Database entry - Lana Turner

Julia Jean "Lana" Turner
02/08/1921 - 09/29/1995
Wallace, ID - Los Angeles, CA


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Born in Wallace, Idaho as the only daugher to teenaged parents, Lana moved to San Francisco when her family fell on hard times. Soon after moving, her parents separated and her father was killed in an unsolved murder-robbery in 1930. Her mother developed health problems and moved, with 10 year old Lana, to Los Angeles in 1931. Her mother was very poor during this time, and worked 80 hours a week as a beautician to support their small family.

Lana Turner's discovery in a Hollywood drug store is show-business legend. At 16, Lana was skipping class to buy a soda at a malt shop when she was spotted by William R. Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson referred her to the talent agent Zeppo Marx, who's agency immediately signed her on and cast her in her first film, They Won't Forget in 1937. It was in a scene in They Won't Forget that Lana earned the nickname "the Sweater Girl," which Lana detested throughout her career. In 1937, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwin-Mayer for $100 a week and graduated from high school between filming. Her next starring role was opposite Mickey Rooney in the film Love Finds Andy Hardy in 1938.

Turner went on to star in many youth-oriented films in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She reached the height of her fame in the 1940s and 1950s, and became a popular pin-up girl during World War II. She also starred opposite Clark Gable in four films and had a B-17 Flying Fortress named after her. During the early 1940s, she established herself as a leading actress in such films as Johnny Eager (1941), Honky Tonk (1941), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), and Somewhere I'll Find You (1942). She appeared in the 1941 horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and her reputation as a glamorous femme fatale was enhanced by her performance in the film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Her popularity continued through the 1950s, in such films as The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Peyton Place (1957), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Media controversy surrounded Turner in 1958 when her daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed Turner's lover Johnny Stompanato to death in their Beverly Hills home - later classified as self-defense. Turner's next film, Imitation of Life (1959), proved to be one of the greatest successes of her career, but from the early 1960s, her roles were fewer. In 1982, she accepted a much publicized and lucrative recurring guest role in the television series Falcon Crest.


Resources:

  • Wikipedia - Lana Turner
  • Lana: The Lady, the Legend, the Truth, by Lana Turner, 1982.
  • Crane, Cheryl; with Jahr, Cliff (1988). Detour: A Hollywood Story.
  • Crane, Cheryl; with Cindy De La Hoz (2008). Lana: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies.