H’wood star Fleming dies at 97
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
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.
Rhonda Fleming (2nd from l.) in 1962 with Richard Nixon (l.), then seeking California governorship. Actors George Murphy and Jane Powell join in.