Ethel Fleming

Ethel Fleming Bio, Age, Career, First & Second Husband, Parents, Siblings, And Cause of Death

Ethel Fleming is a versatile talent who transitioned from her days as a dedicated swimmer to pursue a successful career in acting. The local newspaper called her the “surf girl” since she spent up to four hours a day in the sea in summer. She was a famous endurance swimmer from Staten Island who regularly swam 7 miles (11 km) before being rescued by boats. Ethel was renowned for her robust athleticism and unwavering enthusiasm for outdoor pursuits.

Ethel Fleming Bio

Ethel Fleming was a prominent figure in the world of American entertainment and sports. She was an exceptional swimmer before she started her acting career, winning praise from the Staten Island community for her unusual stamina in the water.

She was lovingly known as the “surf girl” by her islanders because of her enduring love of submerging herself in the waves for up to four hours a day during the summer.

Beyond her impressive physical strength and athletic prowess, Fleming was celebrated for her genuine enthusiasm for outdoor adventures. She was well-known for her ability to conquer swims of up to 7 miles, a feat that often concluded with boats picking her up.

Ethel Fleming Age

Ethel Janet Fleming came into the world on a special Christmas Day, December 25, 1890, right in the heart of Ohio. Her roots traced back to American heritage, and her parents were Alexander Frew Fleming and Janet Fleming. Unfortunately, beyond these details, we have little information to shed light on her early life and personal history.

Ethel Fleming Career

Fleming, an actress and chorus girl, kick started her career back in the early 1900s. She honed her craft by gracing the stages of New York City in various productions. However, it wasn’t until the autumn of 1910 when she ventured beyond the city limits, joining the cast of The Summer Widowers with a traveling theatrical troupe.

Her parents initially harbored reservations about allowing her to tour with the company, but they eventually gave their blessing, albeit with a firm condition – that close supervision be maintained over all troupe members.

In 1918, Fleming had a breakthrough moment when she had the opportunity to collaborate with William Desmond in The Pretender, taking on the leading female role in the production.

Years later, in 1923, she made a stage comeback alongside Desmond in The Fighting Pretender. This time, her theatrical journey took her all the way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, marking the farthest she had ever traveled for a stage performance.

Ethel Fleming Parents & Siblings

Ethel Janet came into this world on December 25, 1890, right in Ohio, USA. Her proud parents were Alexander Frew Fleming and Janet Fleming. Just to clarify, she’s not to be confused with Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish scientist renowned for giving the world its first antibiotic, benzylpenicillin, also known as Penicillin G.

Ethel’s early days were spent in Melrose Park, Cook County, Illinois, and she cherished part of her youth in that locale. Among her siblings were Peter W. Malcolm Fleming Andrew Edward Fleming, Blair Fleming, Alexander Fleming, and Mae Belle Nerger.

Ethel went to high school at Oak Park’s Lincoln School, where Ray Kroc, the founder of the worldwide fast-food empire, also attended. Her parents’ vocations are unknown.

Ethel was a great actress and performer noted for “The Kiss” (1916), “The Wonderful Thing” (1921), and “Under Cover” (1923).

Ethel Fleming First Husband

The summer of 1915 marked a significant chapter in Ethel Fleming’s life when she embarked on a journey to Los Angeles to delve into the world of film painting. Little did she know that this trip would introduce her to William Courtleigh Jr., a fateful encounter that would change her life forever. At the time, neither of them had marriage on their minds, but their connection grew stronger with every meeting.

Just three weeks into their whirlwind romance, during a spontaneous day off from work, the couple happened upon a registrar’s office. There, Courtleigh unexpectedly proposed that they obtain a marriage license, a suggestion initially brushed aside by Fleming. She vividly recalled the hurried events, with a clerk handing her a form and the sense that “it all happened so quickly.”

On July 25, 1915, their love story culminated in a wedding in Long Beach, Los Angeles, California, and by August of the same year, they had settled into their first home, a cozy bungalow. Tragically, Courtleigh’s life was cut short by pneumonia in 1918.

They enjoyed three precious years of marriage before Courtleigh’s passing. During this time, Ethel Fleming focused on her career, and they did not have any children, as she was at the pinnacle of her professional journey.

