Veronica Lake (Getty Images/Silver Screen Collection)
Veronica Lake was an actress with many roles to her credit, but 40 years after her death it may not be her acting that people remember. Instead, it’s her hair. Before Farrah Fawcett dazzled us with her tumbling golden locks, before Jennifer Aniston sent us rushing to reproduce "The Rachel," Veronica Lake made her hairstyle a personal trademark. Presenting: Veronica Lake and the peek-a-boo bang.
The hairstyle that made Lake famous wasn't planned. We can imagine her stylist sighing in frustration when, at a publicity photo shoot, a lock of Lake's hair fell out of place and covered her right eye. But someone at that shoot knew that Lake’s unruly lock was the next big thing, and Lake began to cultivate the look. Peering out from behind her long, blonde hair created an aura of mystery and won her film noir fame as she vamped her way through the moody movies of the 1940s.
Lake's peek-a-boo bang did so much to advance her fame that it became the subject of a parody in 1943's Star Spangled Rhythm. Alongside Dorothy Lamour in her trademark sarong and Paulette Goddard in a much-loved sweater, Lake sang "A Sweater, a Sarong and a Peek-a-boo Bang."
But alas, the peek-a-boo bang didn't last forever. Not because it wasn't a popular hairstyle – to the contrary, it was much imitated by American women eager to reflect a bit of Veronica Lake's mysterious beauty. But during World War II, when women on the homefront took on the manufacturing jobs left vacant by soldiers, Lake realized that on a factory worker, her flowing, vision-obscuring hairdo would be a liability. She dialed back the ‘do to encourage working women to opt for safety over style.
Some have speculated that the change in hairdo damaged Lake's career. After her popularity peaked in the 1940s, she did indeed fall out of favor and found acting work hard to come by in the decades that followed. Was it the hair? Or was it that she was a handful and a half to work with, as rumors insinuated?
Despite her waning fortunes and the Hollywood rumor mill, Veronica Lake remained proud of her career and, unlike many a struggling actress, never resorted to releasing pinup photos of her scantily-clad self. As she said years later: "I never did cheesecake; I just used my hair."
Written by Linnea Crowther