Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy Birthday: Lana Turner!

Lana Turner (February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995). While attending Hollywood High School, Turner decided to skip a typing class and bought a Coke at the Top Hat Cafe, where she was seen by William R. Wilkerson, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson referred her to Zeppo Marx. Marx's agency introduced her to film director Mervyn LeRoy, who cast her in her first film, They Won't Forget (1937). Based on a novel by Ward Greene called, Death in The Deep South, which was loosely based on a real life case: the trial and lynching of Leo Frank after the murder of Mary Phagan in 1913. It is considered by many critics to be one of the best dramas of the 1930's. Turner earned the nickname "The Sweater Girl" from her form-fitting sweater she wore in the movie.

In late 1937, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and graduated from high school. Her next performance was opposite Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy film, Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938). It was this appearance that made Louis B. Mayer convinced that Turner could be the next Jean Harlow.

Mayer gave her the leads in many teen films: Dramatic School (1938), These Glamour Girls (1939) and Dancing Co-Ed (1939). From the beginning of her career, Turner stood her ground on her beliefs and was one of the few actresses to go against Mayer's wishes.

During World War II, Turner became a popular pin-up girl due to her popularity in films: Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Johnny Eager (1942) and four films she did with Clark Gable. The Turner/Gable films were only heightened by rumors about a relationship between the two.

Another one of her well known films was, Slightly Dangerous (1943). A Romantic comedy film starring Lana Turner and Robert Young. A story of a bored young woman who runs away to New York City and ends up impersonating the long-lost daughter of a millionaire. The film was directed by Wesley Ruggles.

After the war, Turner performed in the film, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). The film noir was the turning point in her career and was Turner's first femme fatale performance.

In August 1946, it was announced Turner was going to replace Katharine Hepburn in the historical drama, Green Dolphin Street (1947). a story about a girl named Sophie who was in love with Edmund, but her parents forced her to marry wealthy Octavius. Years later, Edmund returns with his son, William. Sophie's daughter, Marguerite, and William fall in love. Marguerite's sister, Marianne, also loves William. Timothy, secretly loves Marianne and kills a man in a fight. Both men deserts from the navy and start a business together. One night, drunk, William writes Octavius, demanding his daughter's hand but, being drunk, he asks for the wrong sister.

For this role she darkened her hair and lost 15 pounds. It was her first starring role that did not center on her looks.

Later that year, Turner landed a role in the film, Cass Timberlane, a role that Jennifer Jones, Vivien Leigh and Virginia Grey were also considered for. Production of Cass Timberlane was very exhausting for Turner, as it was filmed while she was making the movie, Green Dolphin Street. She was paired again with Clark Gable in the film, Homecoming, their chemistry on screen was so wonderful that they were nicknamed "the team that generates steam".

In 1948, Turner performed in the film, in The Three Musketeers, opposite Gene Kelly, Van Heflin and June Allyson. She then went on to perform in the film, A Life of Her Own (1950). A melodrama, directed by George Cukor. The story is about an aspiring model who leaves her small town to find fame and fortune in New York City.

During the 1950s, Turner was casted in the musicals: Mr. Imperium (1951), The Merry Widow (1952). The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and later starred with John Wayne in the adventure film, The Sea Chase (1955). She was then cast in the epic, The Prodigal (1955). A story of a young Hebrew named Micah, who wants to live a more exciting life, demands his inheritance so he can go to the big city. There he falls in love with a beautiful priestess who only uses him for what she can get..

Later, Turner performed in the film, Peyton Place (1957), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. The film is about the lives and loves of the residents of a New England mill town, where everyone hides behind a tranquil facade.

Turner accepted the lead role in the remake of, Imitation of Life (1959) under the direction of Douglas Sirk. Which turned out to be the biggest hit of Turner's career.

She also made a film with Bob Hope in, Bachelor in Paradise (1961). Other well known films she performed at this time were: Portrait in Black (1960) and Madame X (1966), which was her last major starring role.

Please click here to read past Lana Turner movie reviews.

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