Monday, October 19, 2020

The Late Great Rhonda Fleming

Rhonda Fleming was known as "the Queen of Technicolor," a title she shared with Maureen O'Hara. And there should be little wonder why. With red hair, big blue eyes, and a pale complexion, she was certainly striking in colour. That having been said, many classic movie fans might best remember her in black-and-white. She known for her appearances in such classic film noirs as Out of the Past (1947), Cry Danger (1951), The Killer is Loose (1956), Slightly Scarlet (1956), and While the City Sleeps (1956). She was a remarkable actress who played films made in a number of genres in addition to film noir, including Westerns, adventure movies, and swashbucklers. Sadly, Rhonda Fleming died on October 14 2020 at the age of 97.

Rhonda Fleming was born Marilyn Louis in Los Angeles on August 10 1923. Her father was an insurance salesman, Harold Louis. Her mother was a stage actress, Effie Graham. While still in high school she was discovered by legendary agent Henry Wilson. It was Mr. Wilson who gave her the stage name, "Rhonda Fleming."

Miss Fleming appeared in an uncredited part in In Old Oklahoma (1943) before she was put under contract to David O. Selznick. She appeared in a bit part in his film Since You Went Away (1944) before receiving her first screen credit in Selznick's film Spellbound (1945). Selznick loaned her out for the Western Abilene Town (1946) before she appeared in another Selznick movie, The Spiral Staircase (1946). Rhonda Fleming received her first leading role in the low-budget adventure film Adventure Island (1947). That same year she appeared in the classic film noir Out of the Past. For the remainder of the Forties she appeared in the Bing Crosby musical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949), the Bob Hope comedy The Great Lover (1949), and the Western The Eagle and the Hawk (1950).

In the Fifties Rhonda Fleming appeared in such films as Cry Danger (1951), The Redhead and the Cowboy (1951), The Last Outpost (1951), Little Egypt (1951), Crosswinds (1951), Hong Kong (1952), The Gold Hawk (1952), Tropic Zone (1953), Serpent of the Nile (1953), Pony Express (1953), Those Redheads from Seattle (1953), Jivaro (1954), Tennessee's Partner (1955),  The Killer is Loose (1956), Slightly Scarlet (1956), While the City Sleeps (1956), The Buster Keaton Story (1957), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Gun Glory (1957), Home Before Dark (1958), Alias Jesse James (1959), and The Crowded Sky (1960). Miss Fleming made her television debut in an episode of The Best of Broadway in 1955. In the late Fifties she guest starred on the shows The Ford Television Theatre and Wagon Train.

In the Sixties she appeared in the films The Patsy (1964), Pão de Açúcar (1964), and Una moglie americana (1965). She guest starred on the TV shows Hong Kong, The Investigators, The Dick Powell Show, Follow the Sun, Death Valley Days, The Red Skelton show, Wagon Train, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Burke's Law, and The Virginian.

In the Seventies Rhonda Fleming appeared on the TV shows Search, Needles and Pins, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, Kung Fu, Ellery Queen, and The Love Boat. She appeared in the movies Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) and The Nude Bomb (1980).

Rhonda Fleming was known as a screen beauty, but she was also a very talented actress. She played hypersexual mental patient Mary Carmichael in Spellbound, displayed her singing talent as Alisande in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and the femme fatale secretary in Slight Scarlet.In the Wagon Train episode "The Jennifer Churchill Story," she played the spoiled, young daughter of a railroad executive convincingly, despite being 35 at the time. Miss Fleming played a number of different roles in a number of different genres and she did all of the quite well.

In addition to being a talented actress, Rhonda Fleming was also a genuinely nice person. She was a guest at the 2012 TCM Classic Movies Film Festival and everyone who met her described her as gracious. She was a generous woman who always had time for her fans. Rhonda Fleming was certainly physically lovely, but she was lovely inside as well.

1 comment:

Caftan Woman said...

Her talent on screen has always been a happy place in my life. I hope Rhonda enjoyed her successes and dealt valiantly with life's disappointments.