Figured I’d break from horror films today with my contribution to the Letter to the Stars Blogathon being hosted by the fine ladies of Best of the Past, Frankly My Dear, and In the Mood. You can check out any of these blogs and find the rest of the blogathon’s contributors. The rules of this blogathon are simple: Compose a letter to your favorite celebrity who’s no longer living. I think it’s safe to say that all the contributors to this have written deeply personal letters to their favorite stars and I hope mine does justice to the star being celebrated. Here goes!
I had originally volunteered to write to Ms. Natalie Wood and while she is worthy of a letter, I felt someone could easily write to her. I wanted to write to a star that isn’t one you’d immediately think of, who hasn’t endured the test of time quite like they should. I also thank In the Mood and other blogs for inspiring me to proclaim a blog mascot and it was after this that the true recipient of my letter was decided: Ms. Veronica Lake. Here’s my letter to the lovely Peekaboo Girl otherwise known as Constance Ockleman, wherever you are.
It pains me to believe that I’ve just now discovered your amazing films. I watched I Married a Witch about two years ago and was enamored. The hairstyle, your grace and comedic timing; your brazen ability to act like a child and make it believable. I also love the fact your one of the shortest stars in classic Hollywood. Makes short girls like me feel we can accomplish something. Your ability to do comedy and drama is well-documented and you’ve worked with luminaries such as Preston Sturges and Alan Ladd. Your confident, innocent, vulnerable, funny. Your what I want to be when I grow up (or at least my ideal version of growing up). You make me smile and you make me cry because I hate what’s happened to you.
I know you’ve lived a harsh life filled with mystery. Three failed marriages (possibly a fourth), a child dying in infancy and three others you were estranged from. You ended up living your days working in a hotel and dying under bizarre circumstances with your son the only one to watch out for you. You deserved better, from Hollywood especially. Sadly, you predicted all of this in your autobiography. You feared that audiences and Hollywood would forget you and it makes me cry to see they have. The way stars come and go today there’s no reason you should be forgotten. I understand your aggressive demeanor cast you in the wrong light but there’s no reason you shouldn’t have expected respect and if that came off as bitchiness then screw those who felt you were. I don’t seek to understand your estrangement from your children (you weren’t too concerned sadly) but I think I connect with the fact your life was just so sad.
It’s sad what time has done to you Veronica. You were the biggest star of the 1930s-1940s and films such as Sullivan’s Travels, The Blue Dahlia, and The Glass Key are icons in comedy and noir respectively. Your infamous peekaboo haircut (that I know you despised) is legendary and has been recreated in Academy Award winning films like L.A. Confidential. Hell, you were recreated in L.A. Confidential and played by Kim Basinger (although I’d believe her as Rita Hayworth as opposed to you). And yet Hollywood has written you off. There’s no comprehensive biography written about you, actually nothing’s been written about you since the 1970s and your ashes were recently discovered in a pawn shop and are being squabbled over for money. Don’t believe me, here’s the article. The only two books written about you are yours and a horrific hatchet job from an author who doesn’t appear to be a fan of you at all.
I hope you don’t mind I’ve made you my mascot. In some small way I hope to promote your films and help people to understand how awesome you are. You have no idea the sheer joy I get from watching your films, telling others about them, or just looking for pictures of you. There’s something about you that stars today, or of the time period don’t possess. I think part of it is the innocence you project. Your characters can be tough, able to push Joel McCrea into a swimming pool, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t want someone to take care of them. In I Married a Witch, your character Jennifer isn’t entirely evil, just a little girl whose seeking revenge. I think that’s another factor that makes your life so sad. In reading your book it seems like you were a little girl, forced to be tough before her time. Your mother was no prize and you felt you had no one to turn to, no one to care for you. I hope to care and makes others care as much as I can because you shouldn’t be forgotten!
I wish there was more out there. A proper book, a film festival, I’ve asked TCM to make you Star of the Month! Anything to make audience stand up and take notice. I wish I could find the estate that holds your copyrights and ask them what their doing (unfortunately there doesn’t even appear to be a Veronica Lake estate unless someone would like to correct me). I guess I just wish I could do more to make others see how fantastic you are. I love you Veronica Lake, you’re becoming one of my favorite actresses and I never thought I’d say that against faves like the aforementioned Natalie Wood or Marilyn Monroe. I’d like to think that without you we wouldn’t have them. I hope this letter has touched some people despite its angered tone. I’m angered because you deserved better. I’m happy though that I’ve discovered your work and I hope that by proving you weren’t forgotten entirely, your happy.
To the lovely Veronica, hopefully I made you smile!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.