Carole's Fight For Civil Rights

Carole Landis Joe Louis
With Joe Louis in 1947

Carole was way ahead of her time when it came to civil rights. She grew up in a diverse neighborhood and had been friends with African American and Hispanic children. As an adult she always tried to fight what she believed in. During her USO tours she refused to perform in front of segregated audiences and insisted that the black soldiers be allowed to sit with the white soldiers. When she performed at Camp Bowie in San Antonio, Texas she got angry because black soldiers were not allowed to see her show. Carole protested by spending the entire day dancing and playing ping-pong in with the black troops in their service club. She said "Maybe by the time the war is over we will have acquired some of the tolerance we are fighting for."  In 1944 she and Jack Benny joined with the "Negro Overseas Unit" to put on a gala show in front of 15,000 soldiers. Carole also performed at several camp shows with dancer Fayard Nicholas. After a Southern newspaper criticized her decision to perform with Fayard she wrote a letter to the editor that said "I have known him for a number of years ... I believe that in this war for the preservation of democracy - a war in which so many of our gallant boys are sacrificing ... it behooves us to give them the utmost support." 

Carole Landis Fayard NicholasCarole Landis Civil Rights
With Fayard Nicholas in 1943                                                                                                                                           

One of Carole's closest companions was her Susie B. Smith, her African American maid. Susie said it was "love at first sight' when they met and described her as a "generous friend". Carole was also close friends with Dorothy Dandridge and they often went to black owned nightclubs together. When she was in New York City she loved going to Cafe Society to see Billie Holiday and pianist Hazel Scott perform. Geri Nicholas, Fayard Nicholas's wife, said "In those days of segregation you only had each other. Carole Landis and and a few daring whites would mingle with us. We would hang out in the clubs." In 1947 Carole presented boxer Joe Louis with a award at the hotel and gave a speech about discrimination. She publicly supported Presidential candidate Henry A. Wallace who was pro-civil rights. After she died one newspaper called her "a true friend" of the black community. Along with civil rights Carole was also a big supporter of gay and lesbian rights. Many of her friends were gay including Cesar Romero and Patsy Kelly. She encouraged them to live their lives openly and honestly. Although she never labeled herself as bi-sexual Carole did have an affair with author Jacqueline Susann.

Interview With Susie B. SmithCarole Landis Civil Rights Article

Carole Landis Cafe Society
Carole and Horace Schmidlapp at Cafe Society