Actress Rhonda Fleming, a popular sex symbol known as the “Queen of Technicolor” for her roles in Hollywood westerns and adventure movies during the 1940s and 1950s, died Wednesday, her longtime assistant said. She was 97.
Fleming died in a Santa Monica, California, hospital, Carla Sapon told The New York Times.
Fleming’s roles included those of a princess in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (1949); a gambler in “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” (1957); an amorous duchess in "The Great Lover” (1949); and the somewhat less bad sister of Arlene Dahl’s bad-girl character in “Slightly Scarlet” (1956), the newspaper reported.
Fleming had distinctive red hair, green eyes and fair skin, but she considered those attributes as a hindrance.
The studios “never wanted more from me than my looking good and waltzing through a parade of films like ‘The Redhead and the Cowboy,’” Fleming told People magazine in 1991, referring to the 1951 western she made with Glenn Ford.
Still, she starred opposite some of the top leading men in Hollywood, including Ford, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson, Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas and Ronald Reagan, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Fleming, who was born Marilyn Louis in Hollywood on Aug. 10, 1923, was discovered while she attended high school in Beverly Hills during the early 1940s, the newspaper reported. Producer David O. Selznick cast her in the 1945 Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Spellbound,” which launched her international career.
Fleming played a nymphomaniac in “Spellbound,” but said she was so naive she had to look up the word in the dictionary when she was cast, Variety reported.
Fleming also worked with directors Jacques Tourneur on “Out of the Past” and Robert Siodmak on “The Spiral Staircase,” Variety reported.
Fleming also played Cleopatra in “Serpent of the Nile” (1953), opposite Raymond Burr’s Mark Antony. The New York Times reported. In “Little Egypt” (1951), she portrayed an exotic belly dancer at a world’s fair, even though her character turned out to be a New Jersey girl with a fake accent, the newspaper reported.
One of her Fleming’s final roles was in the Don Adams farce “The Nude Bomb” in 1980, Variety reported. She also spoofed herself as “Rhoda Flaming” in the 1976 comedy “Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood."