Rhonda Fleming, star of the 1940s and ’50s who was dubbed the “Queen of Technicolor” and appeared in “Out of the Past” died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., according to her secretary Carla Sapon. She was 97.
Born Marilyn Louis in Hollywood, she attended Beverly Hills High and was discovered by the famous agent Henry Wilson while on the way to school. Wilson changed her name to Rhonda Fleming and she was then signed to a contract with David O. Selznick.
Fleming appeared in more than 40 films and worked with directors such as Jacques Tourneur on “Out of the Past” and Robert Siodmak on “The Spiral Staircase.” Her starring roles include classics such as the 1948 musical fantasy “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” alongside Bing Crosby, 1957 Western “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and the noir “Slightly Scarlet” alongside John Payne.
In addition to cinema, Fleming made her Broadway debut in Clare Boothe Luce’s “The Women” and toured as Madame Dubonnet in “The Boyfriend.” In 1957, Fleming made her stage musical debut in Las Vegas at the opening of the Tropicana Hotel’s showroom. Later she appeared at the Hollywood Bowl in a one-woman concert with compositions from Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
Fleming also routinely guest-starred on television in series including “Wagon Train,” “Police Woman,” “The Love Boat” and a two-hour special of “McMillan & Wife.”
Along with Maureen O’Hara, she was bestowed the nickname of “Queen of Technicolor” for how well her red hair and green eyes photographed in vivid color. In 1960, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Later in life, she became a philanthropist and supporter of numerous organizations fighting cancer, homelessness and child abuse.