Rhonda Fleming

Rhonda Fleming (born Marilyn Louis; August 10, 1923) is a retired American film/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.

Rhonda Fleming
Fleming in 1951
Marilyn Louis

(1923-08-10) August 10, 1923
Years active1943–1990
Tom Lane
(m. 1940; div. 1942)

Dr. Lewis Morrill
(m. 1952; div. 1954)

Lang Jeffries
(m. 1960; div. 1962)

Hall Bartlett
(m. 1966; div. 1972)

Ted Mann
(m. 1977; died 2001)

Darol Carlson
(m. 2003; died 2017)


Early life

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.[1]

She began working as a film actress while attending Beverly Hills High School,[2] from which she graduated in 1941. She was discovered by the well-known Hollywood agent Henry Willson, who changed her name to "Rhonda Fleming".[3]

"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."[4]

She was nicknamed the "Queen of Technicolor" because her fair complexion and flaming red hair photographed exceptionally well in Technicolor.[5]

David O. Selznick

Fleming had bit parts in In Old Oklahoma (1943),[6] Since You Went Away (1944) for David O. Selznick, and When Strangers Marry (1944). Wilson went to work for David Selznick, who put her under contract.[7]

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."[8]

The film was popular and Selznick gave her another good role in a thriller, The Spiral Staircase (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak.

Selznick then 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, at RKO.

Fleming's first leading role came in Adventure Island (1947), a low-budget action film made for Pine-Thomas Productions at Paramount in the two-color Cinecolor process and co-starring fellow Selznick contractee Rory Calhoun.[9]


Fleming auditioned for a part Deanna Durbin turned down, the female lead in a Bing Crosby movie at Paramount, 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". Crosby and she 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.[10][11]

She then played another leading role opposite a comedian, in this case Bob Hope, for 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."[12]

She was John Payne's love interest in The Eagle and the Hawk (1950), a Western.

In February 1949, Selznick had sold his contract players to Warner Bros, but he kept Fleming.[13]

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).[14]

In 1950, she ended her association with Selznick after eight years, though her current contract with him had another five years to run.[15][16]

After Selznick

Fleming signed a three-picture deal with Paramount.[17] 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 Reagan again in Hong Kong (1951).

She sang on NBC's Colgate Comedy Hour during the same live telecast that featured Errol Flynn, on September 30, 1951, from the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.[18]

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 did a Western with Charlton Heston at Paramount, Pony Express (1953), and two films shot in [[3-D film|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 went to Italy to play Seriramis in Queen of Babylon (1954).

Late 1950s

Much of the outdoor location work for Fleming's appearance in the 1955 Western Tennessee's Partner, in which she played Duchess opposite John Payne as Tennessee and Ronald Reagan as Cowpoke, was filmed at the storied Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California, known as the most heavily filmed outdoor location in the history of film and television. She was filmed riding a horse over the movie ranch's rocky terrain, and one of those rocks, a distinctive monolithic sandstone feature behind which Fleming, as Duchess, hid during an action sequence, later became known as Rhonda Fleming Rock. The rock remains in place today and is part of a section of the former movie ranch known as "Garden of the Gods", which has been preserved as public parkland.[19]

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.[16]

In May 1957, Fleming launched a nightclub act at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, Nevada. 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."[20]

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[8]).

Fleming was reunited with Bob Hope in Alias Jesse James (1959) and did an episode of Wagon Train.[21] 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.[22]

Fleming went to Italy to make The Revolt of the Slaves (1959) and was second billed in The Crowded Sky (1960).


In 1960, she described herself as "semi-retired" - by this stage she had made money in real estate investments. That year she toured her nightclub act in Las Vegas and Palm Springs.[20][23]


During the 1950s and into the 1960s, 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.

On March 4, 1962, Fleming appeared in one of the last segments of ABC's Follow the Sun in a role opposite Gary Lockwood. She played a Marine in the episode, "Marine of the Month".

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.[24]

Later career

In the 1960s, Fleming branched out into other businesses and began performing regularly on stage and in Las Vegas.[25]

One of her final film appearances to date was a bit-role as Edith von Secondburg in the 1980 comedy The Nude Bomb (starring Don Adams). Her most recent film was Waiting for the Wind (1990).[26]

Fleming has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[27] In 2007, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.[28]

Personal life

Fleming has worked for several charities, especially in the field of cancer care, and has 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.[26]

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.[29]

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."[29] 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.[29]

Fleming has been married six times:[30]

  • 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)

Through her son Kent Lane (b. 1941), Rhonda also has two granddaughters (Kimberly and Kelly) and four great-grandchildren (Wagner, Page, Lane, and Cole).[31][32]

Fleming is a Presbyterian[33] and she is a Republican who supported Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election[34].


