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Lana Turner - 8/10
Remind Me

Lana Turner Profile

"No one will ever know how hard my daughter has worked," Lana Turner's mother once said to me, as more of a spontaneous statement at the time than an emphatic declaration. But one could only begin to imagine the obstacles Lana had overcome on her way to becoming an icon.

Born Julia Jean Turner of humble beginnings in Wallace, Idaho, the brutalities of life struck Lana at age nine when her father was killed while being robbed on a San Francisco street; seven years later, and a few hundred miles South, she would be on her way to becoming a legendary star in one of the most lethal professions this side of shark-feeding. From coverage she later received in mountains of movie magazines like Photoplay, Modern Screen and Screen Guide, a reader would have thought all she ever did was rumba away her nights at Ciros and the Stork Club, or fall in love and get married and married and married. But there was much more to Lana Turner than that, something that's been revealed with the invaluable help of her daughter Cheryl Crane who knew and understood her mother better than anybody. Her story is featured in the TCM Original documentary, Lana Turner: A Daughter's Memoir (2001). In it, Cheryl talks about her famous mom and shares insights into Lana's movies and co-stars (Her mother, she says, especially loved working with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, and it was Lana's decision, no one else's, to turn down the role of the "bad girl" in 1941's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which she'd initially been assigned; even at 19, Lana knew she didn't yet possess the technique required for playing the multi-dimensional role eventually done by Ingrid Bergman. Turner opted, instead, to play the less demanding "good girl" role in the film).

Career smart, she was, and work hard, she did, always aware of the three mouths she had to feed, her own, her mother's and her daughter's. Luckily, Lana was a natural, born beautiful and discovered early, she took to the camera, and it to her, with stunning results; she also instinctively knew what sold, what didn't and what would fascinate the public most. Young Lana listened, watched and learned, and in an era when glamour girls were a dime a dozen and a career lasted seven years at best, she enjoyed 54 years of superstardom, starting with her walk down a staircase in 1941's Ziegfeld Girl and lasting until her death in 1995 at the age of 75.

You might be surprised to learn what a seemingly boundless sense of humor she possessed off-camera. She was a glamour girl, yes, and she was also a very funny lady. At any Hollywood gathering that Lana attended, you could always pinpoint her whereabouts since she was always where the most robust laughter was centered. It was that ability to laugh which so consistently helped her through life, especially during troubled times, such as the day she left the MGM lot for the last time after 19 years (Cheryl has a poignant story to tell about that) and after the scandal of 1958 which, for the rest of her life, Lana would refer to only as "The Incident." (Cheryl gives her own detailed recollection of what happened on the night that triggered what's been called "the Hollywood scandal of the decade.")

For the record, she preferred her first name pronounced, not to rhyme with "Anna" or "banana" but, more purringly "Lawn-a." But no matter who pronounced it or how, to the world at large no last name has ever been needed. There's only one Lana.

by Robert Osborne

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