Lana Turner (/ /; born Julia Jean Turner; February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995) was an American actress. Over the course of her nearly fifty-year career, Turner would achieve notoriety as both a pin-up model and a serious dramatic actress, as well as for her highly publicized personal life. In 1951, she was named the most "glamorous woman in the history of international art."
Turner in a 1943 studio headshot
|Born||Julia Jean Turner
February 8, 1921
Wallace, Idaho, U.S.
|Died||June 29, 1995
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Esophageal cancer|
|Education||Hollywood High School|
|Spouse(s)||Artie Shaw (m. 1939; div. 1940)
Turner was discovered in 1936 at the Top Hat Malt Shop in Hollywood, California. At the age of 16, she was signed to a personal contract by Warner Bros. director Mervyn LeRoy, who took her with him when he moved to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1938. Turner attracted attention in her first film, LeRoy's They Won't Forget (1937), and she later starred in featured roles, often as an ingenue. Her auburn hair was bleached blonde for a 1939 film at MGM, and she remained blonde for the rest of her life, except for a few film roles.
During the early 1940s, Turner established herself as a leading actress in such films as Johnny Eager (1941), Honky Tonk (1941), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), and Somewhere I'll Find You (1942). She appeared in the 1941 horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and her reputation as a glamorous femme fatale was enhanced by her performance in the film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Her popularity continued through the 1950s in such films as The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Peyton Place (1957), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Media controversy surrounded Turner in 1958 when her daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed Turner's lover Johnny Stompanato to death in their Beverly Hills home during a domestic struggle. Turner's next film, Imitation of Life (1959), proved to be one of the greatest financial successes of her career, but onward from the early 1960s, her roles were fewer. Turner spent most of the 1970s and early 1980s in semiretirement, only working occasionally. In 1982, she accepted a much publicized and lucrative recurring guest role in the television series Falcon Crest, affording the series the highest rating it ever achieved. Turner made her final film appearance in 1985, and died from esophageal cancer in 1995, aged 74.
Lana Turner was born Julia Jean Turner on February 8, 1921, at Providence Hospital in the small mining town of Wallace, Idaho. She was the only child of John Virgil Turner, a miner from Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee (September 11, 1894 – December 14, 1930), who was 26 years old when Turner was born, and Mildred Frances Cowan from Lamar, Arkansas (February 12, 1904 – February 22, 1982), who was 16 years old when Turner was born. She was of Dutch, English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. Turner spent her early life in Wallace and Burke, Idaho. Until her film career took off, young Julia Turner was known to family and friends as "Judy". Turner expressed interest in performance at a young age, performing short routines at her father's Elks chapter in Wallace.
Hard times eventually forced the family to relocate to San Francisco, California, where her parents soon separated. On December 14, 1930, her father won some money at a traveling craps game, stuffed his winnings in his left sock, and headed for home. He was later found murdered on the corner of Minnesota and Mariposa Streets, on the edge of San Francisco's Potrero Hill and the Dogpatch District with his left shoe and sock missing. The robbery and homicide were never solved.
Turner attended a Catholic church in Stockton, California and converted to Catholicism, taking the saints' names "Mildred Frances" after her mother. She would later attend the Convent of the Immaculate Conception in San Francisco, hoping to become a nun in her adulthood. In the mid-1930s, Turner's mother developed respiratory problems and was advised by her doctor to move to a drier climate, upon which the two moved to Los Angeles in 1936. Turner and her mother lived in poverty, and she was sometimes separated from her mother, living with friends or acquaintances so the family could save money. Her mother reportedly worked eighty hours a week as a beautician to support herself and her daughter. After Turner was discovered, her mother became the overseer of her career.
