It isn't often that our oral history project links to Hollywood, but today it does!
Today marks what would have been the 95th birthday of screen star Veronica Lake. While she is remembered all over the world for her stunning beauty and her roles in classic films noir, for some, Veronica Lake is better remembered as Connie Keane, a local resident of Saranac Lake in the 1930s.
Constance Ockelman, as she was then known, was born on November 14, 1922, in Brooklyn. In the early 1930s, Connie's widowed mother married a man named Anthony Keane and the family eventually settled at 1 Riverside Drive in Saranac Lake, where Keane would receive treatment for tuberculosis.
Among the local families who befriended the Keanes were the Bombards: A. Douglas and his wife, Charlotte Littlejohn Bombard. Young Connie Keane, whom no one realized would one day become a famous actress, babysat the Bombard children. Natalie Bombard Leduc, who was eight years younger than Connie, has vivid memories of her babysitter, and she spoke about Connie in a recent oral history interview: "...she had a lovely mother. Her mother and my mother were very good friends. She was not a pretty little girl, but she was nice and she gave me a doll I still have."
While living in Saranac Lake, Connie attended St. Bernard's School, before being sent to boarding school in Canada. When Connie was sixteen, the family moved to California and it was shortly after that move that Connie became involved in acting, getting the attention of a producer and, like so many other stars from that time, changing her name to something a bit more alluring than Connie Keane.
Veronica Lake starred in twenty-six films, appearing with stars such as Joel McCrea, Alan Ladd, and Claudette Colbert. When Lake died in 1973 at the age of 50, the Los Angeles Times erroneously reported that she had lived in Lake Placid. For those Saranac Lakers who remember Connie Keane, however, that's a mistake that none of them would make!
Happy Birthday, Connie!
Historic Saranac Lake is developing the Cure Porch on Wheels, an exciting mobile exhibit space that will allow HSL to present mini exhibitions and oral history projects to audiences at locations throughout the area.