H’wood star Fleming dies at 97

New York Daily News - - SUCCESS - BY JOE ER­WIN

Ac­tress Rhonda Fleming, a lead­ing lady who was one of the last links to Hol­ly­wood’s Golden Age, has died. She was 97.

Fleming, who de­buted in black and white films but whose fiery red hair made her a smash in Tech­ni­color, died Wednes­day in Santa Mon­ica, Calif.

Fleming was born Mar­i­lyn Louis in Hol­ly­wood in 1923, and ac­cord­ing to Tin­sel­town lore, she was headed to class at Bev­erly Hills High School when a man fol­lowed her in a car and said, “You ought to be in pic­tures.”

He of­fered to be her agent, and at 19, she had a con­tract at David O. Selznick’s stu­dio — and the moniker Rhonda Fleming. Her first big break came when Al­fred Hitch­cock chose her to play a nympho­ma­niac in 1945’s “Spell­bound,” star­ring In­grid Bergman and Gre­gory Peck.

“I rushed home, and my mother and I looked up ‘nympho­ma­niac’ in the dic­tio­nary,” she re­called in a 1990 in­ter­view. “We were both shocked.”

Hitch­cock’s black and white clas­sic brought more roles, but her first color film, 1949’s “A Con­necti­cut Yan­kee in King Arthur’s Court” with Bing Crosby, brought the red­head new ac­claim.

Fleming ap­peared with the top lead­ing men of her time, such as Bob Hope, Burt Lan­caster, Kirk Douglas, Charl­ton He­ston and a pre-pres­i­den­tial Ron­ald Rea­gan, with whom she made four films.

As her film ca­reer waned, Fleming did a singing act in Las Ve­gas, ap­peared in TV shows and com­mer­cials and

did the­ater.

Ac­cord­ing to IMDB, her last fea­ture film was 1980’s “The Nude Bomb,” a film ver­sion of the 1960s TV show “Get Smart,” star­ring Don Adams. Her last credit was a

1990 short, “Wait­ing For the Wind,” with Robert Mitchum.

Fleming was di­vorced four times and wid­owed twice. She had one son.

AP

Rhonda Fleming (2nd from l.) in 1962 with Richard Nixon (l.), then seek­ing Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor­ship. Ac­tors Ge­orge Mur­phy and Jane Pow­ell join in.

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