1937–1939: Discovery and early workEdit
Turner's discovery in Hollywood is considered by film historians to be a show-business legend, and has been recounted numerous times with slight variations. One version of the story has her discovery occurring at Schwab's Pharmacy, but according to both Turner and a 1995 Los Angeles Times article, this was a reporting error that began circulating after the publication of articles by columnist Sidney Skolsky. According to Turner, as a junior at Hollywood High School, she skipped a typing class and bought a Coke at the Top Hat Malt Shop located on the southeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and McCadden Place. While in the shop, Turner was spotted by William R. Wilkerson, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson was attracted by her beauty and physique, and with the permission of her mother, referred her to the actor/comedian/talent agent Zeppo Marx. In December 1936, Turner was introduced by Marx to film director Mervyn LeRoy, who signed her to a fifty-dollar weekly contract with Warner Bros. on February 22, 1937. At the suggestion of LeRoy, she would take the stage name Lana Turner, a name she would come to legally adopt several years later.
Her first picture with Warner Bros. was James Whale's comedy The Great Garrick (1937) in a supporting part. LeRoy then cast Turner in her second film, They Won't Forget (1937), a crime drama in which she played a teenage murder victim. Though the part was minor, William Wilkerson wrote in The Hollywood Reporter that Turner's performance was "worthy of more than a passing note." Turner earned the nickname "the Sweater Girl" from her form-fitting attire in a scene in They Won't Forget. According to her daughter, this was a nickname Turner detested throughout her entire career. In late 1937, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $100 a week, and graduated from high school in between filming. The same year, she was loaned to United Artists for a minor role as a maid in The Adventures of Marco Polo.
According to LeRoy, she made the switch thanks to him, for he left Warner Bros. to work at MGM and was advised by studio head Jack L. Warner to take her with him, because Warner believed that she would not "amount to anything." Her first starring role for MGM was scheduled to be an adaptation of The Sea-Wolf, co-starring Clark Gable, but the project was eventually canned. Instead, she was assigned opposite teen idol Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy film Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938). This appearance, as a flirtatious girl described as "the kissing bug," convinced Louis B. Mayer that LeRoy's protégée Turner could be the next Jean Harlow, a sex symbol who had died six months before Turner's arrival at MGM.
1940–1945: Establishment as a sex symbolEdit
Mayer helped further Turner's career by giving her the leads in several youth-oriented films in the late 1930s and early 1940s, such as Dramatic School (1938), These Glamour Girls (1939) and Dancing Co-Ed (1939). In early 1940, she was also set to star in a remake of Our Dancing Daughters, but the film was never made. During World War II, Turner became a popular pin-up girl after her appearances in such films such as Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Johnny Eager (1942), and Slightly Dangerous (1943). Following the canned The Sea-Wolf project, Turner and Gable were set to star in The Uniform in December 1940. Turner was eventually replaced by Rosalind Russell, and the film was released as They Met in Bombay (1941). The same year, she had a supporting role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), a Freudian-influenced horror film, opposite Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman.
Turner also appeared in four films with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Clark Gable between 1941 and 1954, beginning with Honky Tonk (1941). The Turner-Gable films' successes were heightened by gossip-column rumors about a relationship between the two. In January 1942, she began shooting her second picture with Gable, titled Somewhere I'll Find You; however, the production was halted for several weeks after the death of Gable's wife, Carole Lombard, in a plane crash. Meanwhile, the press continued to fuel rumors that Turner and Gable were romantic offscreen, which Turner vehemently denied. Consequently, the publicity generated by this would lead MGM to play up her image as a sex symbol in her following film, a romantic comedy titled Slightly Dangerous (1943). In promotion of Somewhere I'll Find You, Turner embarked on a nationwide war bond tour, during which she returned to her hometown of Wallace, Idaho with her mother, where she was greeted with a large celebration: "We checked into our hotel, and were told that the Mayor had declared a holiday in my honor," she recalled. "A banner stretched across the street read, in large letters, WELCOME HOME, LANA. We'd been in our rooms only a few moments when people who claimed to have known us when we lived in Wallace began knocking on the door."
