Carole Landis had a difficult life, starting from her childhood. But her determination -- and a major change in her identity -- helped her rise to fame in the 1940's. Unfortunately, the tragic beginning would foresee an even more tragic end.
She was born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste in Fairchild, Wisconsin. Her father abandoned the family at an early age, two of her brothers died in childhood, and several sources claimed that her older brother molested her. By the age of 15, Landis quit high school, left the family, and married. But the marriage didn’t last long; it was annulled and she finally set her sights on making it in Hollywood.
She dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to "Carole Landis" after her favorite actress, Carole Lombard. She appeared in bit parts until she signed a contract in 1940 with 20th Century Fox, partly due to her relationship with Darryl F. Zanuck. She did many movies with unmemorable roles, but was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Landis became a popular pin-up with servicemen during World War II and toured with a USO troupe. Carole would spend more times visiting troops than any other actress, and nearly died from diseases she contracted while traveling. Landis' career seemed to disappear by 1948: she was plagued with health problems, she had four divorces and several failed romances behind her. Finally she entered into a doomed affair with actor Rex Harrison who was married to actress Lilli Palmer at the time.
Landis became increasingly depressed when Harrison refused to divorce his wife. Crushed by this latest failure, she committed suicide by taking an overdose of Seconal. Her final night alive had been spent with Harrison and it was he who found her body the next morning. She was only 29 years old.