Nationality: American. Born: Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner in Wallace, Idaho, 8 February 1920. Education: Attended Hollywood High School. Family: Married 1) the musician Artie Shaw, 1940 (divorced 1940); 2) Joseph Stephen Crane, 1942 (divorced 1944), daughter: Cheryl Christine; 3) Henry J. Topping, 1948 (divorced 1952); 4) the actor Lex Barker, 1953 (divorced 1957); 5) Fred May, 1960 (divorced 1962); 6) Robert Eaton, 1965 (divorced 1969); 7) Ronald Dante, 1969 (divorced 1972). Career: 1937—film debut in A Star Is Born ; contract with the director Mervyn LeRoy; role in They Won't Forget led to publicity as "Sweater Girl"; 1938–56—contract with MGM; 1958—formed Lanturn Productions; 1966—formed Eltee Productions; 1969—in TV series The Survivors ; 1971—on stage in 40 Carats ; 1983—in TV series Falcon Crest . Died: Of throat cancer, in Century City, California, 29 June 1995.
A Star Is Born (Wellman) (as extra); They Won't Forget (LeRoy) (as Mary Clay); The Great Garrick (Whale) (as Auber)
The Adventures of Marco Polo (Mayo) (as Nazama's maid); Love Finds Andy Hardy (Seitz) (as Cynthia Potter); The Chaser (Marin) (as Miss Rutherford); Rich Man, Poor Girl (Schunzel) (as Helen Thayer); Dramatic School (Sinclair) (as Mado); Four's a Crowd (Curtiz)
Calling Dr. Kildare (Bucquet) (as Rosalie); These Glamour Girls (Simon) (as Jane Thomas); Dancing Co-Ed ( Every Other Inch a Lady ) (Simon) (as Patty Morgan)
Two Girls on Broadway ( Choose Your Partner ) (Simon) (as Pat Mahoney); We Who Are Young (Bucquet) (as Margy Brooks)
Ziegfeld Girl (Leonard) (as Sheila Regan); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Fleming) (as Beatrix Emery); Honky Tonk (Conway) (as Elizabeth Cotton)
Johnny Eager (LeRoy) (as Lisbeth Bard); Somewhere I'll Find You (Ruggles) (as Paula Lane)
Slightly Dangerous (Ruggles) (as Peggy Evans/Carol Burden); The Youngest Profession (Buzzell) (as herself); DuBarry Was a Lady (Del Ruth) (as herself)
Marriage Is a Private Affair (Leonard) (as Theo Scofield West)
Keep Your Powder Dry (Buzzell) (as Valerie Parks); Weekend at the Waldorf (Leonard) (as Bunny Smith)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (Garnett) (as Cora Smith)
Green Dolphin Street (Saville) (as Marianne Patourel); Cass Timberlane (Sidney) (as Virginia Marshland)
Homecoming (LeRoy) (as Lt. Jane "Snapshot" McCall); The Three Musketeers (Sidney) (as Milady Countess Charlotte de Winter)
A Life of Her Own (Cukor) (as Lily Brannel James)
Mr. Imperium ( You Belong to My Heart ) (Hartman) (as Fredda Barlo)
The Merry Widow (Bernhardt) (as Crystal Radek); The Bad and the Beautiful (Minnelli) (as Georgia Lorrison)
Latin Lovers (LeRoy) (as Nora Taylor)
The Flame and the Flesh (Thorpe) (as Madeline); Betrayed ( The True and the Brave ) (Reinhardt) (as Carla Van Owen)
The Prodigal (Thorpe) (as Samarra); The Sea Chase (Farrow) (as Elsa Keller); The Rains of Ranchipur (Negulesco) (as Edwina Esketh); Diane (David Miller) (title role)
Peyton Place (Robson) (as Constance MacKenzie)
The Lady Takes a Flyer (Arnold) (as Maggie Colby); Another Time, Another Place (Lewis Allen) (as Sara Scott)
Imitation of Life (Sirk) (as Lora Meredith)
Portrait in Black (Michael Gordon) (as Sheila Cabot)
By Love Possessed (John Sturges) (as Marjorie Penrose); Bachelor in Paradise (Arnold) (as Rosemary Howard)
Who's Got the Action? (Daniel Mann) (as Melanie Flood)
Love Has Many Faces (Singer) (as Kit Jordan)
Madame X (Rich) (as Holly Anderson)
The Big Cube (Tito Davison) (as Adriana Roman)
The Last of the Powerseekers (Doniger, Leytes, and Henreid—for TV) (as Tracy Carlyle Hastings)
Persecution ( Terror of Sheba ; The Graveyard ) (Chaffey) (as Carrie Masters)
Bittersweet Love (David Miller) (as Claire)
Witches' Brew (Shorr)
Lana: The Lady, the Legend, the Truth , New York, 1982.
Wright, Jacqueline, The Life and Loves of Lana Turner , New York, 1960.
Morella, Joe, Lana: The Public and Private Lives of Miss Turner , New York, 1971.
Rosen, Marjorie, Popcorn Venus , New York, 1973.
Basinger, Jeanine, Lana Turner , New York, 1976.
Valentino, Lou, The Films of Lana Turner , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1976.
Paris, James, The Hollywood Beauties , New Rochelle, New York, 1978.
Pero, Taylor, Always, Lana , New York, 1982.
Crane, Cheryl, with Cliff Jahr, Detour: A Hollywood Story , New York, 1988.
Wayne, Jane Ellen, Lana: The Life and Loves of Lana Turner , New York, 1995.
Current Biography 1943 , New York, 1943.
Valentino, Lon, "For Love of Lana," in Show (Hollywood), January 1970.
Raborn, G., "Lana Turner," in Films in Review (New York), October 1972.
Dyer, Richard, "Four Films of Lana Turner," in Movie (London), Winter 1977–78.
"Legendary Lady," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), September 1982.
Thomson, David, "A Life of Imitation," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1988.
Obituary in New York Times , 1 July 1995.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 10 July 1995.
"Never to Be Forgotten," in Psychotronic Video (Narrowsburg), no. 21, 1995.
Updike, John, "Legendary Lana," in New Yorker , 12 February 1996.
Hevia, E., "El colchon de Lana," in Nosferatu (San Sebastian), January 1997.
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Lana Turner has come to epitomize the concept of the classical Hollywood movie star. She is identified with glamour, artifice, and excess. The last is not only associated with her on-screen image but also with her offscreen identity. In fact, numerous critics have suggested that Turner's offscreen activities are her primary claim to fame. Aside from the many marriages, the most spectacular instance of her notoriety was the 1958 killing of Turner's gangster lover by her teenaged daughter. The incident catapulted Turner into the realm of celebrity status and it is this distinction that gives her star image a strong contemporary edge. The situation, in deed and coverage, has been only recently surpassed by the media's responses to O. J. Simpson and the double murder. That the scandal has become incorporated into the culture was evidenced by Woody Allen's September which features a famous actress and her daughter, who, as a teenager, allegedly killed the mother's lover.
If scandal is an aspect of Turner's contemporary identity, another is a very specific filmic image. The image, Turner dressed in white shorts and halter and wearing a turban, is taken from The Postman Always Rings Twice which, in addition to connecting Turner to an illicit lover and murder, presents the actress at her most sexual. It is fitting that she is summed up in a static image since Turner's identity is not associated strongly with performing or a distinctive personality. Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull underscores this point in its fleeting but unmistakable reference to the actress—Cathy Moriarty appears, in a poolside scene, in a facsimile of the above-mentioned sunsuit, and, significantly, the context is a nonverbal sequence.
Turner's image as a celebrity is probably reinforced by her films which, on the whole, are not distinguished. Nevertheless, it would be inaccurate to claim that her film career is negligible. Turner, in addition to having an ability to project sexual desire, cultivated a very feminine identity, to the extent that her presence, in terms of grooming and gesture suggested artifice. But Turner is not a passive onscreen presence. Rather, she tends to play women who struggle and refuse to settle for less than what can be had. These characterizations suggest a woman who is desperate and, therefore, reckless; yet, Turner's behavior is often constrained and she, unlike actresses such as Joan Crawford, seems incapable of fully challenging or overriding gender and, in numerous instances, class dictates. Arguably, this happens because she is too fully aligned to femininity, hence a socially controlled identity. Turner's skill resides in her ability to articulate her situation and the insecurities it produces; beneath the somewhat glacial and carefully constructed exterior image, there is a person who is anxious, fearful, and needs help. It is perhaps this tension which contributes to her appeal as it foregrounds the conflicting responses women experience under patriarchy.
Turner's star image is tightly bound to her sexuality. Such films as The Prodigal and Diane , in which Turner is paired with weak male co-stars and virtually carries the films herself, suggest that it is her sexual desire that makes her an exciting and transgressive figure. This on-screen emphasis on sex was mirrored offscreen through the marriages and the affairs; yet Turner's offscreen identity was mediated by an emphasis on her as a woman who wanted a lasting marriage, who was a good mother and who was serious about her career. The many contradictions in her identity exploded with the real-life stabbing of her lover and these same contradictions are skillfully utilized by Douglas Sirk in Imitation of Life .
Although Turner continued to work into the late 1970s, her film career effectively ends with Madame X . From the 1980s onward, Turner shied away from public exposure and the decision to avoid the limelight invested her latter-day image with a degree of dignity. While Turner never fully gained critical acceptance as a performer, she proved herself to be an extremely professional and hard-working woman; and she managed to make an indelible mark on the Hollywood cinema through her presence and star image.