1946–47: Shift toward dramatic rolesEdit
After the war, Turner was cast in a lead part in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) opposite John Garfield, a film noir based on James M. Cain's debut novel of the same name. Turner reportedly did not get along with Garfield on the set; according to one documentary, when she found he was her male lead, she responded: "Couldn't they at least hire someone attractive?" The now-classic film noir marked a turning point in Turner's career as her first femme fatale role. Reviews of the film, and in particular, Turner's performance, were glowing, with a critic of The New York Times writing it was "the role of her career." Turner commented on the role in 1946:
I finally got tired of making movies where all I did was walk across the screen and look pretty. I got a big chance to do some real acting in The Postman Always Rings Twice, and I'm not going to slip back if I can help it. I tried to persuade the studio to give me something different. But every time I went into my argument about how bad a picture was, they'd say, "well, it's making a fortune". That licked me.
The Postman Always Rings Twice became a major box office success, which prompted the studio to take more risks on Turner, casting her outside of the glamorous sex symbol roles she had come to be known for. In August 1946, it was announced Turner was set to replace Katharine Hepburn in the big-budgeted historical drama Green Dolphin Street (1947), a role for which she darkened her hair and lost 15 pounds. It was Carey Wilson who insisted on casting Turner based on her performance in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Turner later recalled she was surprised about replacing Hepburn, saying: "I'm about the most un-Hepburnish actress on the lot. But it was just what I wanted to do." It was her first starring role that did not center on her looks. In an interview, Turner said: "I even go running around in the jungles of New Zealand in a dress that's filthy and ragged. I don't wear any make-up and my hair's a mess." Nevertheless, she insisted she would not give up her glamorous image.
Later that year, Turner headlined Cass Timberlane, a role for which Jennifer Jones, Vivien Leigh, and Virginia Grey were previously considered. As of early 1946, Turner was set for the role, but schedules with Green Dolphin Street almost prohibited her from taking the role, and by late 1946, she was almost recast. Production of Cass Timberlane was very exhausting for Turner, as it was shot in between retakes of Green Dolphin Street. Nevertheless, she took the female lead in Homecoming (1948) in August 1947, only moments after finishing Cass Timberlane. She was the studio's first choice for the role, but they were reluctant to offer her the part, considering her overbooked schedule. Paired again with Clark Gable in Homecoming, their chemistry projected on the screen was well received by the audience, and they were nicknamed "the team that generates steam." By this period, Turner was at the zenith of her film career, and was not only MGM's most popular star, but also one of the 10 best-paid women in the United States.
1948–1960: Critical successesEdit
In 1948, Turner appeared in her first Technicolor film, as Lady de Winter in The Three Musketeers, opposite Gene Kelly, Van Heflin, and June Allyson. In November 1947, she agreed to do the film, thereby giving up an unfinished film project called Bedeviled. However, in January 1948, it was reported that she had withdrawn from the film. Initially, Louis B. Mayer gave her permission for doing so because of her schedule, but she was later that month put on suspension. Eventually, Turner agreed to make the film, but did not start production until March due to having to lose weight.
In 1949, Turner was to headline A Life of Her Own (1950). The project was shelved for several months, and Turner insisted in December 1949 that she had nothing to do with it, saying: "Everybody agrees that the script is still a pile of junk. I'm anxious to get started. By the time this one comes out, it will be almost three years since I was last on the screen, in The Three Musketeers. I don't think it's healthy to stay off the screen that long."
During the 1950s, Turner starred in a series of films that garnered low box office sales, a situation MGM attempted to remedy by casting her in musicals. The first, Mr. Imperium (1951), was a flop, while The Merry Widow (1952) was more commercially successful. She also gave a widely praised performance in Vincente Minnelli's film, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). The same year, Turner appeared in advertisements for Lustre-Creme Shampoo, who extolled her selection by Modern Screen as having the "most beautiful hair in the world."
