Lana Turner Overview:

Legendary actress, Lana Turner, was born Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner on Feb 8, 1921 in Wallace, ID. Turner died at the age of 74 on Jun 29, 1995 in Century City, CA and was cremated and her ashes given to family or friend.

Early Life

Lana Turner was born Julia Jean Mildred Frances on February 8th, 1921 in the small town of Wallace, Idaho. The only child of 18-year-old John Virgil and16-year-old  Mildred Turner, the young Turners life would be anything but easy. Although her father worked at the local mine he would spend much of his time and money in the cities red light district, losing his money in cards games and bottles of beer. He soon turned to lucrative business of backyard bootlegging and made corn liquor but was forced to leave when the police began to suspect the young man of his practice. Before the authorities had just cause to truly act, John packed his bags and moved the family west to San Francisco where he found employment as a dockworker. Despite the change in scenery both at domestically and vocationally, it did little to change John's devil may care attitude and soon after settling down, he and Mildred separated. Three years later, tragedy would strike.

On December 14th, 1930, John had won a fair amount of money while playing craps in the cities Dogpatch district. While walking home, he was attacked, robbed and eventually bludgeoned to death. Both his left shoe and sock were missing, the very place he was known to keep his gambling winnings. The murder was never solved. Without the little help she had from her husband, Mildred simply could not make ends meet and was forced to temporarily put young Lana in foster care, where she suffered abuse from her state caregivers. Thanks to her mother delicate health, a doctor suggested she move to a location with a drier climate to help combat her reoccurring bronchitis. Soon after, Midlred and Lana moved south to Los Angeles.


Turner's Hollywood discovery is the myth that classical Hollywood loved to generate. It starts with the young 16 year old deciding to skip the day at Hollywood High School and make a stop at her local five and dime. While sipping on soda she caught the attention of Hollywood Reporter publisher, William R. Wilkerson. He was immediately attracted to her abnormal beauty and stunning physique then asked the waiter to introduce them. When Wilkerson asked her famed question "How would you like to be in the movies? Turner responded the way any unsure 16 year old would, "I'll have to ask my mother." After retelling the story to her mother the two discover that not only did Wilkerson have the power to put young Lana in the movies, but was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood in general. Needless to say, the two called immediately and Lana was on her way to superstardom.

Early Career

Upon Lana's next meeting with Wilkerson, he set her up with the talent agency of Zeppo Marx. She was then introduced to director Mervyn LeRoy who cast her in film debut, 1937's  They Won't Forget. Although her time on screen was brief, Turner nonetheless made a splash. Thanks to her form-fitting sweater she wore in the film, Turner gained the nickname "sweater girl" which also spawned a new subgenre of pin-up models. Although the costume helped build her fame, according to Turner's daughter it was a moniker that Lana would hate for the rest of her life. In 1937 LeRoy moved from Warner Brother's studio to MGM and took Turner with him. The MGM publicity team immediately went to work and placed her in the studios schoolhouse along with fellow child/teen starlets Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In 1938 Turner would appear with Rooney and Garland in the next installment of the Andy Hardy series, Love Finds Andy Hardy. Thanks to her role as the flirtatious Cynthia and her own day-may-care attitude, Louis B. Mayer began to see the potential for Turner as an heir-apparent the recently deceased Jean Harlow. He soon moved her out of the schoolhouse and began grooming her for glamour.

In the late 1930's Mayer began placing Turner in teen orientated light comedic fair such as Dramatic School, These Glamour Girls and The Dancing Co-Eds. It was while working on the later film that Turner would meet her first husband of four husbands, Artie Shaw. Although only 17 years old, the two soon eloped after a first date in Vegas. The marriage, however, would not be a happy as Shaw was both verbally and emotionally abusive to the young Lana. They divorced only four months later. Despite her rocky personal life, Turner's career continued to flourish. In 1941 she was cast in the lavish MGM musical biography picture, Ziegfeld Girl. Although her role was originally fairly minor, during the filming process became one of the films central figures as the ambitious girl turned alcoholic starlet, Sheila Regan. The film was a major hit at the box office and Turner's popularity with American's film going audiences only grew.

World War II and Continued Success

During World War II, Turner became on of the most popular pin-up models for the G.I's who were fighting "over there." She also actively participated in the war effort by going on War Bond tours and offering a kiss to anyone who bought over $50,000 dollars in bonds. During this time she continued to star in hit films such as Johnny Eager opposite Robert Taylor, Somewhere I'll Find You opposite Clark Gable, and Slightly Dangerous opposite Robert Young. Although the films were successful and Turner was the second billed star, her roles were still largely ornamental. It would not be until 1946 that Turner would finally get a chance to show that she was something more than just a pretty face and tight fitting sweater.

