What is the best way to describe Lana Turner? Oscar Nominee, Golden-age goddess, Femme Fatale, Blonde Bombshell? All of these labels apply, but none totally encapsulate this legend of the silver screen.
Lana Turner was one of the most enigmatic and iconic actresses of all time. The star of films such as The Postman Always Rings Twice, Peyton’s Place, and The Bad and The Beautiful took the world by storm.
In a 50 plus year career, she developed from a pin-up model into true Hollywood royalty.
However, her story was much more than what we see on screen. Lana Turner’s life was full of romantic misadventures, interesting bits of trivia, and dark details. She was even involved in a murder investigation.
Keep watching as Facts Verse takes a closer look at some head-turning stories about Lana Turner.
Turner’s Father Was Murdered When She Was Young
Before she was an icon and before she was even named Lana Turner, she experienced tragedy at a young age. When she was 9 years old, Julia Jean Turner’s father was murdered.
Her father, Virgil M. Turner was a small time criminal. He had a history with bootlegging and confidence schemes through the early 1900s.
In 1921, Virgil Turner won the pot in a travelling craps game in San Francisco. He reportedly hid the money in his sock. On his way home, He was beaten to death in the street and his sock and loot were missing. His murder was never solved.
His death had a profound effect on the young Lana Turner. She claimed the tragedy was always in her mind and the early loss led to her growing up too fast.
Talent Discovered While Playing Hooky
Believe it or not, at one point, Lana Turner was just a normal high school student. Like many high schoolers, she would cut classes periodically.
One day, Turner played hooky and went across the street to hang out at the Top Hat Malt Shop. Also in the neighborhood was William Wilkerson, the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter. He took notice of Turner’s pep and charm. In his eye, a star was born.
He approached Lana Turner and asked her if she wanted to be in the movies.
Turner’s response is among the famous Hollywood origin stories. To his question, she answered, “I don’t know, I’ll have to ask my mother.”
This is a funny anecdote for the 16-year-old, but it’s also the start of one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars. All this because Lana Turner decided to cut class one day.
Before we take a look at some of the other interesting stories and dark details in Lana Turner’s life, let’s shift gears. If you are enjoying this video, please hit the like button. Also, for more pop culture stories, consider subscribing to the Facts Verse page.
The Film Industry’s “Sweater Girl”
Lana Turner’s debut role was in Mervyn LeRoy’s 1937 legal drama They Won’t Forget. In the film, Turner wore an outfit highlighted by a form-fitting sweater.
Though it was a small part, The publicist Irving Fine noticed her upstart talent and labeled her “The Sweater Girl”
The nickname took off and defined Lana Turner’s early career. However, Tuner revealed to her daughter years later that she actually hated the moniker.
Apparently, Turner was very embarrassed by the way she looked in the film. According to her daughter, it took Turner a long time to get over this part.
Although she was the first to be called the sweater girl, she would not be the last. Jayne Mansfield and Jane Russell also earned this nickname in their careers.
Lana Turner was Married Eight Times
Lana Turner had many public romances off-screen. She was married a staggering eight times though it was only to seven different men.
Some of these marriages were rather spontaneous. The first in the bunch was Artie Shaw. Shaw was a bandleader and also Turner’s costar in the 1939 film Dancing Co-ed. The pair eloped in Las Vegas after only their first date.
The marriage only lasted 4 months. After the divorce, Tuner discovered she was pregnant. She had a studio orchestrated abortion.
Another one of her noteworthy marriages was her second to Steve Crane. The two got married in 1942. However, it came to light that Crane was not divorced from his current wife. The marriage was annulled. A year later they made it official getting married a second time.
With Crane, Turner had her only child Cheryl Crane.
The studio with which she had a contract thought Turner’s behavior was excessively impulsive.
Beyond her marriages, Lana Turner also had some notable romantic escapades.