In 1954, she was then cast in the epic The Prodigal (1955), followed by the John Wayne adventure film The Sea Chase (1955), which Turner shot in Hawaii. After starring in the period drama Diane (1956), MGM opted not to renew Turner's contract. This was a difficult time for Hollywood's major studios because a recent court decision forced them to divest themselves of their movie theaters. In addition, television had caught on in a big way; the public was staying home. Turner was just one of MGM's star roster to be let go. Her career recovered briefly after she appeared in the hugely successful big-screen adaptation of Grace Metalious's best-selling novel, Peyton Place (1957), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Another few box-office failures followed (Another Time, Another Place, for example) when the 1958 scandal surrounding her daughter's killing of Johnny Stompanato threatened to derail her career completely.
In the trail of the related negative publicity, Turner accepted the lead role in Ross Hunter's remake of Imitation of Life (1959) under the direction of Douglas Sirk. Universal Studios capitalized on her new-found notoriety; the result was one of the biggest hits of the year, and the biggest of Turner's career; she owned 50% of the earnings of the picture and during just the first year of the film's release she earned $11 million. According to Hunter, the film made an excess of $50 million in box office receipts. Critics and audiences could not help noticing that the plots of Peyton Place and Imitation of Life each seemed to mirror certain parts of Turner's private life. Specifically, both films depicted the troubled, complicated relationship between a single mother and her teenaged daughter.
She made her last film at MGM starring with Bob Hope in Bachelor in Paradise (1961), which received mostly positive critical reception. Turner's projects of this era include By Love Possessed (1961), based on the James Gould Cozzens novel. On July 19, 1961, it became the first in-flight movie to be shown on a regular basis on a scheduled airline flight, by Trans World Airlines (TWA) to its first-class passengers. Other highlights of this period include two Hunter productions (for whom she did Imitation of Life), Portrait in Black (1960), a box office success, co-starring Anthony Quinn and Sandra Dee, and Madame X (1966), which proved to be her last major starring role.
1961–1985: Later roles and televisionEdit
In 1969, Turner appeared in her only lead starring role on television in ABC's Harold Robbins' The Survivors; the series was given a major national marketing campaign, with billboards featuring life-sized images of Turner. Despite ABC's extensive publicity campaign and the presence of other big-name stars, the program fared badly opposite Mayberry R.F.D., The Doris Day Show on CBS and The NBC Monday Movie, and it was cancelled halfway into the season after a fifteen-week run. In the 1970s and 1980s, Turner appeared in several television roles, most notably as a guest star for several episodes on the series Falcon Crest, marking her first television appearance in twelve years. She also appeared as the mysterious Jaqueline Perrault and The Love Boat, but the majority of her final decade was spent out of the public eye. On October 25, 1981, the National Film Society presented Turner with an Artistry in Cinema award. In 1994, she received Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in Spain. In 1982, Turner released an autobiography entitled Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth.
Turner stated that she was on a "downhill slide" for much of the 1970s, drinking heavily, not eating, missing performances, and weighing only 95 pounds. "I was a sipper but I never got high or drunk," Turner said in a 1982 interview. "It was much more insidious. It was starting to affect my liver and my health ... I was very sick." She decided to stop drinking, and began eating all organic food; she would credit herbalism as helping her overcome her alcoholism. Turner claimed she was chaste for the remainder of her life, after her final divorce in 1969 and had no desire to marry again.
Turner suffered from depression for much of her life. In her autobiography, Turner admitted that she had two abortions and also suffered three stillbirths. She said she was also an alcoholic and attempted suicide in September 1951 by slitting her wrists, following the end of her fourth marriage to Bob Topping. Her death was prevented however by her business manager, Benton Cole, who broke down her bathroom door and was able to call emergency medical services, saving Turner's life. In 1980, Turner had what she referred to as a "religious awakening" and became a devout Roman Catholic.
