Carole Landis was one of Hollywood's most beautiful and beloved actresses. During World War 2 she became a popular pin-up girl and devoted herself to entertaining the troops. Tragically she never found happiness and committed suicide at age twenty-nine.
This tribute to Carole was created by her niece Tammy and her longtime fan Elizabeth. We love Carole and have spent years researching her life. Many of the photos here are from Carole's personal collection.
Dorothy Ridste Ross was Carole's sister and her best friend. Dorothy was born in
Montana in 1917 two years before Carole. They had a hard childhood...my
grandmother always told me stories during chores when I fussed over
pulling weeds in the garden or having to get up on my summer vacation
when the sun was barely rising itself. My grandmother was a very hard
worker, very devoted to her family and God. She was the most loving,
patient, and caring person I've ever known in my life. She was a true
role model and she was always teaching her children and grandchildren
the ways of life and that you should always have your head up and stay
positive in the hard times. Their mother Clara raised them alone and was
always working. She would have two jobs and also took in laundry on the
side to be ironed or altered. So being that she was also a hard worker
my grandmother Dorothy was responsible for Carole. She told me of having
to wash the diapers, help with the "extra" work her mom brought in, and
take care of the house and cook dinner. When I asked her what age she
was she said she was five!! I was blown away at my own age of seven that
she had so much to do...she never made it sound that she was
complaining but that she had to do what it took to help keep the family
Dorothy and Carole (right) Dorothy (right) with her grandmother, mother, and Carole
raised Carole and there is no doubt she was the "second" mommy!! She
loved on her, played with her, did her hair, and would make special
clothes for Carole's dolls. I remember that my Grandmother said she had
gotten old socks that had been darned too many times and made a doll for
Carole. She was the little girl that loved dressing up and wanted many
things to say the least. They weren't allowed to go outside very much
when they were really young. When Clara was at work they had to stay in
and wait for her to come home. Then they would get some time until Clara
had to leave to go to her other job. Carole was talking by a early age
so her and Dorothy would make up stories. That was one of their favorite
thing to do. And as you all know Carole loved writing as well as my
Grandmother. Dorothy and Carole were best friends! My grandmother loved
and adored her sister. When she talked of Carole she had a smile on her
face and you could tell she was feeling her sister near by. I felt
growing up that Carole was not dead - she was alive in my grandmother's
heart and soul and she transferred Carole into my heart and soul.
Dorothy and Carole (right) Dorothy with her husband Walter
of the stories that is so Carole and shows how she knew she could win
my grandmother over is this...one day my grandmother and I were out
"tuning up the roses" as she called it. I just hated getting scratched
everywhere but when she sat down and took off her shoes she had a bunion
on her foot. She was rubbing it and I asked her "how she got that ugly
thing on her foot". She laughed and started to tell the story that it
was all Carole's fault and some was her fault for giving in to her
sister. Clara would let the children take turns buying new shoes and
Carole already had her turn so it was Dorothy's turn. Clara gave Dorothy
the money and told her to go straight there with Carole and come
straight home. When they got the shoe store Dorothy was looking for the
shoes that would be in the price range and Carole was all over the store
looking at the very expensive ones. She couldn't stand it that she
couldn't get another pare of shoes. So Dorothy found the pair she wanted
and tried them on and Carole was being "moppie" my grandmother would
put it so she asked her "whats wrong". Carole told her "she had to have
this shoes or she was going to die!!" So being the loving sister she was
Dorothy bought those pretty shoes for Carole. My grandmother had to put
her raggy shoes back on and wait for her turn to get shoes. Well her
feet grew and that's how she got her painful bunions but Dorothy
couldn't say no to Carole ;-)
Dorothy (kneeling) with Carole in 1945 Dorothy with her father Alfred Ridste
The sisters shared
everything including boyfriends. Dorothy met my grandfather, Walter
"Babe" Ross, when he dated Carole. They eloped in 1935 and had four
children - Diane Carole (named after Carole), Buck, Sharon
(my mom), and Bill. Carole was jealous of Dorothy's happy family life.
She used to say that Dorothy should give her one of the kids because she
had so many. Dorothy and Walt didn't like the Hollywood scene. At a
party Bing Crosby patted Dorothy's bottom and Walt punched him! Dorothy
was a selfless person, sister, mother, and grandmother. She had a spirit
and unique way about her. She had everyone's interest at heart and
always wanted the best. I believe that part of who Carole was and her
giving heart came from my grandmother. Dorothy and Carole were like one
soul and they always will be. My grandmother told me Carole was like her
baby! When Carole passed away it was very painful and heartbreaking for
Dorothy but she has always carried her memory on through her family.
