters with us. We are looking for more information about Lt. Troy. If anyone can help please write to us at LovesHollywood@gmail.com
Carole and Lt. Troy in 1948

 "2-7-48 To my dearest friend - Sorry that it's taken so long for me to reply but an awful lot has been happening at the moment. I'm sorry this is such a short note but I'm very tired tonight. I promise to call sometime next week- love - Carole"

 "30-5-48 My darling - Thank you so much for my most beautiful present. I promise I shall get you something in return next time I see you. I'm so sorry that you're felling unwell - I promise to come & visit as soon as possible. Yours forever, Carole"

 "15-1-47 Darling - Just a brief note but I'm just dying to know if you've read that book I sent you yet. And if so - what did you think? Don't you think Mr. Maugham is one of the greatest writers ever? If you like I could find you more. I heard Warner Brothers are doing a picture of "Of Human Bondage". Anyway I'm going for a dip in the pool - All the best, Carole"

 "16-7-45 My darling -you are the greatest friend and love I could have ever have dreamed of. I'm sorry if my actions have ever hurt you in the past. You will always be my dearest love and I pray one day we will be together always. I just had to write this for I fear you are upset. Carole"

"5-12-44 Why didn't you write sooner? I've been tearing the place up with worry. If you need or want all you need you do is request and I'll get if for you anything. Are the hospital taking good care of you? If it's difficult for you to write please get a nurse or someone to write for you. I can arrange a specialist to come look at your eyes, though I'm sure they'll get better. Even the doctors agree there will be little worry so I'm sure you're sight will heal just as well. Please try to reply as soon as possible, and don't worry my darling - Carole"

Carole's Final Recording & Last Photos

On July 2, 1948 Carole went shopping and wrote some letters. She told a friend "I've never been so happy in all my life. The sun's shining. It's a wonderful day!". That afternoon she went to Star Records at 6525 Sunset Boulevard to make a recording for her fans. Tragically just three days later Carole would be found dead after taking her own life. You can listen to Carole's final recording here ...

Carole's last professional portraits were taken in early 1948. At the time she was filming
Brass Monkey in England. Here are some of her last photos ...


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

World War 2

During World War 2 Carole spent more time visiting troops than any other actress. She took time off from her career and dedicated herself to the war effort. Carole toured the country selling war bonds and entertained soldiers all over the world. The press called her "a heroine" and "pride of the yanks". She joined the Hollywood Victory Committee and worked tirelessly with the Red Cross, the Naval Aid Auxiliary, and Bundles for Blue Jackets. Carole collected cigarettes for the soldiers, taught first aid, and donated blood as often as she was allowed. She never turned down a request to help and visited more than 250 military bases across the United States.

When she went to Camp Bowie for a three day appearance in 1942 she danced with 200 soldiers, sang 15 songs, and signed 1000 autographs. In September 1942 she visited the Mare Island Navy Yard where she sang for the injured men in the hospital ward. Carole became one of the soldier's favorite pin-up girls and they nicknamed her "The Blonde Bomber". When she appeared on the Command Performance radio show one soldier requested that she "just sigh" into the microphone. In November 1942 Carole started a five month tour of Europe and Africa with Mitzi Mayfair, Kay Francis, and Martha Raye. She met her husband, Major Tommy Wallace, during this tour and she wrote about her experiences in her 1944 book Four Jills In A Jeep.

Carole was a hostess at the Hollywood Canteen and she invited soldiers to her beach house every weekend. In June 1944 she began a U.S.O. tour with Jack Benny, singer Martha Tilton, harmonica player Larry Adler, and pianist June Bruner. During their camp shows Carole sang and jitterbugged with the boys. She spent much of her time visiting wounded soldiers and she wrote hundreds of letters to their families. Jack Benny said "You soon forgot she was Carole Landis, the sex symbol, the Hollywood star, the sweater girl, because she was a real human being and had a warm heart that spilled over with kindness". During their two month tour of the South Pacific Carole almost died when she contracted malaria and amoebic dysentery.

 With Jack Benny, Larry Adler, June Bruner, and Martha Tilton

She was hospitalized for weeks, lost 15 pounds, and suffered with these illnesses for the rest of her life. Carole became an Air Raid Warden, a commander in the Aerial Nurses Corps, and an honorary Colonel in the American Legion. She auctioned off her favorite opal ring to raise money and she donated several movie projectors to bases overseas. Carole traveled more than 125,000 miles during the war. She performed for soldiers in Australia, Brazil, Algeria, Bermuda, Scotland, England, New Guinea, Ireland, Guam, and New Zealand. Carole said "Whatever we do for soldiers can't be enough in return for what they do for us. They are wonderful!"

With Linda Darnell

UNITED WE STAND (Written by Carole in 1944)

"Hitler wasn't guessing when he incorporated into his psychological warfare the strategy of "divide and conquer." It worked in Norway and it worked in France, and because there is no immunity to Fascism, it's trying hard right here in the United States. There is one antidote. We've got to remember that we're all in this together. British, Russians, Chinese. And French-Polish-Yugoslav-Jewish-Irish-Mexican-English or what-have-you-Americans. Indians, whites, and Negroes. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, boys in the AAF or Merchant Marine. And civilians. Yes, civilians. All the names from Pearl Harbor onwards are written on our memories and on our hearts and in your steel and your blood and your courage. The exploits at home aren't of this kind. But believe me, boys, they do exist. In two and a half short years, the country has rolled up its sleeves, and our production record can be heard in the planes that roar over Germany; our War Bond record is built into every tank and destroyer, and the blood banks of the Red Cross are only one of the "musts" on the daily lists of the men and women on the home front. None of us here can give as much as you. We all know it. That's why there is such a determination to give all we can, in time, spirit, money, work. We believe in you. We know you're good. But you've got to believe in us, too, because the home front is also a fighting front. And because this belief, this unity, brings the day of Victory right up there in plain sight. Unity is the one thing Hitler and his cohorts cannot cope with."

With Marlene Dietrich

With Jack Benny, Larry Adler, June Bruner, and Martha Tilton

With Jack Benny, Larry Adler, June Bruner, and Martha Tilton

With Gilbert Roland

 With Jack Benny

 With Larry Adler, Jack Benny, Martha Tilton, and June Bruner

 With Jack Benny, Martha Tilton, and Larry Adler

 Carole wrote this description herself

Photo courtesy of John Stava