Turner had a very close relationship with her only daughter, Cheryl (b. 1943). As a teenager, Cheryl came out as a lesbian to her mother and father, Steve Crane; reflecting on it, Cheryl recalled: "I always felt I had the full support of my parents ... I was never made to feel that it was anything strange."
Turner was well known inside Hollywood circles for dating often, for changing partners often, and for never shying away from the topic of how many lovers she'd had in her lifetime. However, she claimed that sex was not important to her and that she was more of a romantic:
All those years that my image on the screen as "sex goddess"—well that makes me laugh. Sex was never important to me. I'm sorry if that disappoints you, but it's true. Romance, yes. Romance was very important. But I never liked being rushed into bed, and I never allowed it. I'd put it off as long as I could and I gave in only when I was in love, or thought I was. It was always the courtship, the cuddling, and the closeness that I cared about, never the act of sex itself—with some exceptions of course. I'm not masquerading as a prude, but I've always been portrayed as a sexy woman, and that's wrong. Sensuous, yes. When I'm involved with someone I care for deeply, I can feel sensual. But that's a private matter.
Turner habitually married, marrying eight times to seven different husbands:
- Bandleader Artie Shaw (1940). Married only four months, Turner was 19 when she and Shaw eloped on their first date. A young Judy Garland, who reported that she had a crush on Artie at that time, was both shocked and heartbroken. The sudden marriage was highly publicized, and there was even talk of MGM releasing her from her contract. She later referred to their stormy and verbally abusive relationship as "my college education".
- Actor and restaurateur Joseph Stephen "Steve" Crane (1942–1943, 1943–1944). Turner and Crane's first marriage in Las Vegas was annulled after she discovered that Crane's previous divorce had not yet been finalized. After a brief separation (during which Crane attempted suicide), they remarried in order to provide for their newborn daughter, Cheryl. However, their brief second marriage barely lasted a year primarily because the two were simply not compatible. This has been variously attributed to Lana's work schedule, to Crane's own ambitions to prove himself as a businessman independent of his prominent wife, and to differences over parenting.
- Millionaire socialite Henry J. "Bob" Topping Jr. (1948–1952). A brother of New York Yankees owner Dan Topping and a grandson of tin-plate magnate Daniel G. Reid, Topping proposed to Turner at the 21 Club in Los Angeles by dropping a diamond ring into her martini. The ceremony occurred three days after Topping was divorced from his third wife, actress Arline Judge, who had been previously married to his brother Dan. Although worth millions when they married, Topping suffered heavy financial losses due to poor investments and excessive gambling. The couple's marriage resulted in a church trial for the officiant because the marriage took place less than a year after Topping's divorce from Judge. Cheryl Crane writes in her memoir that her mother's wedding to Bob Topping was a beautiful, lavish affair held in the spacious Topping family mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, with all of the bells and whistles accompanying a traditional wedding. Despite the fact that both the bride and the groom had been married and divorced multiple times previously, Lana wore a traditional white gown, the bridesmaids wore equally beautiful gowns of Lana's choosing, and young Cheryl served as the flower girl. Crane goes on to state that she later saw this as her mother's attempt to finally have a beautiful, traditional wedding while she was still young after three failed marriages (to Artie Shaw and Steve Crane) in which the ceremonies took place before justices of the peace with Lana usually attired in a simple dress suit and heels.
- Actor Lex Barker (1953–1957), whom she divorced. In her memoir, Cheryl Crane states that Barker molested and raped her, and that after she informed her mother of this, Turner forced him out of the home at gunpoint, and immediately filed for divorce.
- Rancher Frederick "Fred" May (1960–1962), who was a member of the May department-store family. Married November 27, 1960, Turner and May separated in September 1962, and divorced shortly after.
- Robert P. Eaton (1965–1969); A movie producer, he went on to write The Body Brokers, a behind-the-scenes look at the Hollywood movie world, featuring a character named Marla Jordan, based on Turner.