I'm so thankful that she did that for me and for my children to see that
our family has relatives that are giving, loving, and wonderful. They
are the ones to inspire us and to freely be who we are made to be and we
can achieve anything!!!
~ Written by Tammy Powell, Carole's great-niece and Dorothy's granddaughter
Dorothy and her children at Carole's grave Dorothy with her mother and children
Carole was very close to her older sister Dorothy Ridste Ross. In 1985 Dorothy wrote about their childhood and Carole's road to stardom ...
How do you become a movie star? Well, let me tell you some about Carole - Frances
As we grew up in San Bernardino she was a very vivacious and beautiful little girl. Mother called her
“Baby Doll” and she always signed her letters to mother as “Baby”. She was literally born singing and dancing, always performing when someone
was near. She read every movie magazine she could get and had pictures of the stars on our bedroom
walls. Her favorites were Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Mary Astor and Kay Francis.
The intrigue of the Gish sisters was of course the names - Frances Lillian and Dorothy. They were
silent movie stars and we saw them frequently at the Saturday matinees.
Carole (sitting) and Dorothy Dorothy and Carole (wearing a headband)
It is interesting that Mary Astor and Kay Francis were both a big part of her movie life. She made
pictures with them and they were good friends. Kay Francis of course was on some of the USO Tours
and was at Carole and Tommy’s wedding. Also in the movie Four Jills In A Jeep,
which Carole wrote of their USO Tours.
BUT I’m getting ahead of the story!
When Frances was about seven years old the Fox Theater chain built a big, beautiful theater in our
town and the management had talent contests. Frances was very outgoing and of course she was one of
the first to enter. Without any fear and enjoying every minute she won first prize. She sang “Yes Sir
That’s My Baby” and danced the Charleston. That victory really spurred her on and her dreams
became greater to be a movie star.
Carole playing dress-up Carole (left) and Dorothy
The owners and dance instructor of the (only) dance studio in our town offered to give Frances free
dancing lessons if she would appear in shows to be given at Resort Hotels and other places. Of course
she was all for it, but my mother would not let her unless I was with her so the owners made the
bargain for both of us.
We worked hard, studied and practiced for weeks and then the night of our first appearance came. It
was to be at a hotel in The Valley of the Moon, which is in the Big Bear Mountains. I can well remember the night we drove up there. It was a cold winter night. The moon was full and
the sky soft with fluffy clouds that passed over the moon making everything kind of scary, but it was
so beautiful as we drove the winding road through the beautiful pine trees and well worth the trip.
18 year old Carole Carole, Dorothy, and their mother
Our performance was successful and we were given dinner for it. Lest I imply that the dance group
was just Frances and me I had better mention we had eight girls in the group. About that time the Fox theaters were sponsoring a beauty contest. It was in three of the Fox theaters
in San Bernardino, Redlands, and Riverside. The winner of the first contest and several of the runner-ups
went on to the next town. Frances and I went to all three. She won first in all of them and I made
second in the last contest.
The Rose Room was a dance hall in town that held Saturday matinees for the younger crowd and you
can believer that Frances was always there. Again, mother would not let her go without me so I sat and
watched her dance, dance, dance! She was so popular, such a marvelous dancer and won so many
dance contests. She was really a natural - her life was singing and dancing.
Finally on to Hollywood!! She stood in the extras lines for hours on end and days on end taking any bit part she could get. She was given a part in the chorus line in the picture Varsity Show, a musical starring Dick Powell and the Lane Sisters (there were four of them). Busby Berkeley saw and took her out of the line and she was on her way as a starlet for Warner Brothers Studio. She worked hard, studied much, took singing lessons, golf, tennis, horseback riding, learned French and other foreign languages and seemed successful through work and perseverance in all she attempted to do.
Carole during World War 2
She went on from movie to movie, to New York stage plays and then made One Million B C. That was her big thrill because it had its world premiere in her hometown of SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA, at the very Fox theater where she won her first contest singing and dancing. As the War came (World War II) she went on U.S. bond selling tours all over the United States, to the Stagedoor Canteens to entertain service men and on USO tours here stateside as well as England, Africa, and the South Pacific. She was a warmhearted person who loved her family and all she met giving freely of herself, her time and talents. She was loved by all…
In 1942 Carole starred in the World War 2 drama Manila Calling. She plays Edna, a beautiful American showgirl who gets trapped on an island in the Philipines. The cast includes Lloyd Nolan, Cornel Wilde, James Gleason, and Elisha Cook Jr. Manila Calling is available on DVD and you can watch some scenes from the movie here ....
