BiographyShe was born Marilyn Louis in Hollywood, California, on August 10th, 1923, into a comfortably off middle class family. She had one elder sister, Beverley. Her father was an insurance salesman, and her mother a former model and stage actress divorced when Rhonda was ten years old. Her first love was singing. She had a fine soprano voice and she took lessons in light opera for ten years as a child and entered numerous singing contests.
Marilyn graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1941, having already been "discovered" by the well-known Hollywood agent Henry Willson. At his suggestion she changed her name to "Rhonda Fleming". Wilson introduced her to producer David Selznick who immediately put her under contract.
Movie ActressRhonda's movie career started in 1943 with an uncredited role in the John Wayne movie 'In Old Oklahoma' and after some minor roles in 1944 she appeared in her first major film, Alfred Hitchcock's 'Spellbound' in 1945 with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. The film was extremely popular and the following year Selznick gave her another good role in the thriller, 'The Spiral Staircase' directed by Robert Siodmak.
In 1946 Selznick lent her out to appear in a supporting role in the Randolph Scott Western 'Abilene Town' at United Artists, and at RKO in 'Out of the Past' in 1947.
Rhonda joined Paramount and worked there for ten years from 1947, the highlight being when she co-starred with Kirk Doglas and Burt Lancaster in the classic 1957 Western 'Gunfight at the OK Corral'. During her time there she also played opposite a variety of leading men such as Bing Crosby ('A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court') and Bob Hope ('The Great Lover'), both in 1949, Ronald Reagan ('Hong Kong') in 1952 and Donald O'Connor ('The Buster Keaton Story') and Stewart Granger (Gun Glory), both in 1957.
After this her film career slowed down apart from enjoyable highlights such as 'Alias Jesse James' with Bob Hope in 1959 and a cameo appearance in Jerry Lewis's 'The Patsy' in 1964.
Rhonda made two appearances later in her career in 'Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood' in1976 and 'The Nude Bomb' in 1980.
Musical CareerRhonda was a classically trained singer although her movie career caused her singing ambitions to take a back seat. Occasionally she got the chance to showcase her musical abilities on film as in 1949 in 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' when she sang a duet with Bing Crosby and a beautiful sol number entitled "When is Sometime?".
Rhonda was a devout Christian and once formed part of a four girl gospel group along with Jane Russell, Connie Haines and Beryl Davis. In 1954 they made an album called "Make A Joyful Noise Unto the Lord" which sold over one million copies.
In 1957 she performed a showroom singing act at the Tropicana, Las Vegas and she also performed at the Hollywood Bowl in a one-woman concert of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin songs. She recorded an album of standards entitled "Rhonda" in 1958 for Columbia Records. During the 1960s she continued to perform regularly on stage in Las Vegas.
Television CareerRhonda was an early performer on the new medium of television and during the 1950s and 1960s she frequently appeared as guest star on such programmes as 'The Best of Broadway', 'The Investigators', 'The Dick Powell Show', 'Wagon Train', 'McMillan & Wife', and 'The Love Boat'.
PersonalRhonda was married six times as follows: Tom Lane (1940–1942; divorced) Dr. Lewis Morrill (1952 – 1954; divorced) Lang Jeffries, actor, (1960 – 1962; divorced) Hall Bartlett, producer (1966 – 1972; divorced) Ted Mann, producer, (1977 – 2001; his death) Darol Wayne Carlson (2003 – 2017; his death) She had one child, a son, from her first marriage.
Rhonda Fleming died on 14 October, 2020 in hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97 years old.
Rhonda Fleming Academy AwardsNo Nominations:
Rhonda Fleming Filmography
In Old Oklahoma (uncredited)
Since You Went Away
When Strangers Marry (uncredited)
The Fighting Generation (Short)
The Spiral Staircase
Adventure Island Out of the Past
A Yankee in King Arthur's Court
The Great Lover
The Eagle and the Hawk
The Redhead and the Cowboy
The Last Outpost
The Golden Hawk
Serpent of the Nile
Those Redheads from Seattle
Lost Treasure of the Amazon
The Slave Woman
The Killer Is Loose
While the City Sleeps
Gunfight at the OK Corral
The Buster Keaton Story
Home Before Dark
Alias Jesse James
The Big Circus