WEIRDLAND: "I Wanted Wings" starring Veronica Lake

Monday, September 22, 2014

"I Wanted Wings" starring Veronica Lake

-"There's no doubt I was a bit of a misfit in the Hollywood of the forties. The race for glamor left me far behind. I didn't really want to keep up. I wanted my stardom without the usual trimmings. Because of this, I was branded a rebel at the very least. But I don't regret that for a minute. My appetite was my own and I simply wouldn't have it any other way." -Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake photographed by Eugene Robert Richee for "I Wanted Wings" (1941)


"I Wanted Wings" (1941) directed by Mitchell Leisen is notable for winning an Academy Award for Best Special Effects and for containing Veronica Lake’s first major role - filmed in the summer of 1940, she was only seventeen years old. It is frequently said that she stole every scene she was in and her career took off shortly after. The same year, she was put into leading roles starting with her part in "Sullivan’s Travels." She would become one of the most popular and successful actresses of the early 1940s.

During the filming of 'I Wanted Wings' Veronica Lake didn't get along with Constance Moore, the film's female lead. Veronica shared living quarters with Moore when the filming shifted to San Antonio, Texas. Each had their own private bedroom with connecting bar and living rooms. Moore was known between her contemporaries as the last of the Texas Swingers, a social butterfly who parried nightly until four or five the next morning. Veronica didn't attend these social gatherings because she took her work very seriously, retiring early to bed. In the meantime, Moore held her all-night bashes on the floor above, keeping Veronica up all hours of the night. The assistant director said he could move her quarters to the sixth floor.

Ray Milland and Brian Donlevy were natural in their roles as wartime pilots and actually flew their own aircraft during many of the film's scenes. Mitchell Leisen turned out to be a good friend of Constance Moore and her husband, top film agent Johnny Maschio. Moore informed Leisen to keep a watchful eye on Veronica since she was a 'troublemaker.' Although Constance considerated Veronica an alcoholic, at this point in her life, Veronica kept her drinking as private as the rest of her personal life. During the final phase of production, Leisen became antagonistic. In fact, when Veronica flubbed a dance sequence with Ray Milland, Leisen tore into her, calling her 'the dumbest bitch I've ever seen.' Veronica broke down in tears.

Ray Milland came over and sympathetically put his arm around Veronica to console her. He told her: 'Never cry. Once they spot any flaw in the armor, they'll take advantage of you every time.' Remembering this lesson, Veronica tried becoming stronger, more withdrawn, and more unreachable. William Holden told her: 'Don't let them get you down, Miss Lake.' Veronica plotted her revenge. The next day, filming began on schedule, but Veronica was nowhere to be found. Leisen was dumbfounded. Veronica had hopped in her 1939 Dodge and headed for Gallup, New Mexico. It was her way of telling Hollywood, its gossip columnists, its star system, and Mitch Leisen 'to go to hell.' -"Peekaboo: The Story of Veronica Lake" (2001) by Jeff Lenburg

Constance Moore: "It was an important film for me because not only was I the top-billed female lead in a cast including Ray Milland and William Holden, but I was playing a young woman who was patterned after an idol of mine, the great wartime photo journalist Margaret Bourke-White."

But the film is stolen by newcomer Veronica Lake with her "peek-a-boo" hairdo. Thirty years later Lake would write vindictively of Moore, claiming that the actress turned the director Mitchell Leisen against her, gave all-night parties which kept her awake, and supported a grasping and vulgar mother. Leisen called Veronica's autobiography “the most vicious thing I've seen... every word of it is untrue. Connie was pregnant, and the heat at the San Antonio location was really getting to her and we were afraid she would lose the child, which ultimately happened. So you can be sure that, under those circumstances, Connie wasn't fooling around while we were on location.” Moore commented, “Veronica Lake was her own worst enemy... Despite all this, 'I Wanted Wings' remains one of my favourite pictures.” Source: www.glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com

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