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Lana Turner (February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995) was an Academy Award-nominated American film and occasionally television actress. On-screen, she was well-known for the glamour and sensuality she brought to almost all her movie roles. Off-screen, she was-well known for her stormy and colorful private life including seven husbands, numerous lovers, and a famous murder scandal.

Turner's discovery at Schwab's Drug Store has become one of Hollywood's most enduring show-business legends. The true story differs only slightly from that legend. As a 16-year-old student at Hollywood High, Turner decided to skip a typing class and buy a Coke at the Top Hat Cafe located on the southeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and McCadden Place. There, she was spotted by William R. Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson was attracted by her beauty and physique, and referred her to the actor/comedian/talent agent Zeppo Marx. Marx's agency immediately signed her on and introduced her to film director Mervyn LeRoy, who cast her in her first film, 1937's They Won't Forget. She also appeared as an extra that year in A Star Is Born—if the viewer doesn't blink, Lana can be spotted in the crowd at a boxing match. She also appeared in the Andy Hardy movie Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938).

Turner earned the nickname "The Sweater Girl" from her form-fitting attire in a scene in They Won't Forget. She reached the height of her fame in the 1940s and 1950s. During World War II, Turner became a popular pin-up girl due to her popularity in such films such as Ziegfeld Girl, Johnny Eager, and four films with MGM's "king of the lot," Clark Gable (the films' success was only heightened by gossip-column rumors about a relationship between the two). Lana even had a B-17—the Tempest Turner—named after her. After the war, Turner's career continued successfully with the release, in 1946, of The Postman Always Rings Twice, which co-starred John Garfield.[4]. The now-classic film noir marked a turning point in her career. Reviews of the film, and in particular, Lana's performance, were glowing. While not exactly giving up her pin-up credentials, Lana established herself as a skilled actress.

in Mr. Imperium (1951)During the 1950s, Turner starred in a series of films that failed to succeed at the box office, a situation MGM attempted to remedy by casting her in musicals. The first, Mr. Imperium, was a flop, while The Merry Widow was more successful. She gave a widely praised performance in Vincente Minnelli's 1952 film, The Bad and the Beautiful, and later starred with John Wayne in the adventure film The Sea Chase. She was then cast in the epic The Prodigal, but the film and her performance in general were not well received. After the 1956 film, Diane, MGM opted not to renew her contract.

Turner's career recovered briefly after she appeared in the hugely successful big-screen adaptation of Grace Metalious's best-selling novel, Peyton Place, 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 Turner's lover, 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 under the direction of Douglas Sirk. Universal Studios capitalized on her new-found notoriety; the result was one of the biggest hits of 1959, as well as the biggest hit of Turner's career. Critics and audiences couldn't help noticing that the plots of both Peyton and Imitation had borrowed heavily from Turner's private life. Each film depicted the troubled, complicated relationship between a single mother and her teenage daughter.

In 1961, she made her last film at MGM starring with Bob Hope in Bachelor in Paradise. Other highlights of this era include two Ross Hunter productions, Portrait in Black and Madame X, which proved to be her last major starring role.

Turner was well known inside Hollywood circles for dating often, changing partners often, and for never shying away from the topic of how many lovers she had in her lifetime. Of her many love affairs, Turner reportedly once said "I liked the boys, and the boys liked me."

Turner was married eight times to seven different husbands. Her husbands were:

Bandleader Artie Shaw (1940) Married only four months, Turner was 19 when she and Shaw eloped on their first date. She later referred to their stormy and verbally abusive relationship as "my college education".

Actor-restaurateur Josef Stephen Crane (1942–1943, 1943–1944) Turner and Crane's first marriage 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 re-married to provide for their newborn daughter, Cheryl.

Millionaire socialite Henry J. Topping Jr. (1948–1952) Topping proposed to Turner at the 21 Club in Los Angeles by dropping a diamond ring into her martini. Although worth millions when they married, Topping suffered heavy financial losses due to poor investments and excessive gambling. Turner finally divorced Topping when she realized she could no longer afford to keep them in the lavish lifestyle to which they had grown accustomed.

Actor Lex Barker (1953–1957), whom she divorced after her daughter Cheryl claimed that he repeatedly molested and raped her.

Rancher Fred May (1960–1962)

Robert P. Eaton (1965–1969);[6] who later 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, aka Ronald Dante or Dr. Dante (1969–1972). The couple met in 1969 in a Los Angeles discotheque and married that same year. After about 6 months of marriage, Pellar disappeared a few days after she had written a $35,000 check to him to help him in an investment; he used the money for other purposes. In addition, she later accused him of stealing $100,000 worth of jewelry.

The Stompanato murder case

Turner met Johnny Stompanato during the spring of 1957, shortly after ending her marriage to Lex Barker. At first, Turner was susceptible to Stompanato's good looks and prowess as a lover, but after she discovered his ties to the LA 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, he and Turner carried on a relationship filled with violent arguments, physical abuse, and repeated reconciliations.

In the fall of 1957, Stompanato followed Turner to England where she was filming Another Time, Another Place, costarring Sean Connery, later of James Bond fame. Fearful that Turner was having an affair with Connery, Stompanato stormed onto the set brandishing a gun. Connery managed to land a single punch to Stompanato's jaw and took away his gun. Stompanato was soon deported by Scotland Yard for the incident.

On the evening of April 4, 1958, Turner and Stompanato began a violent argument in Turner's house at 730 N. Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. Fearing her mother's life was in danger, Turner's then 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane grabbed a kitchen knife and ran to Turner's defense.

Many theories abound as to what happened afterward, but it appears Crane stabbed Stompanato, killing him. The case quickly became a media sensation. It was later deemed a justifiable homicide at a coroner's inquest, at which Turner provided dramatic testimony. Some observers have said her testimony that day was the acting performance of her life.

Later life

In the 1970s and 1980s, Turner appeared in several television roles, most notably one season (1982–1983) on the series Falcon Crest as Jaqueline Perrault, but the majority of her final decade was spent out of the public eye.

She died at the age of 74 in 1995 of complications from throat cancer, which was diagnosed in 1992 and which she had been battling ever since, at her home in Century City, Los Angeles, California. She was, until her death, a very heavy smoker.

She was survived by her only child, her daughter, Cheryl Crane, and Cheryl's life partner Joyce "Josh" LeRoy, whom she said she accepted "as a second daughter." They inherited some of Lana's sizable estate, built through shrewd real estate holdings and investments. However, the majority of her estate was left to her maid, Carmen Lopez Cruz.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Lana Turner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6241 Hollywood Boulevard.

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