In honor of both Women’s History Month and the 95th Academy Awards, here is a featurette description on Lana Turner. Lana Turner was undoubtedly one of the most incredibly glamorous movie star icons of Golden Age Hollywood. And yet, today’s media is not covering her very often. She is also a wonderful example of the “American Dream,” as she grew up in poverty in a rural mining town in Idaho and ended up starring in Hollywood movies. Lana is a great example of true grit put into the American context. She was born February 8, 1921 in Wallace, Idaho. She showed an interest in performing arts while the family struggled to make ends meet – her family relocated to San Francisco when she was 6 years old. Her parents separated after moving to San Francisco.
Lana’s father was murdered in 1930 when she was 9 years old after having been robbed of gambling money he won, the murder was never solved and he was found in the Dogpatch neighborhood. His passing greatly affected her and she grew up quickly as a result. Her family then moved to Sacramento and around the greater Bay Area, including Modesto. It would be common to have “crackers and milk” to live on throughout the week. Her mother worked 80 hours per week as a beautician. Lana converted to Catholicism during childhood (having been baptized Protestant), and she had aspirations of becoming a nun in San Francisco. Due to her mother’s respiratory issues, they moved to Los Angeles for a drier climate by a doctor’s recommendation.
When Lana was 15, she was spotted by the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter while buying a soda on Sunset Blvd., where she was living at the time. Her mother allowed her to enter the movie industry and she was signed to a contract at Warner Brothers. She later moved onto MGM and worked alongside Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, even testing for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, unfortunately not winning that role. In the 1940s, she acted alongside Judy Garland, where Lana was paid $1,500 per week. They became lifelong friends and lived next door to each other! Some of her famous lovers included Howard Hughes and Frank Sinatra.
By 1948, she was one of the highest paid women in the US, being paid over $226,000 per year and the most popular actress at MGM. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1957 for Peyton Place. Her next film, she would earn over $2 million in Imitation of Life. Lana Turner was a Hollywood powerhouse who has not had as much mainstream appeal today. In her personal life, Lana was married seven times. She had one daughter, Cheryl Crane, when aged 14, murdered her mother’s lover, Johnny Stompanato, during a domestic violence altercation in 1958. Johnny worked for the Cohen crime family. Her daughter was not charged. Lana died of throat cancer in 1995, at the age of 74.
In honor of her memory and legacy, Lana Turner is a true Hollywood icon.
Lana Turner, Judy Garland, and Hedy Lamarr