“Whatever we do for soldiers can’t be enough in return for what they do for us. They are wonderful!” Carole Landis
Another beautiful woman who became the inspiration for aircraft nose art is the desirable, deletable Miss Carole Landis, an American stage and film star. Francis Langford was featured on a the nose of a B-29 in the film ‘Bamboo Blond’ though it was purely for the sake of celluloid, Landis however was on an aircraft for real, for all to view.
Landis was born Francis Lillian Mary Ridste, 1919, in Fairchild, Wisconsin and later grew up in San Bernardino, California. Landis never felt that she was cut of the same cloth as those around her, she felt there was something better for her so she dropped out of high school and set off on the first step to a career in the flashy world of show business. Her first stop was San Francisco where with an auspicious beginning she worked as a hula girl in a nightclub. Once she had some money saved, she followed in the footsteps of many an aspiring starlet…she dyed her hair blond, changed her name (the inspiration for her new name was her favourite film star of the time, Carole Lombard) and moved to the bright lights of Hollywood.
Although a contract player for Twentieth Century Fox and making some well-known films her actual impact came from her tireless work for the war effort.
Landis became known by the affectionate terms “The Ping Girl” (first coined by Frank N.Seltzer a press agent for Jack Benny, because “she makes you purr”), “The Blond Bomber” (the name affectionately given by the boys on bases which she was entertaining) and “The Chest” due to her impressively pneumatic chest and enviable statuesque figure. However Landis was not a big fan of the nicknames and had always protested strongly and very publicly against them, saying “I want a fair chance to prove myself something more than a curvaceous cutie. I want to get out of the bathing suit and into something more substantial. Unfortunately the publicity department of my studio does not agree. They have conceived the brilliant idea of selling me to the public as ‘the ping girl-because she makes you purr’. This flash of genius is to be illustrated with a series of pictures out of their files, suggestive of anything but acting talent”. It is clear from this that she was anything but a brainless vapid blond as she was being portrayed, her work on the U.S.O tours and beyond that allowed her to come out of her shell and be seen for the intelligent and caring lady she really was.
(Seen here with the ladies on tour, https://lenahedges.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/5b5ae-landis5.jpg)
In 1942 Landis was touring England and Africa with comedienne Martha Raye, dancer Mitzi Mayfair and actress Kay Francis…one can just imagine the welcome these lovely ladies would have received from the boys abroad, the excitement of having their most beloved pin ups right there on stage for their entertainment. Two years later she went on to tour with Jack Benny entertaining the troops in the South Pacific.
(With Jack Benny s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/d9/13/ea/d913ea382fcd6b9336d10aded19334ae.jpg)
Landis travelled around the world more than any other actress of the time, over 100,000 miles, it is not surprising that she became so popular with the servicemen of World War II. Speaking about her time on the U.S.O tours Landis declared “We had a wonderful time everywhere overseas. But it was hard. For five months we never gave less than 5 shows a day. It was too cold to sleep nights and there wasnt enough water to take a bath. We bathed and shampooed in cold water-there was no hot. I had to do my own washing. And I ate more sand and fog, than food. I was hairdresser for the gang; at that we didn’t look too bad”.
Further to the USO tours she also travelled extensively selling war bonds, worked as a hostess in the Hollywood canteen and spent many hours visiting with wounded soldiers in the infirmaries. She was even asked to write a book about her experiences called ‘Four Jills in a Jeep’, which were turned into a film in which she stared, Fox having decided to film it even before it had been released in print.
In respect for her extensive work for the war effort and the boys on the front line she was used as inspiration for ‘Miss Kiwanis’ painted on to a B-24 from a studio picture of the actress. The painting of Landis reclining (though sans the book of the original) really does do those impressive pins justice!
Jack Benny said of her “You soon forgot she was Carole Landis, the sex symbol, the Hollywood star, the sweater girl, because she was a real human being and had a warm heart that spilled over into kindness”. It is clear that she was loved by many, those she put her career on hold to help and support as well as those who were fortunate enough to work with her.
Unfortunately in 1948 Landis ended her life with an intentional drugs overdose, ending her career and taking away a shining light from the lives of everyone who had met her, or jitterbugged with her during shows at the camps. She had allowed the boys a little time off, the ability to forget just for a moment that they were in a war zone, that they were fighting not just for their own lives but for the lives and freedom of the masses. Her innocent beauty and caring nature must have reminded them of girls back home, the loves they were missing and the loves they had yet to meet, she was the quintessential girl next door and never acted like a star when on tour. So thank you to the individual who painted her beauty onto the flank of a B-24 for all to see, in honor, in respect, in remembrance.
For a more detailed account of the life of the lovely Carole Landis please visit the official site written by family and friends at http://carolelandisofficial.blogspot.co.uk/