Fleming on location in 1951.
August 10, 1923
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||October 14, 2020 (aged 97)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
(m. 1940; div. 1942)
Dr. Lewis Morrill
(m. 1952; div. 1954)
(m. 1960; div. 1962)
(m. 1966; div. 1972)
(m. 1977; died 2001)
(m. 2003; died 2017)
Rhonda Fleming (born Marilyn Louis; August 10, 1923 – October 14, 2020) was an American film and television actress and singer. She acted in more than 40 films, mostly in the 1940s and 1950s, and became renowned as one of the most glamorous actresses of her day, nicknamed the "Queen of Technicolor" because she photographed so well in that medium.
Fleming was born Marilyn Louis in Hollywood, California, to Harold Cheverton Louis, an insurance salesman, and Effie Graham, a stage actress who had appeared opposite Al Jolson in the musical Dancing Around at New York's Winter Garden Theatre from 1914 to 1915. Fleming's maternal grandfather was John C. Graham, an actor, theater owner, and newspaper editor in Utah.
She began working as a film actress while attending Beverly Hills High School, from which she graduated in 1941. She was discovered by the well-known Hollywood agent Henry Willson, who changed her name to "Rhonda Fleming".
"It's so weird", Fleming said later. "He stopped me crossing the street. It kinda scared me a little bit -- I was only 16 or 17. He signed me to a seven-year contract without a screen test. It was a Cinderella story, but those could happen in those days."
David O. Selznick
Fleming's agent Willson went to work for David O. Selznick, who put her under contract. She had bit parts in In Old Oklahoma (1943), Since You Went Away (1944) for Selznick, and in When Strangers Marry (1944).
She received her first substantial role in the thriller, Spellbound (1945), produced by Selznick and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. "Hitch told me I was going to play a nymphomaniac", Fleming said later. "I remember rushing home to look it up in the dictionary and being quite shocked." The film was a success and Selznick gave her another good role in the thriller The Spiral Staircase (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak.
Selznick lent her out to appear in supporting parts in the Randolph Scott Western Abilene Town (1946) at United Artists and the film noir classic Out of the Past (1947) with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, at RKO, where she played a harried secretary.  
Fleming's first leading role came in Adventure Island (1947), a low-budget action film made for Pine-Thomas Productions at Paramount Pictures in the two-color Cinecolor process and co-starring fellow Selznick contractee Rory Calhoun.
Fleming then auditioned for the female lead in a Bing Crosby film, a part Deanna Durbin turned down at Paramount in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949), a musical loosely based on the story by Mark Twain. Fleming exhibited her singing ability, dueting with Crosby on "Once and For Always" and soloing with "When Is Sometime". They recorded the songs for a three-disc, 78-rpm Decca album, conducted by Victor Young, who wrote the film's orchestral score. The movie was Fleming's first Technicolor film. Her fair complexion and flaming red hair photographed exceptionally well and she was nicknamed the "Queen of Technicolor", a moniker not worth much to her as she would have preferred to be known for her acting. Actress Maureen O'Hara expressed a similar sentiment when the same nickname was given to her around this time.
She then played another leading role opposite a comedian, in this case Bob Hope, in the The Great Lover (1949). It was a big hit and Fleming was established. "After that, I wasn't fortunate enough to get good directors", said Fleming. "I made the mistake of doing lesser films for good money. I was hot – they all wanted me – but I didn't have the guidance or background to judge for myself."
Fleming was lent to RKO to play a femme fatale opposite Dick Powell in Cry Danger (1951), a film noir. Back at Paramount, she played the title role in a Western with Glenn Ford, The Redhead and the Cowboy (1951).
Fleming signed a three-picture deal with Paramount. Pine-Thomas used her as Ronald Reagan's leading lady in a Western, The Last Outpost (1951), John Payne's leading lady in the adventure film Crosswinds (1951), and with Reagan again in Hong Kong (1951).
Fleming was top-billed for Sam Katzman's The Golden Hawk (1952) with Sterling Hayden, then was reunited with Reagan for Tropic Zone (1953) at Pine-Thomas. In 1953, Fleming portrayed Cleopatra in Katzman's Serpent of the Nile for Columbia. That same year, she filmed a western with Charlton Heston at Paramount, Pony Express (1953), and two films shot in three dimensions (3-D), Inferno with Robert Ryan at Fox, and the musical Those Redheads From Seattle with Gene Barry, for Pine-Thomas. The following year, she starred with Fernando Lamas in Jivaro, her third 3-D release, at Pine-Thomas. She went to Universal for Yankee Pasha (1954) with Jeff Chandler. Fleming also traveled to Italy to play Semiramis in Queen of Babylon (1954).