Ethel Fleming Divorced Ray Kroc

Ethel Fleming was truly a Hollywood sensation during the early 1900s. Her acting career boasted an impressive list of about sixteen credits on the big screen. However, behind the facade of what many believed to be a blissful and inspirational marriage between Ethel Fleming and Ray Kroc, there were hidden troubles.

The surprising cause of their divorce was something that left most people scratching their heads – McDonald’s. It all boiled down to Ethel’s staunch refusal to sell milkshake machines to the man behind the McDonald’s empire, who was utterly consumed by his business pursuits.

As McDonald’s continued its meteoric rise, Ray Kroc’s unwavering focus on the fast-food empire created a growing rift between him and Ethel. Eventually, this strain led to their divorce. In stark contrast to Ethel, who remained single after their split, Kroc went on to marry twice – first to Jane Dobbins Green and later to Joan Beverly Smith.

Ray Kroc’s McDonald’s Business

After World War II, Ray Kroc found himself in the business of marketing milkshake mixers. It was through this work that he crossed paths with Richard and Maurice McDonald, the visionary brothers behind the creation of McDonald’s. Initially, Kroc served as a franchise agent, but his ambition led him to open his own McDonald’s restaurants across the nation. He made a historic decision in 1961 when he paid $2.7 million to acquire the McDonald’s brothers’ business, giving him entire control.

Over a number of years, Kroc changed the way the fast-food sector operated. He introduced a slew of significant changes to the franchise model, with a primary goal of maintaining strict control over each and every franchise location to ensure unparalleled consistency.

Cleanliness was paramount, and the menu remained unwaveringly uniform. The mission was clear: every burger should taste identical, regardless of where it was served. Harry Sonneborn, Kroc’s financial wizard, played a pivotal role in this journey.

Among his many contributions, Harry was instrumental in the strategic buyout of the McDonald brothers. By the time of his passing, Kroc had expanded the McDonald’s franchise to a staggering 7,500 locations across the United States, with countless more spanning 31 countries and territories. During this era, the McDonald’s corporation achieved a staggering worth of $8 billion.

Ray Kroc Owned Several Real Estate Properties

In 2020, reports surfaced that a sprawling 554-acre property, originally owned by Ray Kroc, was up for grabs at a price tag of $29 million. This remarkable estate features an iconic circular residence, affectionately known among locals as “the Hamburger.” It’s fascinating to note that Kroc and his wife Jane snagged this property back in 1965 for a mere $600,000.

Shortly thereafter, McDonald’s took its first steps into the public domain, catapulting Kroc into sudden wealth. With his newly acquired property, Kroc christened it the “J and R Double Arch Ranch.” He put this vast expanse of land to multifaceted use – part McDonald’s research hub, part personal holiday retreat for himself and his most trusted McExecutives. Over time, he erected a slew of striking buildings on the premises.

Interestingly, despite his renowned association with the global hamburger empire, Kroc didn’t construct the famous hamburger-shaped building until the 1970s. Remarried by then. This unique structure offers an open floor design, high ceilings, and 360-degree valley views. A central fire pit adds to its charm, creating a focal point for the expansive area.

This distinctive home once featured two stylized golden arches at its entrance, a playful nod to McDonald’s iconic logo. This function, however, was eventually abandoned. The late 1960s 17,000-square-foot lodge may be the finest. It contains a 5,200-square-foot conference room, 3,000-square-foot room, and 100-person dining room.

Ray’s wife Joan Kroc sold the property for $14 million in 1989 to benefit charity. The estate changed hands once again, this time landing with Gerald Kessler, the founder of Nature’s Plus supplements. After his passing, Kessler renamed the ranch the “Circle K Ranch,” setting off a legal battle among his heirs. Ultimately, Kessler’s widow assumed ownership of the property and, in 2020, decided to put it on the market.

Ethel Fleming Second Marriage

Ethel Fleming married Ray Kroc, a salesman of just twelve years, while she was a rising actress in the early 1900s, long before he became well-known. Their bond was what first drew them together, and their narrative started as high school sweethearts.

The pair exchanged vows in 1922 and started their forty-year adventure together. What might surprise many is that Ethel made the momentous decision to leave behind her thriving acting career shortly after their marriage. Her focus shifted towards nurturing their family.