She was rumored to have had affairs with many of Hollywood’s leading names. Some of her conquests were Howard Hughes and Frank Sinatra.
Yet, the most famous on this list was Clark Gable. The pair worked on many films together in the 1940s including Somewhere I’ll Find You, Homecoming, and Any Number can Play.
At the time of the alleged affair, Gable was married to actress Carole Lombard. Author Robert Matzen speculated in his book that Gable and Lombard were fighting about the affair with Turner. Because of this, Lombard boarded an earlier flight to return to Gable. Unfortunately, this flight was doomed, and Lombard died in the crash.
This is a sad tale and certainly led to quite a bit of tabloid fuel surrounding Turner. However, this was not the only affair that ended in tragedy for Turner. More on that later.
Lana Turner Taught James Bond a Lesson
It seems with all of her romantic entanglements; Lana Turner learned a thing or two. In fact, she even gave James Bond a kissing lesson.
In 2016, Roger Moore, the second James Bond actor, was looking back on his career. One story that stood out was the time Lana Turner gave him some tips on how to kiss properly. The two worked together on the 1956 movie Diane.
When it came time for their kissing scene, Tuner was terrified of Moore’s zeal. She claimed he had too much passion followed by too much pressure.
Her advice was any woman over the age of 35 has to care of their neck. Instead of all that pressure, she showed Roger Moore how to kiss gently.
Moore said that his wife surely noticed the difference. It also was a tip that he probably used on many of his James Bond films.
The Johnny Stompanato Tragedy
We said that we would revisit some of Turner’s famous affairs and this one certainly takes the cake in terms of shock factor.
As noted, Tuner was Femme Fatale on screen. It seemed some of this behavior rubbed off on her love life away from the camera.
In the late 1950s, Turner became involved with the known mafia-heavy Johnny Stompanato. Stompanato was a long-time player under organized crime leader Mickey Cohen.
Quickly in their relationship, Johnny Stomp was abusive towards Turner. One night in 1958, Stompanato was particularly vile. He threatened to cut Lana’s face to ruin her career and promised to hurt Cheryl Crane, her daughter.
Turner was petrified. Afraid for her mother’s and her own safety, 14-year-old Cheryl stabbed Stompanato with a kitchen knife. Upon investigation, the act was ruled as justifiable homicide.
However, the mess wasn’t over. Turner’s life was criticized by savage media members. Cohen leaked the love letter between Turner and Stomp to the press embarrassing her further.
Cheryl became a ward of the state after the event and had to live with her grandmother.
As scandals go, there was much speculation. For example, Stompanato’s son suggested Turner killed him and had her daughter take the blame.
This was deeply scarring in Turner’s life and became one of the biggest Hollywood scandals in history.
True Life in Film
Naturally, the Stompanato affair caused a major rift in Lana Turner’s family. Yet, her relationship with her daughter would take another blow.
Shortly after that scandal, Ross Hunter, the producer of Douglas Sirk’s upcoming film Imitation of Life approached Lana Turner about the lead role.
The film would depict an actress in the waning years of her career. The character was also working on a troubled relationship with her daughter. It’s pretty clear why they wanted Turner. It sounds as if it was a biopic written about her.
Turner was initially hesitant because the plot struck too close to home. After insistance and a profit share offer, Turner accepted.
Although the 1959 film was a critical darling, it had the effect Turner feared. Her daughter Cheryl found the film very difficult to sit through. Indeed, she believed it was semi-biographical.
It hurt the relationship between mother and daughter. Though this was the case, Imitation of Life is regarded as one of Lana Turner’s all-time best roles.
This video sheds some light on the life of Lana Turner. Her career was full of surprising stories and dark details. Needless to say, her life was quite a bit more interesting than what we saw on screen. Though, despite these tales, she was so electrifying in movies that everything else took a back seat.
So, what did you think? What is Lana Turner’s best role? Was the original sweater girl an all-time great actress? Sound off in the comments below.
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