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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home