Year Title Role
1943In Old OklahomaDance-hall girl
1944Since You Went AwayGirl at dance
When Strangers MarryGirl on train
1945SpellboundMary Carmichael
The Spiral StaircaseBlanche
1946Abilene TownSherry Balder
1947Adventure IslandFaith Wishart
Out of the PastMeta Carson
1949A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's CourtAlisande La Carteloise
The Great LoverDuchess Alexandria
1950The Eagle and the HawkMrs. Madeline Danzeeger
1951Cry DangerNancy Morgan
The Redhead and the CowboyCandace Bronson
The Last OutpostJulie McQuade
Little EgyptIzora
CrosswindsKatherine Shelley
1952Hong KongVictoria Evans
The Golden HawkCaptain Rouge
1953Tropic ZoneFlanders White
Serpent of the NileCleopatra
Pony ExpressEvelyn Hastings
InfernoGeraldine Carson
Those Redheads From SeattleKathie Edmonds
1954JivaroAlice Parker
Yankee PashaRoxana Reil
1955Queen of BabylonSemiramis
Tennessee's PartnerElizabeth "Duchess" Farnham
1956Slightly ScarletJune Lyons
The Killer Is LooseLila Wagner
While the City SleepsDorothy Kyne
OdongoPamela Muir
1957Gunfight at the O.K. CorralLaura Denbow
The Buster Keaton StoryPeggy Courtney
Gun GloryJo
Home Before DarkJoan Carlisle
1959Alias Jesse JamesCora Lee Collins
The Big CircusHelen Harrison
1960The Revolt of the SlavesFabiola
The Crowded SkyCheryl "Charro" Heath
1964Pão de AçúcarPamela Jones DeSantis
The PatsyHerself
1965Run for Your WifeNyta
1976Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved HollywoodRhoda Flaming
1980The Nude BombEdith Von Secondberg
1990Waiting for the Wind


Wagon Train The Sandra Cummings Story aired 2 December 1963 season 7 episode 11

Radio appearances

Screen Directors PlayhouseThe Great LoverMarch 22, 1951[35]


  1. "Rhonda Fleming". ReviewJournal.com. May 17, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  2. "Beverly Hills High School". Seeing-stars.com. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  3. Rhonda Fleming interview, Warner Archive Podcast. Warner Bros. Entertainment.
  4. A glamour girl finds there's no place like home Actress Rhonda Fleming pursues the joys of good causes and her Laguna sanctuary Laura Saari: Orange County Register19 Apr 1989: k01.
  5. "Rhonda Fleming at Brian's Drive-In Theater". Briansdriveintheater.com. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  6. Miss Bergman and Hitchcock By Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monito 21 July 1944: 4.
  7. Rhonda Fleming... Lucky Star!: Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 15 June 1952: g6.
  8. Redheaded Rhonda Fleming always wound up in roundups: Jim Bawden Toronto Star28 Nov 1993: B4.
  9. "Adventure Island (1947) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  10. "The Official Rhonda Flemming Website : Tribute to Bing Crosby". Rhondafleming.com. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  11. DRAMA AND THE ARTS: Imagine Bing as Knightly Hero in Twain's 'Yankee'! Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 09 Nov 1947: B1.
  12. Rhonda Fleming Still Queen of the Redheads Rosenfield, Paul. Los Angeles Times 04 July 1976: n29.
  13. SELZNICK STARS TO DO MOVIES FOR WARNERS New York Times 21 Feb 1949: 18.
  14. U-I Recaptures Philip Substitute in Debate Friend Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 20 June 1950: A7.
  15. Rhonda Fleming to Quit Selznick New York Times 12 June 1950: 18.
  16. She's Her Own Boss!: No Contracts Cramp the Actions of Actress-Singer-Realtor Rhonda Fleming, Inc. Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 05 May 1957: c25.
  17. HOLLYWOOD IN REVIEW: Rhonda Eyes Role of Film Songstress Movie Songstress Roles Eyed by Miss Fleming Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 02 July 1950: D1.
  18. "Classic TV Info - The Colgate Comedy Hour - Season 2". Classictvinfo.com. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  19. Nano, Swami (January 9, 2014). "Iverson Movie Ranch: Rhonda Fleming — and why there's a Rhonda Fleming Rock in Chatsworth, Calif".
  20. Song in Her Heart Shearer, Stephen Michael. Las Vegas Review - Journal; Las Vegas17 May 2009: J.7.
  21. Rhonda Due for Whistles Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times 30 Nov 1958: E2.
  22. Studio Sued by Rhonda Fleming Los Angeles Times 28 July 1963: f3.
  23. SEEKS 'SEMI-RETIREMENT': Rhonda Fleming Keeps Busy as 'the Laziest Girl in Town' Smith, Jack. Los Angeles Times 01 Feb 1960: B1.
  24. "Loss of Faith on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  25. FRANK, D. O., & Thackrey, T.,Jr. (1974, Sep 22). Walter brennan, oscar winner, dies. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/157476108
  26. "The Official Rhonda Flemming Website". Rhondafleming.com. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  27. "Rhonda Fleming - Celebrity information". Mysticgames.com. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  28. "Palm Stars Walk of Stars" (PDF). Palmspringswalkofstars.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  29. ""The Washington Merry-Go-Round", Drew Pearson column, May 14, 1964" (PDF). dspace.wrlc.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  30. "Rhonda Fleming Companions". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  31. "Schenectady Gazette - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.
  32. "Rhonda Fleming". Turner Classic Movies.
  33. Inc, Time (January 10, 1949). "LIFE". Time Inc via Google Books.
  34. Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers
  35. Hudgins, Garven (March 22, 1951). "Hope To Play 'Great Lover' In Broadcast". Maryland, Cumberland. Cumberland Evening Times. p. 25. Retrieved November 14, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
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