Drama wasn’t just Lana Turner’s job. It was an integral part of her personal life as well.
Lana Turner (1921 – 1995) was known for her dramatic skill. The beautiful actress graduated from what she called “pretty-pretty parts” in her early years to real nitty-gritty acting with her 1946 performance in “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” But drama wasn’t just her job. It was an integral part of her personal life as well.
It all started with the legendary story of Turner’s discovery. No years of struggle for her, no failed audition after failed audition… she was a 16-year-old high school student when she was spotted by an industry insider while enjoying a Coke at a café. In a whirlwind tale of classic Hollywood, Turner was immediately signed to Zeppo Marx’s talent agency, and within months she was starring in her first movie, “They Won’t Forget.”
It was one of the most dramatic ways to break into the business on record, and Turner’s penchant for drama didn’t end there.
Much like that notorious romantic Elizabeth Taylor, Turner was married eight times, to seven different men. None of the marriages lasted longer than four years, and only one resulted in a child: daughter Cheryl, from Turner’s second marriage. Cheryl’s father, Joseph Stephen Crane, was the man Turner divorced and later remarried. Of her unusual personal life she once quipped, “My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around.”
Turner’s weakness for men led to yet another dramatic episode in her life. When Turner began a relationship with Johnny Stompanato in 1957, she wasn’t aware of his ties to the underworld. As the relationship progressed, it became violent, to the point that Stompanato invaded one of Turner’s movie sets during filming, brandishing a gun. (He was dispatched with a punch to the jaw by Sean Connery.) A few months later, in the heat of a violent argument between Turner and Stompanato, daughter Cheryl came to her mother’s defense and, according to testimony, stabbed and killed Stompanato.
The media sensation that surrounded Stompanato’s death threatened to destroy Turner’s career, but she was able to come out on top, starring in several more well-received movies and TV shows before retiring.
In a final act of drama, Turner left the bulk of her estate not to her daughter but to her maid and companion, Carmen Lopez Cruz. A battle over the will ensued, giving the world one more bit of excitement to remember her for.
But even more than the real-life drama, we remember Turner for her skill as an actress. She showed – in “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and many other films – that she was more than just the pretty face for which she was discovered.