In 1946 Turner was cast opposite John Garfield in the big screen adaption of the James M. Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. In the film, Turner played Cora Smith, the scheming wife of diner owner. She begins an affair with a good-looking drifter; played by Garfield, and the two then plot the murder of her husband. The film was a hit with audiences and critics with Turner's performance being hailed as the best of her career as well as one of the highlights of the film. The role has since become the one for which Turner is most associated.  She followed that with the 1947 historic drama Green Dolphin Street opposite Van Heflin. In 1948 she starred in her first technicolor film opposite Gene Kelly and June Allyson in The Three Musketeers. She next starred in the George Cukor flop A Life of Her Own and would followed that up with another flop, the musical Mr. Imperium. She recovered from the back-to-back flops quickly with a critically acclaimed performance in the 1952 Vincente Minnelli melodrama The Bad and the Beautiful. The film was huge hit and would go to win five of its six nominations including Best Cinematography and Best Writing. She starred in series of mediocre films for the next couple years including Latin Lovers and Betrayed. In 1955 she starred the mega flop The Prodigal and was soon let go by MGM studios.

Post-MGM and Stompanato Killing

After her contract with MGM expired, she starred in the Twentieth Century Fox 1957 melodrama Peyton Place. The film exposes the darker undercurrents that run deep under of seemingly idyllic small New England town. For her efforts, Turner received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Despite the success of Peyton Place, Tuner would follow that up with back-to-back flops, Another Time, Another Place and The Lady Takes a Flyer. Her career troubles, however, would soon become the least of her problems.

In 1957 Turner began a relationship with Johnny Stampanato and would soon discovery his deep connects to the criminal underworld of Los Angles, specific to mob boss Mickey Cohen. Despite her fear of being associated with such a culture, she found herself unable to break contact with Stompanato. He proved to very violent and possessive, often physically abuse Turner to the point where she would not work. In April of 1958 got into  such a heated argument, Turner's  daughter, Cheryl, began to fear for her mother's life. She soon grabbed a knife and stabbed Stompanato to death. The subsequent case and trial became a media frenzy with many stating that Turner gave the best performance of her life while on the witness stand. Cheryl's actions were deemed justifiable homicide in defense of her mother.

Following the trial, Turner was offered the lead in the Douglas Sirk remake of the Imitation of Life. In the film, Turner plays struggling young actress mother who must learn to navigate her growing acting career and parenthood. Because of Universal Studios financial troubles, Turner accepted a salary of $250,000 on the condition that she received a percent of the films profit. The film would go to be one of the biggest hits of the year and made over 50 millions at the box office.

Later Career and Life

After Imitation of Life, Turner's career began to decline. She starred in series of mediocre films, many of which of flopped, including Portrait in Black, By Love Possessed, and Madame X, the later which served as her last staring role. By the end of the 1960's, Turner's clout at the box-office had disappeared and Turner moved the medium of televisions. She appeared in the 1969 show The Survivors and followed up with the TV movie The Last of the Powerseekers. Through the remainder of the 1970's she appeared sporadically in low budget features such as Persecution and Bittersweet Love and in the 80s returned to TV. From 1982 to 1983 she appeared on the popular nighttime soap opera Falcon Crest. By the end of the decade she made released both an autobiography and memoir, Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth and Detour. By the time the 1990's rolled around, Turner's lifetime of drinking and smoking began to take its role on her health and in 1992 she was diagnosed with throat cancer. She would go in and out of remission for the next couple years before finally succumbing to the disease. Lana Turner died on June 29th, 1995. She was 74 years old. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Turner was nominated for one Oscar, she never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1957Best ActressPeyton Place (1957)Constance MacKenzieNominated

She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Lana Turner's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #91 on May 24, 1950.

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Lana Turner Quotes:

Samarra: A high priestess cries the day she is born and never again in her lifetime.

Jimmy Walters: Soon as I saw you, I said to myself, that's a hot lookin' little number.
Sheila 'Red': Don't let it throw ya champ. I'm 20 degrees cooler than you think.
Jimmy Walters: Ah, one of them refrigerated dames, huh?
Sheila 'Red': That's right. You're not the guy to defrost me either.

Frank Chambers: I can sell anything to anybody.
Cora Smith: That's what you think.

read more quotes from Lana Turner...

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Best Actress Oscar 1957

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Lana Turner Facts
Measurements: 34C-25-34 ("The Sweater Girl" -1940), 35 1/2C-24 1/2-36 (from "Movieland Pin-Ups"- 1954), 34C-26-38 (from her autobiography), (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine).

Although diagnosed with throat cancer in 1992, Turner continued to smoke until almost the very end of her life.

Once when she was being interviewed by Hedda Hopper, Lex Barker, Lana's future husband, was in the same room. There was a large vase of flowers blocking her view of Lex, so Lana got up, walked across the room and removed them, remarking, "He's brand new and I want to look at him!"

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