After Veronica Lake died of hepatitis at 50 in 1973, many believed the downturn of her film career years earlier had driven her to drink. But as the recently republished Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake shows, she was the one who turned her back on Hollywood in search of a simpler life. “I had to get out,” Veronica said. “I was never psychologically meant to be a picture star.”

Born Constance Ockelman, “she had a very aggressive stage mother who pushed her towards show business against her will,” says TCM host Eddie Muller, who wrote a new introduction to Veronica’s 1969 book. She found fame as a femme fatale in movies like 1942’s This Gun for Hire and became known for her “peekaboo” hairstyle. But Veronica found the image severely limiting. “She was naturally rebellious,” says Muller. “She got tired of people expecting her to fit into a box.”

Veronica turned to alcohol, and her erratic behavior led to rumors of mental illness. “She was behaving the way a lot of men did, and they got a pass,” says Muller. “Drinking, showing up hungover — that’s part of Humphrey Bogart‘s legend.”

In 1952, “I said, ‘The hell with you, Hollywood,’” Veronica wrote. “I’ve never been back.” When it was reported she was working as an NYC cocktail waitress in 1962, “people felt very sorry for me,” she admitted. “But I really enjoyed the job.” The three-time divorcée met a merchant marine, Andy Elickson, and “I loved him very much,” she said.

Who Is Veronica Lake

After Elickson’s death, Veronica moved to Miami and lived a quiet life. “I seem to have found peace,” she said. “Spare me the high pressure of success. I’ve been there.”

Bruce Fretts, with reporting by Lexi Ciccone

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