Rhonda Fleming, the red-haired actress and intercourse image in Hollywood westerns, movie noir and journey motion pictures of the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday at Windfall Saint John’s Well being Middle in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97.
Her demise was confirmed by Carla Sapon, her longtime assistant.
Ms. Fleming’s roles included these of an attractive Arthurian princess within the Bing Crosby musical model of Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court docket” (1949); a gambler and the love curiosity of Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster) in “Gunfight on the O.Ok. Corral” (1957); an amorous duchess in Bob Hope’s comedy “The Nice Lover” (1949); and the considerably much less dangerous sister of Arlene Dahl’s bad-girl character in “Barely Scarlet” (1956), which may be described as a Technicolor noir.
In Jacques Tourneur’s “Out of the Previous” (1947), she performed a supporting function as a nervous secretary, alongside Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas. She was a turn-of-the-century New England secretary who’s murdered by a serial killer (George Brent) in “The Spiral Staircase” (1946). One other supporting function, she stated, was her favourite: the overdressed, overcoiffed stepsister to Jean Simmons’s character within the thriller “Residence Earlier than Darkish” (1958).
Like her peer, Maureen O’Hara, Ms. Fleming was typically known as the Queen of Technicolor; each actresses had glamorous purple hair, inexperienced eyes and truthful pores and skin. However in later years, she appeared again on that as a downside.
The studios “by no means wished extra from me than my wanting good and waltzing by way of a parade of movies like ‘The Redhead and the Cowboy,’” she told People journal in 1991, referring to a 1951 western she made with Glenn Ford.
She sang in a number of of her movies and was a part of a gospel quartet, the 4 Ladies, with Jane Russell, Connie Haines and Beryl Davis within the ’50s. In 1957, she launched into a Las Vegas profession, performing on the brand-new Tropicana resort. Later, she appeared on the Hollywood Bowl and toured with Skitch Henderson and his orchestra.
On the point of her 50th birthday, she made her Broadway debut. A part of an ensemble solid that included Myrna Loy, Alexis Smith and Kim Hunter in a 1973 revival of Clare Boothe Luce’s comedy “The Ladies,” she was Miriam Aarons, the comparatively minor function performed by Paulette Goddard within the 1939 movie. Reviewing the manufacturing in The New York Occasions, Clive Barnes described Ms. Fleming as “all good nature as the plush with the guts of a martini.”
Rhonda Fleming was born Marilyn Louis on Aug. 10, 1923, in Hollywood, the youthful of two daughters of Effie Graham, a mannequin and actress, and Harold Cheverton Louis, who labored within the insurance coverage trade.
Whereas she was nonetheless a scholar at Beverly Hills Excessive College, Marilyn was noticed by an agent and given just a few small movie roles. David O. Selznick, the highly effective film producer, noticed her, put her underneath contract and altered her identify to Rhonda Fleming.
After just a few uncredited display screen appearances (in her first three motion pictures she performed Dance-Corridor Lady, Lady at Dance and Lady on Practice), she made her official movie debut in “Spellbound” (1945), Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller. She performed a sex-hungry psychological affected person being handled by Ingrid Bergman’s character; she typically instructed interviewers that she needed to search for the phrase “nymphomaniac” to know precisely what her character was alleged to be.
Over the following 15 years she made some three dozen movies. 4 of her 1950s motion pictures starred Ronald Reagan, together with “Tropic Zone” (1953), through which his character saved her character’s banana plantation.
Though she tended to be solid as a fresh-faced however attractive American lady, she did play the occasional overseas kind. She was Cleopatra in “Serpent of the Nile” (1953), reverse Raymond Burr as Mark Antony. In “Little Egypt” (1951), she portrayed an unique stomach dancer at a world’s truthful — though her character turned out to be only a New Jersey lady with a faux accent.
Within the early 1960s, she turned virtually solely to appearing on tv, the place she was energetic till the mid-1970s.
She returned to the massive display screen in “Received Ton Ton, the Canine Who Saved Hollywood” (1976), a comedy remembered largely as a result of so many stars of Ms. Fleming’s period agreed to be in it. Her character’s identify was Rhoda Flaming.
Technically, Ms. Fleming’s closing display screen look was in “Ready for the Wind,” a 1990 half-hour tv drama through which she performed a non secular farm spouse reverse Mitchum. Her final movie was “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 spy comedy based mostly on the 1960s sitcom “Get Sensible,” through which she performed Edith Von Secondberg, a global dressmaker.
Ms. Fleming had six husbands. In 1940, she married Thomas Lane, with whom she had a son. They divorced in 1948. Her second husband was Lew Morrill (1952-58), a doctor, adopted by Lang Jeffries, an actor (1960-62), and Corridor Bartlett (1966-72), a filmmaker. All of these marriages resulted in divorce.
In 1978, she married Ted Mann, proprietor of the Mann Theaters chain. They have been collectively till his demise in 2001. Two years later, she married Darol Carlson, who died in 2017. Ms. Fleming is survived by her son, Kent Lane, in addition to two granddaughters, 5 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, Ms. Sapon stated.
Ms. Fleming as soon as stated that she by no means formally retired. She simply selected to work much less. In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, stress-free at her California dwelling with Mr. Mann, she stated: “My husband lately requested me if I’d seen any film I wished to look in.” She went straight for a particular function. “I stated sure, the dinosaur in ‘Jurassic Park.’”