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On this Day in Movie History, July 7, 1973: Veronica Lake dies

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It was on this day, July 7, 1973, the "Peek a boo girl" Veronica Lake, an American film, stage and television actress died. Winning both popular and critical acclaim, most notably for her role in Sullivan's Travels and for her femme fatale roles in film noirs with Alan Ladd, during the 1940s. She was a popular pin-up girl for soldiers during World War II and traveled extensively throughout the United States to raise money for war bonds She was also well known for her peek-a-boo hairstyle.

From 1941 to 1942, films like Sullivan’s Travels, I Married a Witch, This Gun For Hire and So Proudly We Hail! made her box office gold. She was one of the most desired, and bankable, Hollywood stars of her era. Her look became so iconic. Her flowing blond hair and peek-a-boo bangs--her trademark made her a screen idol. Thousands upon thousands of women in the 40s copied her hairstyle asking their hairdressers to give them a Vernoica Lake. However, by the late 1940s Lake's career began to falter in part due to her struggles with mental illness and alcoholism. Because of hostility on set and worsening box office, Lake had been dropped by several studios and had all her assets seized by the IRS.

She made only one film in the 1950s but appeared in several guest-starring roles on television. She returned to the screen in 1966 with a role in the film Footsteps In the Snow, but the role failed to revitalize her career. She eventually became the subject of public pity when a journalist wrote a exposé about finding the one-time glamor queen working as a barmaid in dive hotel in New York City. She returned to the screen in 1966 with a role in the film Footsteps In the Snow, but the role did little to revitalize her career.

By the end of the Sixties, her alcoholism and paranoia had pushed nearly everyone in her life to abandon her. Lake released her memoirs, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, in 1970. She used the money she made from the book to finance a low-budget horror exploitation film Flesh Feast. It was her final onscreen role. When she died in a Vermont hospital in 1973 at the age of 50 of hepatitis and acute cirrhosis of the liver as a result of her years of drinking, she was penniless and completely alone. Her children had disowned her. Her four ex-husbands wanted nothing to do with her. Yet, even at the end, her fame never completely left her.

Lake's memorial service was held at the Universal Chapel in New York City on July 11. She was cremated and, according to her wishes, her ashes were scattered off the coast of the Virgin Islands. In 2004, some of Lake's ashes were reportedly found in a New York antique store.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Veronica Lake has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Boulevard

Birthdays
1899 - George Cukor (director: My Fair Lady, A Star is Born, Born Yesterday, Love Among the Ruins, The Philadelphia Story; died Jan 24, 1983)

1902 - Vittorio De Sica (director: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Marriage Italian Style, Two Women, The Bicycle Thief; actor: The Shoes of the Fisherman, It Started in Naples; died Nov 13, 1974)

1915 - Ruth Ford (actress: The Woman Who Came Back, The Lady is Willing, The Eyes of the Amaryllis; died Aug 12, 2009)

1946 - Joe Spano (actor: Hill Street Blues, Cast the First Stone, Brotherhood of Justice, American Graffiti, Northern Lights)

1949 - Shelley Duvall (actress: Popeye, Nashville, Roxanne, Brewster McCloud, The Shining, Annie Hall, McCabe and Mrs. Miller)

1959 - Bill Campbell (actor: Dynasty, Moon Over Miami, Gettysburg, The Brylcreem Boys, Once and Again)

1968 - Jorja Fox (actress: C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation, Missing Persons, ER, The West Wing)

1969 - Cree Summer (actress/character voice: A Different World, Inspector Gadget, Tiny Toons, Wild Thing, The Return of Billy Jack; songwriter, singer: LP: Street Faërie)

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