Film premiers, Hollywood stars as friends and a showbiz lifestyle, all sound a long way from life in Ipswich, Suffolk. American film star of the 1940s, Veronica Lake, lived in Ipswich. when Veronica was asked ‘Why Ipswich?’ She said, ‘Why not?’
Thanks to Valerie Giles of Ipswich, we now know more about the stars time in town in the 1960s. Valerie explains how she spent hours every day chatting with the Hollywood Star. Valerie said. “In 1969 my father was a regular at the Thomas Eldred public house in Cedarcroft Road, Ipswich and another regular there asked my father if I would be interested in caring for a friend of his. I went to 137 Valley Road, Ipswich and to my great surprise found that it was film star Veronica Lake. She explained that she had come to England to appear on a television show to promote her autobiography “Veronica” While in London she was admitted to hospital and one of her nurses was the daughter of the chap who was a regular at the Thomas Eldred. That was the Ipswich connection.”
“I was just twenty-one when Veronica came to Ipswich and she immediately became very fond of me, possibly because I was born the day before her own daughter Diana in October 1948. I visited the house every day for around three hours helping with a little house work and being her friend. She rarely left the house and I was always told to keep details about her a secret. Veronica became very fond of my son Vincent, who was around two-years-old, while she was in town. She was a lovely lady who I still have a great deal of affection for”. Veronica moved from the house in Valley Road to a flat in Marlborough Court in Henley Road, where I continued my daily visits, before she returned to hospital in London and then back to America in around 1971”.
It seems that times were hard for Veronica Lake when she came to Ipswich. The days of high spending and Hollywood parties were over. A drink problem had blighted her career and she died in 1973 of hepatitis in her early fifties. Explaining in an interview in October 1970 why she thought the work in theatre and television came to an end she said “It all goes back to a live television show when something happened which I could not help and I have never been asked to do anything since. She had apologised to viewers about the way she sounded because she said she had a cold and left suddenly during an advertisement break.
Her lonely life in Ipswich is summed up in the same interview when she said “My three children lead their own lives. We are close in one way, but very independent in another. We correspond if anything particular happens, but we have not got a hell of a lot in common. I have my own life to live”. Her breakthrough film was I Wanted Wings in 1941, a major hit in which she played the second female lead. This success was followed by Hold Back the Dawn later that year. She had starring roles in Sullivan’s Travels, This Gun for Hire, I Married a Witch, The Glass key and So Proudly We Hail. During the early 1940s Veronica Lake was considered one of the most reliable box office draws in Hollywood. She became known for onscreen pairings with actor Alan Ladd. They made four films together. A stray lock of her shoulder-length blonde hair during a publicity photo shoot led to her iconic "peekaboo" hairstyle, which was widely imitated. During World War Two she changed her trademark image to encourage women working in war industry factories to adopt more practical and safer hairstyles.