when it comes to the arts. Sometimes it restores clarity and reminds us
of the great things out there we had forgotten and sometimes things are
going too well so it’ll regurgitate something we tried to forget. But
there’s usually some sort of balance.
Occasionally something falls through the cracks….
Veronica Lake is one of those things. I know what you’re thinking “No, she hasn’t. I know who she is. She’s the sexy blonde with the peek-a-boo hair. Was in a lot of film noir.” You’re correct, and you would be right in saying that her image — an ethereal one of the femme fatale — is firmly lodged into pop culture. She has a disc in the Criterion Collection. She was a key plot point (or rather a prostitute “cut to look like Veronica Lake”) in L.A. Confidential. She’s not lost.
But she’s not exactly easy to find, either.
Due partly to my healthy obsession with L.A. Confidential, I tried to watch my way through Lake’s filmography. Guess what? You can rent This Gun For Hire, So Proudly We Hail, and Sullivan’s Travels. That’s it.
The Blue Dahlia — a noir with a screenplay by Raymond Chandler himself — is unavailable on DVD. This is a classic noir, and plays pretty regularly on TCM. It paired Alan Ladd and Lake up again, and was undoubtedly a movie Lynn Bracken had to playact with that councilman. Yet it remains stranded on VHS. You’d think Lake alone could get it a DVD release, but nope.
I Married a Witch is impossible to find in the states (I hear there’s a UK disc) and it frustrates the hell out of me. It’s a romantic comedy themed around the Salem witch trials. I need to see this perplexing blend of whimsy and morbidity. So do you.
It’s perplexing to me. Lake wasn’t that great of an actress, but she had presence, and she did some fine films. I know Lake used to joke she was more famous for her hair than her talent, and I’m shocked to find that’s still the case. Even on the surface that does her a disservice — she was incredibly sexy. The epitome of sultry. Why isn’t she idolized by more starlets? Why isn’t her face covering the amount of memorabilia (tacky or otherwise) that Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn’s are? Why isn’t her sexy, tough-as-nails singing magician the kind of reference points that Grace Kelly, Barbara Stanwyck, and Rita Hayworth are? Doesn’t this equal Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend? Lauren Bacall had some snappy lines (“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve”) but Lake’s shimmy was equal. Maybe the world only has a place for one husky voiced blonde.
But most glaringly, why hasn’t anyone done a nice box set of her films? You would think after L.A. Confidential there would have been a rush on all things Lake. The rights to her films are scattered among studios, but I would have thought someone would have at least put out some quick and dirty DVD releases. But nope. They still collect dust on VHS, which is far worse than a poor DVD transfer.
It’s depressing. Considering how Lake ended up — penniless, homeless, dying in poverty and alcoholism — you’d think she could earn some posthumous respect. You’d think her sad life would earn her even more late love. But nope. She’s got a star on Hollywood Blvd., but you can’t get The Blue Dahlia on DVD. She’s fallen through the cracks.