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
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
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
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'