Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Imagine. It's the 1940s and you've saved your money so you can visit Hollywood. You go to the restaurants you've read about in the fan magazines. You hang out at the studio gates, and take the tour bus to the home's of the stars. And in the end, the only movie stars you see are the ones on the postcards sold at the corner news stand. Remember, it's Hollywood, where people make up stories for a living. The folks back home can be told anything, and who's the wiser.
Oh Lana Turner, what a life she lead. Born in 1921 in Wallace, Idaho, as Julia Jean Turner, she moved with her family to sunny southern California when still a child. No, she wasn't discovered at Schwab's Drug Store, but at a small cafe near Hollywood High School. The rewards of skipping class. She made a lot of movies in her career, and by any standard was a successful actress. A lot of those films were good movies and a couple have withstood the test of time. Most notably, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Imitation of Life (1959). Unlike a lot of glamour girls, Turner could act, and while the parts disappeared as she aged, she never officially retired. Eventually she would make her way to television and make a notable turn on the night time soap, Falcon Crest. Her last movie was Thwarted, a low budget film made in Florida. It was made in 1991, just a few years before her death in 1995.
Lana Turner also had an adventurous private life, going through seven husbands, and more than a few lovers. To put it mildly, she didn't always make the best choices. There were husbands that hadn't gotten around to divorcing previous wives. Physically abusive husbands, including one, actor Lex Barker, who was alleged to have raped Lana's teen aged daughter, Cheryl Crane. And then there was boyfriend, Johnny Stomponato. Stomponato was a gangster and member of the Mickey Cohen crime family. Lana and Johnny took up in 1957. Lana tried to break things off, but Johnny Stomponato wasn't the type of man to leave when asked. In 1957, Lana took a part in a movie being made in England, Another Time, Another Place, opposite a young Sean Connery. Johnny followed her to England and confronted Connery with a gun. Sean Connery decked Stomponato with one punch, disarmed him, and turned him over to the police. When Lana Turner returned to Hollywood, Johnny Stomponato was waiting for her. And then he was dead, stabbed to death in Lana Turner's house. The official story is that Stomponato was beating her and that Lana's daughter, Cheryl, stabbed Stomponato, defending her mother's life. But of course, it's a Hollywood story, so there are rumors of murky cover-ups. The most popular is that Lana and Johnny had reconciled, that things had gotten rough, and that Lana did the stabbing, and that after consultation with studio lawyers and publicity men, it was decided that Cheryl should take the blame to save her mother's career. In 1958, the DA decided that Cheryl Crane's actions were justified and no charges were filed.