Veronica Lake- My Personal Journey into Discovering this Film Noir Star
by Alyson Faye Rhodes (Aly Rhodes)
“You could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision.” (Lake)
Growing up in the UK in the 1970’s and 1980’s where there were three television channels (Channel Four launched in 1982) in the days before video recorders, you had to stay up late to watch the Golden Oldies from Hollywood and keep a sharp eye out on the Radio Times for their listings.
However, BBC2 was brilliant at running mini seasons themed by director/star so it was through these I binged on Bogart/Hammer Horror/Val Lewton’s RKO ‘B’ movies and a new discovery to me, made around 1979/1980 — Veronica Lake.
Lake by then had been dead since 1973 and her films were not shown very often. You could catch Lauren Bacall on wet Saturday afternoons blowing smoke at Bogart, or even Lizabeth Scott smouldering and singing in nightclubs, but Lake, no, she was a rare sighting.
The reason I knew about Lake at all, aged 14, was due to my local public library in a suburb of Birmingham, UK. I was a bookworm and spent every Saturday browsing the shelves, especially the film biographies. I stumbled across a hardback of Lake’s autobiography, simply titled, Veronica (published 1969) and peeking inside at the glossy black and white photographs I was fascinated by her hair, her cheeky gaze and tiny frame.
I borrowed the book several times and found the content rather disappointing as I remember being too mature and worldly for me at the time, but the thread of her discovery, instant manufactured stardom and the films with Alan Ladd shone through and captured me. Disappointingly I remember that the library copy had one photograph page ripped out, just the one, (almost deliberate I felt) of Lake with her adult children.
In order to have a copy of her image, I had to photocopy one of the pictures. Ah those where the days pre internet and the ready availability of 24 hour images and computer files.
So, late one Saturday night, in the early hours, sitting up on our sofa, with the cat, I first watched Lake in I Married a Witch (1942) (Dir: Rene Clair) and was transfixed by her ethereal quality, her style, her beauty and her humour. I didn’t realise I was lucky enough to be watching one of her best movies as my first introduction to her work.