Lana Turner

From SM-201
Jump to: navigation, search

Lana Turner
Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice.jpg
Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Birth name Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner
Born Feb 8, 1921
Wallace, Idaho USA Flag of USA.png
Died Jun 29, 1995 - age 73
Century City, Los Angeles CA USA Flag of USA.png
Years active 1937 - 1991
Spouse(s) Artie Shaw (1940-1940)
Stephen Crane (1942-1943, 1943-1944)
Henry J. 'Bob' Topping (1948-1952)
Lex Barker (1953-1957)
Fred May (1960-1962)
Robert Eaton (1965-1969)
Ronald Dante (1969-1972)

This article is part of
"The Pin-up Girl History Project"
"The Movie Star History Project"
"The YANK Magazine History Project"
Click here for information on Special History Projects

Lana Turner (February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995) was an Academy Award-nominated American film actress. On-screen, she was well-known for the glamour and sensuality she brought to almost all her movie roles. Off-screen, she led a stormy and colorful private life which included seven husbands, numerous lovers, and a famous murder scandal.

Early life

Born Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner in Wallace, Idaho, she was the daughter of John Virgil Turner, a miner from Hohenwald, Tennessee, and Mildred Frances Cowan, a 16-year-old Alabama girl.

Until her film career took off, she was known to family and friends as "Judy." Hard times eventually forced the family to re-locate to San Francisco, where John and Mildred soon separated.

On December 14, 1930, John Turner won a bit of money at a traveling craps game, stuffed his winnings in his left sock, and headed for home. He was later found dead on the corner of Minnesota and Mariposa Streets, on the edge of Potrero Hill and the Mission District in San Francisco, his left sock missing. The robbery and murder were never solved. Soon after, Mildred Turner developed health problems and was advised by her doctor to move to a drier climate. She and her 10-year-old daughter moved to Los Angeles in 1931.

Film career

Turner's discovery at Schwab's Drug Store has become one of Hollywood's most enduring show-business legends. The true story differs only slightly from that legend. As a 16-year-old student at Hollywood High, Turner decided to skip a typing class and buy a Coke at the Top Hat Cafe located on the southeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and McCadden Place. There, she was spotted by William R. Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, and his wife Tichi. Wilkerson was struck by her beauty and physique, and referred her to the actor/comedian/talent agent Zeppo Marx. Marx's agency immediately signed her on and introduced her to film director Mervyn LeRoy, who cast her in her first film, 1937's They Won't Forget. She also appeared as an extra that year in A Star Is Born. If the viewer doesn't blink, Lana can be spotted in the crowd at a boxing match.

Lana Turner inspecting cotton stockings during World War II, as nylon was used for the war effort.

Turner earned the nickname "The Sweater Girl" from her form-fitting attire in a scene in They Won't Forget. She reached the height of her fame in the 1940s and 1950s. During World War II, Turner became a popular pin-up girl due to her popularity in such films such as Ziegfeld Girl, Johnny Eager, and four films with MGM's king of the lot: Clark Gable (the films' success was only heightened by gossip-column rumors about a relationship between the two).

After the war, Turner's career hit a new high with the 1946 classic film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice, co-starring John Garfield.

During the 1950s, Turner starred in a series of films that failed to succeed at the box office, a situation which MGM attempted to remedy by casting her in musicals. The first, Mr. Imperium, was a flop, while The Merry Widow was more successful. She gave a widely-praised performance in Vincente Minnelli's 1952 film, The Bad and the Beautiful , and later starred with John Wayne in the adventure film The Sea Chase. She was then cast in the epic The Prodigal, but the film and her performance in general were not well received. After the 1956 film, Diane, MGM opted not to renew her contract.

Turner's career recovered briefly after appearing in the hugely-successful big-screen adaptation of Grace Metalious's best-selling novel, Peyton Place, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Another few box-office failures followed (Another Time, Another Place, for example) when the 1958 scandal surrounding the death of Johnny Stompanato threatened to derail her career completely. Fearing she would never work again, Turner accepted the lead role in Ross Hunter's re-make of Imitation of Life under the direction of Douglas Sirk. Universal Studios capitalized on her new-found notoriety. The result was one of the biggest hits of 1959, not to mention the biggest hit of Turner's career. Since Turner had accepted a percentage of the box-office receipts in lieu of salary, she was paid handsomely for the role. Critics and audiences couldn't help noticing that both Peyton and Imitation borrowed from Turner's private life — a single mother coping with a troubled teenage daughter.

In 1961, she made her last film appearance under her old contract with MGM, starring with Bob Hope in Bachelor in Paradise. Other highlights of this era include two Ross Hunter productions, Portrait in Black and Madame X, which proved to be her last major starring role.

Personal life

Turner was well known inside Hollywood circles for dating often, changing partners often, and for never shying away from the topic of how many lovers she had in her lifetime. Of her many love affairs, Turner reportedly once said "I liked the boys, and the boys liked me."

Turner was married eight times to seven different husbands, and had many lovers, including; Joseph Wapner, her high school boyfriend who would later achieve fame on The People's Court, Tyrone Power (whom she calls the love of her life in her autobiography), Victor Mature, Fernando Lamas, producer Robert Evans, Joe Louis, fashion designer Oleg Cassini, actor Robert Taylor while he was married to actress Barbara Stanwyck, and a small-time hood named Johnny Stompanato, just to name a few.