Much of the location work for Fleming's 1955 Western Tennessee's Partner, in which she played Duchess opposite John Payne as Tennessee and Ronald Reagan as Cowpoke, was filmed at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California, (known as the most heavily filmed outdoor location in the history of film and television). A distinctive monolithic sandstone feature behind which Fleming (as Duchess) hid during an action sequence, later became known as the Rhonda Fleming Rock. The rock is part of a section of the former movie ranch known as "Garden of the Gods", which has been preserved as public parkland.
Fleming was reunited with Payne and fellow redhead Arlene Dahl in a noir at RKO, Slightly Scarlet (1956). She did other thrillers that year; The Killer Is Loose (1956) with Joseph Cotten and Fritz Lang's While the City Sleeps (1956), co-starring Dana Andrews, at RKO. Fleming was top billed in an adventure movie for Warwick Films, Odongo (1956).
Fleming had the female lead in John Sturges's Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) co-starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, a big hit. She supported Donald O'Connor in The Buster Keaton Story (1957) and Stewart Granger in Gun Glory (1957) at MGM.
In May 1957, Fleming launched a nightclub act at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. It was a tremendous success. "I just wanted to know if I could get out on that stage – if I could do it. And I did! ... My heart was to do more stage work, but I had a son, so I really couldn't, but that was in my heart."
Fleming was Guy Madison's co star in Bullwhip (1958) for Allied Artists, and supported Jean Simmons in Home Before Dark (1958), which she later called her favorite role ("It was a marvellous stretch", she said).
Fleming was reunited with Bob Hope in Alias Jesse James (1959) and did an episode of Wagon Train. She was in the Irwin Allen/Joseph M. Newman production of The Big Circus (1959), co-starring Victor Mature and Vincent Price. This was made for Allied Artists, whom Fleming later sued for unpaid profits.
During the 1950s, 1960s, and into the 1970s, Fleming frequently appeared on television with guest-starring roles on The Red Skelton Show, The Best of Broadway, The Investigators, Shower of Stars, The Dick Powell Show, Wagon Train, Burke's Law, The Virginian, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, Kung Fu, Ellery Queen, and The Love Boat.
In 1958, Fleming again displayed her singing talent when she recorded her only LP, entitled simply Rhonda (reissued in 2008 on CD as Rhonda Fleming Sings Just For You). In this album, which was released by Columbia Records, she blended then-current songs like "Around The World" with standards such as "Love Me or Leave Me" and "I've Got You Under My Skin". Conductor-arranger Frank Comstock provided the musical direction.
In December 1962, Fleming was cast as the glamorous Kitty Bolton in the episode, "Loss of Faith", on the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the story line, Kitty pits Joe Phy (Jim Davis) and Peter Gabriel (Don Collier) to run against each other for sheriff of Pima County, Arizona. Violence results from the rivalry.
In the 1960s, Fleming branched out into other businesses and began performing regularly on stage and in Las Vegas.
Personal life and death
Fleming worked for several charities, especially in the field of cancer care, and served on the committees of many related organizations. In 1991, her fifth husband, Ted Mann, and she established the Rhonda Fleming Mann Clinic for Women's Comprehensive Care at the UCLA Medical Center.
In 1964, Fleming spoke at the "Project Prayer" rally attended by 2,500 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. The gathering, which was hosted by Anthony Eisley, a star of ABC's Hawaiian Eye series, sought to flood the United States Congress with letters in support of mandatory school prayer, following two decisions in 1962 and 1963 of the United States Supreme Court, which struck down mandatory school prayer as conflicting with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Joining Fleming and Eisley at the rally were Walter Brennan, Lloyd Nolan, Dale Evans, Pat Boone, and Gloria Swanson. Fleming declared, "Project Prayer is hoping to clarify the First Amendment to the Constitution and reverse this present trend away from God." Eisley and Fleming added that John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Roy Rogers, Mary Pickford, Jane Russell, Ginger Rogers, and Pat Buttram would also have attended the rally had their schedules not been in conflict.