In 1944 Carole's beloved Great Dane Donner passed away. She had truly loved him and was devastated by his death. Carole wrote this article about Donner for Motion Picture magazine ....
Donner is dead. Donner was my Great Dane and I loved him. O.O. McIntyre said something once, in his column, about the poignancy of "giving your heart to a dog to tear." I know what he meant. When Donner was a puppy, all paws and clumsiness, he used to frolic on the beach in front of our house with a little fox terrier friend of his. The terrier was full grown and very quick and agile. He liked to tease Donner with all kinds of canine acrobatics and Donner was a sucker. He always tried to do everything the terrier did, and he's always fall over himself in the attempt. Mother and I used to laugh at him until the tears rolled down our faces, which sometimes sent him to a corner to mope, since he hated to be laughed at. But he never stayed there long. He couldn't resist that terrier. Mother and I used to laugh at Donner at mealtime, too, sitting there in the dining room a respectful distance from the table, drooling. "Donner", I'd tell him sometimes, "don't sit there drooling like a dope. It isn't the droolers who get along in this world. It's the what-the-hellers!" And he'd thump his tail on the carpet, "Sure, sure. But what about a piece of steak? As he grew older Donner made me his special responsibility. He was always near me if he could manage it. I remember one night when my mother was away and I woke up feeling ill. I got out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen to make myself some hot lemonade. I felt so bad I didn't notice him at first, but pretty soon I caught site of Donner standing in the doorway, head cocked to one side, trying to understand this strange procedure. I went back to the bedroom for something and he came along. I returned to the kitchen and there he was, right at my heels. The house was very dark and still, and the fog hung heavy on the sea outside. It came to me there, in the middle of the night, how good it was to have him with me, protective and companionable. And how beautiful, the simple unswerving devotion of a dog.
Sometimes Donner was a great big baby. If anyone hurt his feelings, nothing would have it but he must sit on my lap. As he grew to big to accomplish this, he'd come and sort of stand across my knees, all four paws on the floor, and I'd have to comfort him as a child. I went overseas and was gone for five months. When I returned the man from the studio who met my plane brought Donner with him. But Donner didn't jump up on me, showering me with damp kisses as he always had after shorter separations. He just came and stood close to me and looked at me, whimpering. "It was terrible having you gone so long, Carole," he was saying. "Please don't do it again..." The tears smarted in my eyes and I promised him I wouldn't. Donner's first symptoms of illness was his sudden inability to keep food on his stomach. This made him very ashamed and he begged my pardon the only way he knew how - by thumping his tail on the floor anxiously. I suppose he thought he would be punished as he used to be when a puppy, for forgetting himself. I put my arms around him and tried to reassure him. "Donner is a good boy. Donner couldn't help it because he was sick. Donner is a good boy!" And I'm sure he understood me because he sort of relaxed, as if with relief, and dropped off to sleep. The next day he was dead. Now the house is very neat and quiet. Donner doesn't sneak smelly bones indoors anymore and lay them at my feet. "Just see how much I love you, Carole..."
He doesn't race through the rooms, mussing up rugs and knocking over things. He doesn't leave hairs on the furniture. He doesn't gobble his dinner, slopping much of it over the edge of his bowl onto mother's nice, clean kitchen floor. He doesn't track sand through the house so that we are forever having to vacuum after him. I wish he did. The extra work he made was nothing compared to the fun and happiness he gave us. I cried terribly when, toward the end, he tried to lick my hand and couldn't quite make it because he was so sick. and tried to wag his tail, but could only make it move the barest little bit to say "So long, Carole. It's me who's going away this time. I'm sorry, Carole. I'm sorry I'm making you cry..."As I left the vet's that day, I said I would never have another dog. I said I couldn't bear to have one and love him-and someday lose him. "It hurts too much," I said. But yesterday...well, yesterday I was walking along the boulevard and in a pet shop window was the most adorable cocker puppy. He was lying, head on paws, in a corner all alone and breaking his little heart over it. I went inside and picked him up. He was scared and shaking at first, but when I cuddled him in my arms, he put his little head on my shoulder and heaved a big sigh as if to say "This is it. This is what I've been waiting for." I put him down and almost ran out of there. I didn't want a dog. Oh, definitely, I didn't want a dog. But I found myself thinking of him all last night, poor little mite in that pet store window, lonesome and scared. And this morning I called up the man at the store and told him I would be in for my dog. "I was saving him for you, Miss Landis." he said. He knew even before I did that "Splash" was for me. Yes, I've already named him, and I'm going to Hollywood right now to get him and bring him home. So you see, I've done it again. I've given my heart once more "to a dog to tear."