Her husbands were
  • Bandleader Artie Shaw (1940) Married only four months, Turner was 19 when she and Shaw eloped on their first date. She later referred to their stormy and verbally abusive relationship as "my college education".
  • Actor-restaurateur Josef Stephen Crane (1942-43, 1943-44) Turner and Crane's first marriage was annulled after she discovered that Crane's previous divorce had not yet been finalized. After a brief separation (during which Crane attempted suicide), they re-married to provide for their newborn daughter, Cheryl.
  • Millionaire socialite Henry J. Topping, Jr. (1948-52) Topping proposed to Turner at the 21 Club in Los Angeles by dropping a diamond ring into her martini. Although worth millions when they married, Topping suffered heavy financial losses due to poor investments and excessive gambling. Turner finally divorced Topping when she realized she could no longer afford to keep them in the lavish lifestyle to which they had grown accustomed.
  • Actor Lex Barker (1953-57), whom she divorced after her daughter Cheryl claimed that he repeatedly molested and raped her.
  • Rancher Fred May (1960-62)
  • Robert P. Eaton (1965-69); who later went on to write The Body Brokers, a behind-the-scenes look at the Hollywood movie world, featuring a character named Marla Jordan, based on Turner.
  • Nightclub hypnotist Ronald Pellar, aka Ronald Dante or Dr. Dante (1969-72). The couple met in 1969 in a Los Angeles discotheque and married that same year. After about 6 months of marriage, Pellar disappeared a few days after she had written a $35,000 check to him to help him in an investment; he used the money for other purposes. In addition, she later accused him of stealing $100,000 worth of jewelry.

Turner was a lifelong Democrat, and campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1944 presidential election.

The Stompanato murder case

Turner met Johnny Stompanato during the spring of 1957, shortly after ending her marriage to Lex Barker. At first, Turner was susceptible to Stompanato's good looks and prowess as a lover, but after she discovered his ties to the LA underworld (in particular, his association with gangster Mickey Cohen), she tried to break off the affair out of fear of bad publicity. Stompanato was not easily deterred, however, and over the course of the following year, he and Turner carried on a relationship filled with violent arguments, physical abuse, and repeated reconciliations.

In the fall of 1957, Stompanato followed Turner to England where she was filming Another Time, Another Place, costarring Sean Connery, later of James Bond fame. Fearful that Turner was having an affair with Connery, Stompanato stormed onto the set brandishing a gun. Connery managed to land a single punch to Stompanato's jaw and took away his gun. Stompanato was soon deported by Scotland Yard for the incident.

On the evening of April 4, 1958, Turner and Stompanato began a violent argument in Turner's house at 730 N. Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. Fearing her mother's life was in danger, Turner's 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane grabbed a kitchen knife and ran to Turner's defense.

Many theories abound as to what happened afterward, but it appears Crane stabbed Stompanato, killing him. The case quickly became a media sensation. It was later deemed a justifiable homicide at a coroner's inquest, at which Turner provided dramatic testimony. Some observers have said her testimony that day was the acting performance of her life.

Later life

In the 1970s and 1980s, Turner appeared in several television roles, most notably one season (1982-83) on the series Falcon Crest, but the majority of her final decade was spent out of the public eye.

She died rather suddenly at the age of 74 in 1995 of complications from throat cancer, which was diagnosed in 1992 and which she had been battling ever since, at her home in Century City, Los Angeles, California. She was, until her death, a very heavy smoker.

She was survived by her only child, her daughter, Cheryl Crane, and Cheryl's life partner Joyce "Josh" LeRoy, whom she said she accepted "as a second daughter." They inherited some of Lana's sizeable estate, built through shrewd real estate holdings and investments. However, the majority of her estate was left to her maid, Carmen Lopez Cruz.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Lana Turner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6241 Hollywood Boulevard.

Pin-up Gallery



  • A Star Is Born (1937)
  • They Won't Forget (1937)
  • Topper (1937)
  • The Great Garrick (1937)
  • The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
  • Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
  • The Chaser (Scenes deleted, 1938)
  • Four's a Crowd (1938)
  • Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938)
  • Dramatic School (1938)
  • Calling Dr. Kildare (1939)
  • These Glamour Girls (1939)
  • Dancing Co-Ed (1939)
  • Two Girls on Broadway (1940)
  • We Who Are Young (1940)
  • Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
  • Honky Tonk (1941)
  • Johnny Eager (1942)
  • Somewhere I'll Find You (1942)
  • Strictly G.I. (Short subject, 1943)
  • The Youngest Profession (Cameo, 1943)
  • Slightly Dangerous (1943)
  • Show Business at War (Short subject, 1943)
  • Du Barry Was a Lady (Cameo, 1943)
  • Marriage Is a Private Affair (1944)
  • Keep Your Powder Dry (1945)
  • Week-End at the Waldorf (1945)
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
  • Green Dolphin Street (1947)
  • Cass Timberlane (1947)
  • Homecoming (1948)
  • The Three Musketeers (1948)
  • A Life of Her Own (1950)
  • Mr. Imperium (1951)
  • The Merry Widow (1952)
  • The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
  • Latin Lovers (1953)
  • The Flame and the Flesh (1954)
  • Betrayed (1954)
  • The Prodigal (1955)
  • The Sea Chase (1955)
  • The Rains of Ranchipur (1955)
  • Diane (1956)
  • Peyton Place (1957)
  • The Lady Takes a Flyer (1958)
  • Another Time, Another Place (1958)
  • Imitation of Life (1959)
  • Portrait in Black (1960)
  • By Love Possessed (1961)
  • Bachelor in Paradise (1961)
  • Who's Got the Action? (1962)
  • Love Has Many Faces (1965)
  • Madame X (1966)
  • The Big Cube (1969)
  • Persecution (1974)
  • Bittersweet Love (1976)
  • Witches' Brew (1980)
  • Thwarted (1991)


External links


Jump to: Main PageMicropediaMacropediaIconsTime LineHistoryLife LessonsLinksHelp
What links hereReferences and SourceseMail The Wiki StaffContact Info