Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lana Turner--Aquarian

Lana Turner (1921-1995) was one of the most successful actresses of the 1940s and 1950s, bracketed by the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the 1959 Imitation of Life. She continued to act in films into the 1960s, but with fewer and fewer roles.

Discovered as a teenager (age 16!), Turner was actually spotted in a Hollywood drug store buying a Coke by the publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, who contacted Zeppo Marx about her. Marx was not only the fourth famous Marx Brother and an actor, but an agent. Turner was quickly signed to a contract and cast in a film, They Won't Forget.

She made a series of films with MGM, and became a pin-up girl during WWII. After the war, she made the film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on the novel by James M. Cain, with co-star John Garfield.

Turner was brilliant in The Bad and The Beautiful, with Kirk Douglas. It's one of my favorite "industry" films, a film about film, like All About Eve is a film about theatre. Turner is actually a better actress than most people give her credit for: mostly, people consider her a pretty, sexy blonde, but she really shines in a handful of films.

One of her biggest pictures is Imitation of Life, a remake of a 1930s film with Claudette Colbert. It is a melodrama, a pot-boiler, but an important film about race, nonetheless. She made a lot of money from this picture--in fact, Turner was consistently one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.

Her private life was a source of interest for her fans and underscored her films, as well. She was married seven times: to bandleader Artie Shaw at 19; twice to Joseph Crane, father of her daughter Cheryl; millionaire Henry Topping; actor Lex Barker; Fred May; producer Robert Eaton; nightclub performer Ronald Pellar. The biggest scandal of her career was the killing of her lover Johnnie Stompanato by her 14-year-old daughter Cheryl--this nearly killed Turner's career. Stompanato was a low-level gangster with Mickey Cohen's organization, and Turner and he had a violent and abusive relationship. Cheryl claimed she killed Stompanato because he threatened her mother.

Turner made 55 movies between 1937 and 1991, plus roles in television series and movies.

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