Fleming married six times:
- Thomas Wade Lane, interior decorator, (1940–1942; divorced), one son
- Dr. Lewis V. Morrill, Hollywood physician, (July 11, 1952 – 1954; divorced)
- Lang Jeffries, actor, (April 3, 1960 – January 11, 1962; divorced)
- Hall Bartlett, producer (March 27, 1966 – 1972; divorced)
- Ted Mann, producer, (March 11, 1977 – January 15, 2001; his death)
- Darol Wayne Carlson (2003 – October 31, 2017; his death)
|1943||In Old Oklahoma||Dance-hall girl||Uncredited|
|1944||Since You Went Away||Girl at dance||Uncredited|
|When Strangers Marry||Girl on train||Uncredited|
|1946||Abilene Town||Sherry Balder|
|The Spiral Staircase||Blanche|
|1947||Adventure Island||Faith Wishart|
|Out of the Past||Meta Carson|
|1949||A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court||Alisande La Carteloise|
|The Great Lover||Duchess Alexandria|
|1950||The Eagle and the Hawk||Mrs. Madeline Danzeeger|
|1951||Cry Danger||Nancy Morgan|
|The Redhead and the Cowboy||Candace Bronson|
|The Last Outpost||Julie McQuade|
|1952||Hong Kong||Victoria Evans|
|The Golden Hawk||Captain Rouge|
|1953||Tropic Zone||Flanders White|
|Serpent of the Nile||Cleopatra|
|Pony Express||Evelyn Hastings|
|Those Redheads From Seattle||Kathie Edmonds|
|Yankee Pasha||Roxana Reil|
|1955||Queen of Babylon||Semiramis|
|Tennessee's Partner||Elizabeth "Duchess" Farnham|
|1956||The Killer Is Loose||Lila Wagner|
|Slightly Scarlet||June Lyons|
|While the City Sleeps||Dorothy Kyne|
|1957||The Buster Keaton Story||Peggy Courtney|
|Gunfight at the O.K. Corral||Laura Denbow|
|Home Before Dark||Joan Carlisle|
|1959||Alias Jesse James||Cora Lee Collins|
|The Big Circus||Helen Harrison|
|1960||The Crowded Sky||Cheryl "Charro" Heath|
|The Revolt of the Slaves||Fabiola|
|Pão de Açúcar||Pamela Jones DeSantis|
|1965||Run for Your Wife||Nyta|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||Herself|
|1980||The Nude Bomb||Edith Von Secondberg|
|1990||Waiting for the Wind||Hannah||Short, (final film role)|
- Colgate Comedy Hour (1952) (guest with Abbott and Costello and Errol Flynn)
- What's My Line? (1955) (celebrity mystery guest)
- The Red Skelton Show (1955) (as Phyllis in "Freddy's Romance")
- Wagon Train (1958) (as Jennifer Churchill in "The Jennifer Churchill Story")
- Wagon Train (1961) (as Patience Miller in "The Patience Miller Story")
- Here's Hollywood (1961) (celebrity guest with third husband, Lang Jeffries)
- The Dick Powell Show (1961) (as Margo Haley in episode "John J. Diggs")
- Wagon Train (1963) (as Sandra Cummings in "The Sandra Cummings Story")
- The Virginian (1964) (guest star in episode "We've lost a train")
- Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (1964) (as Purity in episode "Have Girls, Will Travel")
- Needles and Pins (1973) (guest star in episode "It Was a Very Good Line")
- McMillan and Wife (1974) (guest star in episode "Cross and Double-cross")
- Kung Fu (1975) (guest star as Jennie Malone in episode "Ambush")
- The Love Boat (1978) (celebrity guest)
|March 22, 1951||Screen Directors Playhouse||"The Great Lover"|||
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- "Follow the Sun - Season 1, Episode 25 - Marine of the Month". TV Guide. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Loss of Faith on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
- FRANK, D. O., & Thackrey, T.,Jr. (Sep 22, 1974). "Walter brennan, oscar winner, dies". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 157476108.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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- "What's My Line? S06E32". TV Time. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
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- "Freddie's Romance". IMDB. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Season 2, Episode 3 The Jennifer Churchill Story". TV Guide. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Season 4, Episode 16 The Patience Miller Story". TV Guide. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Here's Hollywood (1960–1962) - Episode #2.26". IMDB. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "John J. Diggs". IMDB. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Season 7, Episode 11 The Sandra Cummings Story". TV Guide. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Season 2, Episode 4 Have Girls - Will Travel". TV Guide. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Needles and Pins". MUBI. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Season 3, Episode 6 Cross and Double-cross". TV Guide. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
- "Season 3, Episode 23 Ambush". TV Guide. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
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