For decades, their lives were intricately intertwined, and they became an inseparable pair. The arrival of their only child, Marilyn Kroc, enriched their family life, with Ethel providing steadfast support. According to a proverb, every successful man has a lady by his side. Indeed, it was during his marriage to Ethel that Ray Kroc achieved his financial breakthrough as the visionary creator of McDonald’s.

Ethel Fleming Cause of Death

Ethel Janet Fleming came into the world on a special Christmas Day, December 25, 1890, right in Ohio, USA. Her roots traced back to American heritage, and her parents were Alexander Frew Fleming and Janet Fleming. Just to clarify, she’s not to be confused with Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish scientist renowned for giving the world its first antibiotic, benzylpenicillin, also known as Penicillin G.

Ethel’s early days were spent in Melrose Park, Cook County, Illinois, and she cherished part of her youth in that locale. Among her siblings were Peter W. Fleming, Malcolm Blair Fleming, Alexander Fleming, Andrew Edward Fleming, and Mae Belle Nerger.

Ethel attended Oak Park’s Lincoln School for high school with Ray Kroc, who founded the worldwide fast-food chain. Little is known about her early life or the occupations her parents had.

Ethel was an excellent performer most known for her parts in “The Kiss” (1916), “The Wonderful Thing” (1921), and “Under Cover” (1923).

On December 26, 1965, Ethel Fleming’s trip ended. The former actress chose a gentler life after her divorce, far from the sparkle and glamor of the entertainment industry. At the age of 75, she quietly died away in Miami, Florida, from natural causes.


Who was Ethel Fleming?

Ethel Fleming was a versatile talent known for her career as an actress and her early days as a dedicated swimmer. She gained fame for her endurance swimming and later transitioned to a successful acting career.

Why was Ethel Fleming called the “surf girl”?

Ethel Fleming earned the nickname “surf girl” because of her love for spending up to four hours a day in the sea during the summer months, showcasing her dedication to swimming.

Tell me about Ethel Fleming’s career in acting.

Ethel Fleming began her acting career in the early 1900s, performing in various productions in New York City. Her breakthrough came in 1918 when she worked alongside William Desmond in “The Pretender.” She continued to act in various productions throughout her career.

Who were Ethel Fleming’s parents and siblings?

Ethel Fleming’s parents were Alexander Frew Fleming and Janet Fleming. She had several siblings, including Peter W. McLeod, Malcolm Andrew Edward Fleming, Mae Belle Nerger, Alexander Fleming, and Blair Fleming.

Did Ethel Fleming have any marriages?

Yes, Ethel Fleming had two marriages. Her 1915 marriage to William Courtleigh Jr. ended tragically in 1918. She remarried in 1922 and lived for 40 years.

Why did Ethel Fleming divorce Ray Kroc?

Ethel Fleming and Ray Kroc divorced due to a growing rift caused by Ray Kroc’s intense focus on building the McDonald’s fast-food empire. The specific cause was Ethel’s refusal to sell milkshake machines to Kroc, which strained their marriage.

What was Ray Kroc’s connection to McDonald’s?

Ray Kroc played a pivotal role in the growth and success of McDonald’s. He initially served as a franchise agent and later acquired the McDonald’s business in 1961, transforming it into a global phenomenon.

Tell me about Ray Kroc’s real estate ownership.

Ray Kroc owned a significant amount of real estate, including a 554-acre property known as the “J and R Double Arch Ranch.” This property was used for various purposes, including McDonald’s research and as a personal retreat. It was later sold for charity.

What was Ethel Fleming’s cause of death?

On December 26, 1965, Ethel Fleming, 75, passed away in Miami.. Her death was natural. She retired from showbiz after divorcing Ray Kroc.

Is Ethel Fleming related to Sir Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered Penicillin?

No, Ethel Fleming is not related to Sir Alexander Fleming, the renowned Scottish scientist known for discovering Penicillin. They share the same last name but are not known to be related.

Final Words

Ethel Fleming was a remarkable individual who made a name for herself in both the world of sports and entertainment. Her journey from being an endurance swimmer known as the “surf girl” to becoming a successful actress reflects her versatility and determination. Ethel’s acting career, her marriages, including her union with Ray Kroc, and her quiet later years in Miami, Florida, all contribute to her unique life story. Her legacy lives on, leaving us with a glimpse into a fascinating chapter of American history.

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