- Nightclub hypnotist Ronald Pellar, also known as Ronald Dante or Dr. Dante (1969–1972). The couple met in 1969 in a Los Angeles discotheque and married that same year. After about six months of marriage, Pellar disappeared a few days after Turner had written a $35,000 check to him in order to help him in an investment; he used the money for other purposes. In addition, she later accused Dante of stealing $100,000 worth of jewelry from her. Dante denied that he stole from Turner and no charges were ever filed against him.
She later famously said, "My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around."
In 1946 after her divorce from Steve Crane, Turner briefly dated Howard Hughes, an affair that lasted for twelve weeks. She was also romantically involved with Tyrone Power for several months, and she considered him to be the love of her life. In her 1982 autobiography, Turner claims to have become pregnant with Power's child in 1948, but she chose to have an abortion. While on a goodwill trip to Europe and South Africa the same year, Power fell in love with Linda Christian in Rome. Power and Christian were married on January 27, 1949.
The Stompanato killingEdit
Turner met Johnny Stompanato during the spring of 1957, shortly after ending her marriage to Barker. After she discovered his ties to the Los Angeles underworld (in particular, his association with gangster Mickey Cohen), she tried to break off the affair out of fear of bad publicity. Stompanato was not easily deterred, however, and over the course of the following year, they carried on a relationship filled with violent arguments, physical abuse, and repeated reconciliations.
In the fall of 1957, Stompanato visited Turner in England, where she was filming Another Time, Another Place (1958), co-starring Sean Connery. In her autobiography, Turner said that she arranged for Stompanato's visit because she was lonely and having a difficult time filming. Their reunion was initially happy, but the two soon began fighting. Stompanato became suspicious when Turner would not allow him to visit the set and, during one fight, he choked her, causing her to miss three weeks of filming. Turner later wrote that she and her makeup man, Del Armstrong, called Scotland Yard in order to have Stompanato deported. Stompanato got wind of the plan and showed up on the set with a gun, threatening her and her co-star Connery, whom he warned to keep away from Turner. Connery answered by grabbing the gun out of Stompanato's hand and twisting his wrist, causing him to run off the set sheepishly. Turner and Armstrong later returned with two Scotland Yard detectives to the rented house where she and Stompanato were staying. The detectives advised Stompanato to leave and escorted him out of the house and also to the airport, where he boarded a plane back to the United States.
On the evening of April 4, 1958, after the Oscar telecast which she had attended without him, Stompanato arrived at Turner's rented house at 730 North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. The two began arguing heatedly in the bedroom, during which Stompanato threatened to kill Turner, her daughter, and her mother. Fearing that her mother's life was in danger, Turner's fourteen-year-old daughter, Cheryl, grabbed a kitchen knife and ran to Turner's defense. According to testimony provided by Turner at the coroner's inquest, Cheryl, who had been listening to the couple's fight behind the closed door, stabbed Stompanato in the stomach when Turner attempted to usher him out of the bedroom. "[At first] I thought [Cheryl] hit him in the stomach," Turner testified in court. The killing was ultimately deemed a justifiable homicide.
Due to Turner's high profile and the fact that the killing involved her teenage daughter, the case quickly became a media sensation, with over one hundred reporters and journalists attending the trial, described by attendees as "near-riotous." Though Turner and her daughter were exonerated of any wrongdoing, public opinion on the event was varied, with numerous publications intimating that Turner's testimony at the inquest was a performance; Life magazine published a photo of Turner testifying in court alongside stills of her in court room scenes from three films she had starred in. Stompanato's family in Illinois sought a wrongful death suit of $750,000 (equivalent to $6,225,779 in 2016) in damages against both Turner and her ex-husband, Steve Crane. The suit was settled out of court for a reported $20,000 in 1962.
