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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line IT Support / Senior Engineer / Support Analyst

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Recognised as one of the fastes...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager - Refrigeration

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor