Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen once writes to the effect that "No one who ever fell in love with Lana Turner on screen would be disappointed to meet her off screen." For she is every bit as glamorous.
But, perhaps tragically, according to many around her, while Lana strives to develop the melodramatic persona of a woman in conflict, she becomes in life the person whom her image dictates.
Keri Tombazian narrates this account of the life and career of screen star Lana Turner, from her 1921 birth, in Wallace, Idaho, as Julia Jean "Judy" Turner, the daughter of Mildred Cowan Turner and Virgil Turner, who loses his life in 1930, a victim of an unsolved robbery and murder, during which the perpetrator would steal his shoe, sock and money hidden inside.
Mildred and Judy relocate to San Francisco, California, Mildred working as a beautician, before heading to Hollywood in 1931, where, in 1936 Judy attends Hollywood High School, at which she notoriously cuts classes to lounge at the counter of the Top Hat Cafe, where W.R. Wilkerson discovers her, recommends her to Zeppo Marx, now a talent agent, who introduces her to Director Mervyn LeRoy, who casts Judy in her first film with her chosen name of Lana Turner.
An MGM contract soon follows, and publicity heralds Lana as a "Sweater Girl" and a "Nightclub Queen" at the age of 17.
In 1940, Lana, already romantically linked to various leading men, begins her trip on the Hollywood marriage-go-round with Bandleader Artie Shaw, and soon an on-again, off-again marriage with Stephen Crane, with whom she welcomes daughter, Cheryl, the second time around. Well, the list goes on from here, with some of her husbands' planning a quiet domestic lifestyle, while Lana rather reaches for the high-profile career in the spotlight.
A well-publicized 1958 scandal involving Lana, Cheryl and a mob-connected suitor, Johnny Stompanato, leads to murder charges in the family, which threatens Lana's film career. "Peyton Place" (1957) remains in theaters, and Lana must testify at the inquest hearings, mirroring her role in the film.
Producer Ross Hunter soon offers Lana another Melodramatic role which hangs her career in the balance should the "Imitation of Life" (1959) remake fail at the box office. But it becomes Univeral Pictures' largest money-maker to date and cements Lana's image as the glamorous star facing a whirlwind of turmoil.
After Lana's MGM contract expires on the heels of "Madame X" (1966), Lana's movie offers also dwindle with the changing times. From here, she continues to appear on television and launches into a glamorous and glitzy stage production of "Forty Carats" (1972).
Lana appears in archive interviews, saying that she continues to have choices, to appear on television, to gather with friends, to travel, to do everyday things, or not to do them as she pleases. Hers is a legend of glamour and romance often marked by conflict and headlines, along with her determination to persevere. But, another Hollywood scandal, involving actor Hugh Grant, overshadows Lana's final headline.
Lana's marriages are with Artie Shaw (1940–40), Stephen Crane (1942–43, 1943–44), Henry J. Topping (1948–52), Lex Barker (1953–57), Fred May (1960–62), Robert Eaton (1965–69), and Ronald Dante (1969–72). With Crane, she welcomes daughter, Cheryl.
Interview Guests for this episode consist of Carmen Cruz (Lana's Maid, dialogue translated), Harriet Root (Manicurist), Lorraine Sherwood (Lana's Secretary, 1960-65), Jeanine Basinger (Film Historian), Sandra Dee (Actress/co-star), Janis Paige (Actress/co-star), Cliff Robertson (Actor/co-star), John Bowab (Stage Director), Dominic Peretti (Childhood playmate), William Squance (Childhood playmate), Judge Joseph Wapner (High School Classmate), Bob Thomas (Hollywood Associated Press Reporter), W.R. Wilkerson, Jr. (Publisher: "The Hollywood Reporter"), Page Cavanaugh (Jazz Pianist/Singer), Del Armstrong (Lana's Make-Up Artist, 1943-68), Moss Mabry (Costume Designer/friend), Nolan Miller (Costume Designer), and Eric Root (Hairdresser/friend), with Harry Smith (Host), and Keri Tombazian (Narrator). Cheryl Crane (Daughter) appears in a 1984 archive interview, and Lana Turner (Self) appears in archive interviews from 1984 and 1995.
Still Photographs include Lana Turner, Mildred Cowan Turner (Mother), Virgil Turner (Father), W.R. Wilkerson, Mervyn LeRoy, Artie Shaw (former Husband), Stephen Crane (former Husband), Henry J. Topping (former Husband), Lex Barker (former Husband), Fred May (former Husband), Robert Eaton (former Husband), Ronald Dante (former Husband), Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes, Tyrone Power, Johnny Stompanato, Ross Hunter, Jane Wyman and Hugh Grant.
Archive film footage includes Lana Turner, Eva Peron, Edward Arnold, John Garfield, Henry J. Topping, Spencer Tracy, Ray Milland, Fernando Lamas, Clark Gable, John Gavin, Robert Alda, John Forsythe, Kevin McCarthy and Keir Dullea, as well as several unidentified co-stars.
Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Lana Turner through the years, in scenes from A Star Is Born (1937), They Won't Forget (1937), These Glamour Girls (1939), We Who Are Young (1940), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Show Business at War (1943), Marriage Is a Private Affair (1944), Week-End at the Waldorf (1945), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Green Dolphin Street (1947), Cass Timberlane (1947), A Life of Her Own (1950), The Merry Widow (1952), Betrayed (1954), The Prodigal (1955), Diane (1956), Peyton Place (1957), Imitation of Life (1959), Portrait in Black (1960), By Love Possessed (1961), Love Has Many Faces (1965/I), Madame X (1966), The Big Cube (1969), and Persecution (or The Terror of Sheba) (1974), in addition to WWII-era Newsreel footage, as well as coverage of Lana's testifying at the Johnny Stompanato Inquest (1958).
Television Clips include scenes with Lana from "The Survivors" (1969-70), "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" (circa 1980's) and "The San Sebastián International Film Festival" (1994).
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