A lifelong heavy smoker, Turner was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in May 1992. At the urging of her daughter, Turner underwent radiation therapy to treat the cancer, and in February 1993, announced that she was in remission. Despite treatment, the cancer returned in July 1994. In September 1994, she made her final public appearance at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in Spain to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award, and was bound to a wheelchair for much of the event. Turner died nine months later at the age of 74 on June 29, 1995, of complications from the cancer at her home in Century City, Los Angeles, California. Her remains were cremated and scattered in Oahu, Hawaii.
Turner was survived by Cheryl Crane, her only child, and Crane's life partner Joyce LeRoy, whom she said she accepted "as a second daughter." They inherited some of Turner's personal effects and $50,000 in Turner's will (her estate was estimated in court documents to be worth $1.7 million [$2.9 million in 2016 dollars]) with the majority of her estate being left to Carmen Lopez Cruz, her maid and companion for 45 years and her caregiver during her final illness. Crane challenged the will and Lopez claimed that the majority of the estate was consumed by probate costs, legal fees, and medical expenses.
For her contribution to the motion-picture industry, Turner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6241 Hollywood Boulevard. On May 24, 1950, Turner left hand and footprints in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Turner has been cited as one of the most glamorous film stars of all time, and her reputation as the "sweater girl" rendered her a film icon prior to her establishing herself as a serious actress. In 1951, the Academy of Contemporary Arts named her the "most glamorous woman in the history of international art." Over the course of her career, Turner's heightened level of media attention was largely fueled by her publicized personal life; film scholar Richard Dyer cites her as an example of one of Hollywood's earliest stars whose publicized private life perceptibly inflected their careers:
Her career is marked by an unusually, even spectacularly, high degree of interpenetration between her publicly available private life and her films. The star phenomenon depends upon collapsing the distinction between the star-as-person and the star-as-performer. This does not usually mean that the incidents of a film's scenario are taken to be actual incidents in the star's life but rather that they 'reveal' or express the personality of the type-of-person of the star. In the case of Turner, however, not only do her vehicles furnish characters and situations in accord with her off-screen image, but frequently incidents in them echo incidents in her life so that by the end of her career films like Peyton Place, Imitation of Life, Madame X and Love Has Many Faces seem in parts like mere illustrations of her life.
Film historian Jeanine Basinger echoes similar sentiments on Turner's career in her book The Star Machine (2008), noting that Turner "accepted limited roles and became a true sex symbol—an actress who played roles for which the meaning of the character came from a source other than the script, her own private life. She was cast only in roles that were symbolic of what the public knew—or thought they knew—of her life from headlines she made as a person, not as a movie character ... Her person became her persona." Contemporarily, she has also been frequently associated with film noir and the femme fatale archetype among scholars for her role in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Turner has been depicted and referenced in numerous works across literature, film, and music. In literature, she is the subject of the poem "Lana Turner has collapsed" by the poet Frank O'Hara, and she and Stompanato appear as minor characters in James Ellroy's novel L.A. Confidential (1990). Portrayals of Turner have also appeared in film; actress Brenda Bakke portrayed Turner in a scene in L.A. Confidential (1995). Woody Allen wrote and directed September that deals with a troubled relationship between mother and daughter haunted by a Stompanato-like scenario.
In popular music, Turner appears mentioned on the rap section of Madonna's "Vogue" next to stars from the Golden Age era of Hollywood such as Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe. Turner is mentioned in Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares for Me". American singer-songwriter Elizabeth Grant, better known as Lana Del Rey, chose Turner's name for the first part of her stage name. Turner, along with Betty Grable and Dorothy Lamour, as some of the more famous pin-up girls during the War era, are also mentioned in the song made famous by Frank Sinatra 'Nancy (With The Laughing Face)'.
