LOS ANGELES – Rhonda Fleming, star of the 1940s and 50s, who was called “The Queen of Technicolor” and appeared in “Out of the Past” and “Spellbound”, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, California, according to her Secretary Carla Sapon. She was 97 years old.
Fleming appeared in more than 40 films and collaborated with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock on “Spellbound”, Jacques Tourneur on “Out of the Past” and Robert Siodmak on “The Spiral Stairs.”
Later in life, she became a philanthropist and supporter of many organizations fighting cancer, homelessness, and child abuse.
Her lead roles include classics such as the 1
Her co-stars over the years included Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Burt Lancaster, Bob Hope, Rock Hudson and Ronald Reagan, with whom she made four films. Other notable roles included Fritz Lang’s “While the City Sleeps,” “Pony Express” and “The Big Circus.” One of her last roles was in Don Adam’s farce “The Nude Bomb” in 1980, and she spoofed herself as “Rhoda Flaming” in the 1976 comedy “Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood” alongside a host of other vintage artists from Dorothy Lamour to Stepin Fetchit and Rudy Vallee.
Born Marilyn Louis in Hollywood, she attended Beverly Hills High and was discovered by famous agent Henry Wilson while on her way to school, she told Warner Bros. podcast. Wilson changed her name to Rhonda Fleming, and she was then signed to David O. Selznick. Her first major part was as a nymphomaniac in “Spellbound,” and she said she was so naive that she had to look up the word in the dictionary when she was cast.
In addition to cinema, Fleming debuted on Broadway in Clare Boothe Luces’ “The Women” and toured as Madame Dubonnet in “The Boyfriend.” In 1957, Fleming debuted on stage in Las Vegas at the opening of Tropicana Hotel’s showroom. She later performed at the Hollywood Bowl in a one-woman concert featuring compositions by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. In 1960, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Fleming also routinely guest-starred on television in series including “Wagon Train,” “Police Woman,” “The Love Boat” and a two-hour special version of “McMillan & Wife.” Along with Maureen O’Hara, she was nicknamed the “Queen of Technicolor” for how well her red hair and green eyes were photographed in vibrant colors.
In 1991, Fleming and her late husband Ted Mann of Mann’s Theaters established the Rhonda Fleming Mann Clinic for Comprehensive Care for Women with Cancer at UCLA in memory of her sister Beverly, and in 1992, she founded the Rhonda Fleming Mann Resource Center at UCLA. She opened the reflection shop to help cancer patients with items, including wigs and prostheses.
She also supported the Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, California, where she established the Rhonda Fleming Carlson Inspiration Garden in 2014.
Her other charitable efforts include being an ambassador for Childhelp, dedicated to caring for and treating victims of child abuse, and PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), where she set up two Rhonda Fleming family centers.
After her sister Beverly died of cancer, she became a supporter of cancer research and co-founded with her then-husband Ted Mann of the Mann Theaters Rhonda Fleming Mann Clinic for Women’s Comprehensive Care at UCLA Medical Center. She also supported the Rhonda Fleming Mann Resource Center for Women with Cancer at UCLA. For further research and treatment of women’s cancer, she created The Rhonda Fleming Mann Research Fellowship at City of Hope Hospital.
Her sixth husband, Darol W. Carlson, died in 2017.