Jeanne Carmen: Movie pin-up and friend to stars

Jeanne Laverne Carmen, actress: born Paragould, Arkansas 4 August 1930; married (one son, two daughters); died Irvine, California 20 December 2007

Pin-up girl, B-movie actress, trick-shot golfer, friend and girlfriend of the stars Jeanne Carmen was all of these things in the New York, Hollywood and Las Vegas of the Fifties and early Sixties. Carmen appeared with Eddie Cochran in the teen-exploitation film Untamed Youth in 1957, and inspired the rock'n'roller to cover "Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie".

She then vanished from public view to raise a family in Arizona but over the last 20 years had parlayed her associations with Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the Kennedys into recurrent appearances on television exposs, such as Channel 4's What's Inside Frank Sinatra's Coffin? two years ago. In 1998, she was herself the subject of a documentary entitled Jeanne Carmen: Queen of the B-movies. The same year, she played a blonde dominatrix in George Michael's video for "Outside", the riposte to his arrest for engaging in a lewd act in a Los Angeles lavatory. Last year, her son Brandon James published a biography called Jeanne Carmen: my wild, wild life as a New York pin-up queen, trick shot golfer and Hollywood actress. He has now turned the book into a biopic and stars such as Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson and Kate Bosworth, who all resemble Carmen in her heyday, have been mentioned in connection with the lead role.

Born in 1930, Carmen grew up on a cotton farm in Arkansas and ran away aged 13 when her mother forbade her to enter the finals of a beauty contest in which she had won a local heat. "I was just a little country girl that wanted to be a movie star," Carmen said in 1996. She worked as a waitress in St Louis and, via a "look me up when you come to New York invitation" from a producer, ended up as a chorus girl in the Broadway show Burlesque.

In 1948, she began modelling and posed for Irving Klaw and other glamour photographers. Carmen graced the covers of pin-up magazines with evocative titles like Carnival, Dare, Glance, Pose and Titter. Modelling golf clothes for a Manhattan shop owner Jack Redmond in 1949, Carmen discovered she had a natural ability to play the game. "The next thing I know, I was a professional trick-shot golf artist who could hit a golf ball off someone's mouth 210 yards," she recalled. "There wasn't anything I couldn't do with a ball."

She then met the Chicago mobster Johnny Roselli, who suggested a move to Las Vegas, where the couple played tourists for suckers. "Johnny would find wealthy hotel guests and set them up," she said. "He'd point to me and bet them they couldn't beat me. I'd start slowly and let them get ahead for the first five or six holes. Then I'd make this amazing improvement. I never lost."

Carmen tired of the hustling lifestyle and moved on to Los Angeles in 1953 where she invested in property. "Then I got into the movies and that was the worst thing I could have done," she admitted later. "I didn't like the movies." Naturally dark-haired, with an hourglass figure and striking green eyes, she was quickly typecast as a señorita in The Three Outlaws a western later remade as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid in 1956 and as an Indian girl in War Drums in 1957. She was eclipsed by the blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth and Born Reckless and gave golf lessons to Jayne Mansfield.

When she appeared as a gangster moll in Guns Don't Argue and as a femme fatale in the film noir Portland Expos in 1957, Carmen had gone bottle-blonde too. In 1959, she played the screaming female lead in The Monster of Piedras Blancas, an Irvin Berwick feature which bore more than a passing resemblance to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The figure-hugging dress she wore at the Los Angeles premiere caused a riot.

Jeanne Carmen had a few parts in television series like Riverboat and Tightrope and appeared in the satanic cult movie The Devil's Hand (1962) but left Hollywood after the death of her friend Marilyn Monroe that year. Carmen hinted she'd had relationships with Sinatra, Presley, Clark Gable and Errol Flynn, and, in later years, became ubiquitous as an incorrigible name-dropper commentating on the mores of Hollywood in the Fifties and Sixties.

Her scene in Rob Zombie's shlock pastiche House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) ended up on the cutting room floor but she made the most of her role in The Naked Monster, Ted Newsom's 2005 homage to drive-in movies. "Everything I've done, I think I did at the right time," she said. "And it turned out great. Maybe a few marriages I could have done without. As for my career, it absolutely happened the way it was supposed to happen. A door opened and I was a pin-up. I'm as happy as a pig in a pond."

Pierre Perrone

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us