|1937||They Won't Forget||Mary Clay|||
|1937||Great Garrick, TheThe Great Garrick||Mademoiselle Auber|||
|1938||Adventures of Marco Polo, TheThe Adventures of Marco Polo||Nazama's Maid|||
|1938||Love Finds Andy Hardy||Cynthia Potter|||
|1938||The Chaser||Miss Rutherford||Scenes deleted|||
|1938||Four's a Crowd||Passerby||Uncredited|||
|1938||Rich Man, Poor Girl||Helen Thayer|||
|1939||Calling Dr. Kildare||Rosalie Jewett|||
|1939||These Glamour Girls||Jane Thomas|||
|1939||Dancing Co-Ed||Patty Marlow|||
|1940||Two Girls on Broadway||Patricia 'Pat' Mahoney|||
|1940||We Who Are Young||Marjorie White Brooks|||
|1941||Ziegfeld Girl||Sheila Regan|||
|1941||Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde||Bea Emery|||
|1941||Honky Tonk||Elizabeth Cotton|||
|1942||Johnny Eager||Lisbeth Bard|||
|1942||Somewhere I'll Find You||Paula Lane|||
|1943||Youngest Profession, TheThe Youngest Profession||Herself (guest star)||Cameo role|||
|1943||Slightly Dangerous||Peggy Evans/Carol Burden|||
|1943||Du Barry Was a Lady||Cameo role||Uncredited guest star|||
|1944||Marriage Is a Private Affair||Theo Scofield West|||
|1945||Keep Your Powder Dry||Valerie 'Val' Parks|||
|1945||Week-End at the Waldorf||Bunny Smith|||
|1946||Postman Always Rings Twice, TheThe Postman Always Rings Twice||Cora Smith|||
|1947||Green Dolphin Street||Marianne Patourel|||
|1947||Cass Timberlane||Virginia Marshland|||
|1948||Homecoming||Lt. Jane 'Snapshot' McCall|||
|1948||Three Musketeers, TheThe Three Musketeers||Milady de Winter|||
|1950||Life of Her Own, AA Life of Her Own||Lily Brannel James|||
|1951||Mr. Imperium||Fredda Barlo|||
|1952||Merry Widow, TheThe Merry Widow||Crystal Radek|||
|1952||Bad and the Beautiful, TheThe Bad and the Beautiful||Georgia Lorrison|||
|1953||Latin Lovers||Nora Taylor|||
|1954||Flame and the Flesh||Madeline|||
|1954||Betrayed||Carla Van Oven|||
|1955||Prodigal, TheThe Prodigal||Samarra|||
|1955||Sea Chase, TheThe Sea Chase||Elsa Keller|||
|1955||Rains of Ranchipur, TheThe Rains of Ranchipur||Lady Edwina Esketh|||
|1956||Diane||Diane de Poitiers|||
|1957||Peyton Place||Constance MacKenzie||Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress|||
|1958||Lady Takes a Flyer, TheThe Lady Takes a Flyer||Maggie Colby|||
|1958||Another Time, Another Place||Sara Scott|||
|1959||Imitation of Life||Lora Meredith|||
|1960||Portrait in Black||Sheila Cabot|||
|1961||By Love Possessed||Marjorie Penrose|||
|1961||Bachelor in Paradise||Rosemary Howard|||
|1962||Who's Got the Action?||Melanie Flood|||
|1965||Love Has Many Faces||Kit Jordan|||
|1966||Madame X||Holly Parker||Won—Golden Plate|||
|1969||Big Cube, TheThe Big Cube||Adriana Roman|||
|1974||Persecution||Carrie Masters||Won—Medalla Sitges en Plata de Ley|||
|1980||Witches' Brew||Vivian Cross|||
|1969–1970||Harold Robbins' The Survivors||Tracy Carlyle Hastings||15 episodes|||
|1971||The Last of the Powerseekers||Tracy Carlyle Hastings||Television film|||
|1982–1983||Falcon Crest||Jacqueline Perrault||6 episodes|||
|1985||The Love Boat||Elizabeth Raley||2 episodes|||
|1941||Philip Morris Playhouse||The Devil and Miss Jones|||
|1949||Lux Radio Theatre||Green Dolphin Street|||
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