Lila Leeds was born Lila Lee Wilkinson in Dodge City, Kansas, in 1928.
Her mother was divorced, married, and divorced again before the child was 13, and Lila’s home life was never very settled.
She matured early, and even at 13 was a pretty, well-formed girl who dated frequently and was very popular in school.
A few years later Lila and her Mother moved to Clovis, New Mexico. Lila, who was still in school, took a job at an Army base. She met a young soldier, fell in love and was to be married.
Unfortunately her fiancé was killed in an accident which devastated the young girl.
Lila left Clovis when she was 16, and with a girlfriend moved to St. Louis.
It was there that Lila, a jazz music fan, went to see the Stan Kenton orchestra. She attended a party with the jazz musicians and had her first encounter with marijuana.
Sometime later Lila and her Mother moved to the West Coast and ended up in Hollywood. Lila soon acquired a job as a waitress at the Fox Studio Café which was located near the 20th Century Fox lot.
Her stunning good looks and charming personality drew much attention and many people told her she should be in the movies.
Lila, with the help of screen star Jackie Coogan, landed a job as a hat-check girl at the famous Ciro’s nightclub. While there she made some connections and was determined to break into the motion picture business.
Lila also worked as model at one of the fanciest dress shops on the Sunset Strip.
The aspiring actress auditioned for a role in a theatrical production staged at the Bliss-Hayden Theatre in Beverly Hills. The opening night audience included several talent scouts as well as the head of M-G-M, Louis B. Mayer. The film tycoon was impressed and Lila was signed to a starlet’s contract at M-G-M a few days later. She didn’t even have to go to the studio for a screen test. Her obvious beauty and charisma plus the fact that she resembled a younger, slimmer and fresher Lana Turner bode well for a future in the movies.