Lana Turner became a famous onscreen actress within a few years of joining the industry, but when her mobster boyfriend died after being stabbed by her 14-year-old daughter, the saga outdid any scandal the '50s had ever experienced.
Lana Turner was born in Wallace, Idaho, in 1920, to John Virgil Turner and Mildred Frances. Her father was killed soon after her birth. Her mother, in a bid to find a sustainable job, moved the family to California.
As soon as Turner was of age, she was well on her way searching for stardom. When she was 17, she finally landed her first roles in movies "They Won't Forget," "The Great Garrick" and "A Star Is Born," back in 1937.
Lana Turner Inset: Lana Turner with her daughter Cheryl Crane | Source: Getty Images
GAINING POPULARITY IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
Even though these roles did not boost her to fame, it was a good start, and the following year, she appeared as the "Sweater Girl" in "Love Finds Andy Hardy," a film that saw her role as a provocative and alluring young lady win many a young man's hearts.
By 1940, Turner was well rooted in the film industry, and she would go on to appear in the 1941 "John Eager," and "Ziegfeld Girl," the 1942 "Somewhere I'll Find You" and the 1945 "Week-End at the Waldorf."
Soon after that, Turner was making significant moves, landing remarkable roles in the 1946 "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "The Bad and the Beautiful" in 1952.
Lana Turner in publicity portrait for the film 'The Lady Takes a Flyer', 1958. | Source: Getty Images
Despite her rising fame, her private life was catastrophic, and she was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. She lived a life riddled with insecurities and doubts, often brought about by her choice of partners.
Turner would become one of the most well-paid actresses in the country, but even then, she was not contented, and her lack of happiness drove her to multiple marriages that seemed to break her more than they offered her comfort.
Hollywood actress Lana Turner (1920 - 1995). circa 1937 | Source: Getty Images
According to Closer Weekly, in 1982, Turner wrote in her autobiography "Lana: The Lady, the Legend, the Truth" that all she wanted was some quietness. It read:
“I wanted some security and peace.”
HER MARRIAGES AND THE BIRTH OF HER ONLY CHILD
In the desperate search for peace, Turner married jazz clarinetist Artie Shaw in 1940, but the marriage was short-lived. She endured emotional abuse from Shaw, who constantly attacked her.
Lana Turner stands in a doorway in publicity portrait for the film 'Love Has Many Faces', 1965. | Source: Getty Images
They separated the same year, and three years later, Turner found comfort in the arms of actor Stephen Crane, but even then, it was still not enough, and the couple split up after only seven months.
Soon after, Turner discovered that she was pregnant, and a month later, the couple reconciled. Their daughter, Cheryl Crane, was born in July of the same year, but in 1944, Turner and Crane divorced, this time for good.
She then went on to get married five more times, in unions that lasted only a few years, before she jumped onto the next.
American actress Lana Turner (1921 - 1995) holding the angel from the top of a Christmas tree, circa 1965.| Source: Getty Images
[Cheryl] went down to the kitchen and found a knife.
CHERYL CRANE, TURNER'S ONLY CHILD
Cheryl's childhood was tough, and her mother was always committed to either her successive relationships or her career, never sparing time for her daughter. By the time Cheryl was turning 10, Turner was married to her fourth husband, Barker.
Barker was anything but a gentleman, and in the years that followed, he would often lure Cheryl to the bedroom and force himself on her. This went on for a prolonged period of time, and when Cheryl was older, she attempted to fight back.
Hollywood actress Lana Turner (1920 - 1995) with her daughter Cheryl Crane. 25th July 1944 | Source: Getty Images
Being a teen fighting against a grown man, the odds were not in her favor, and Barker held a pillow to her head, attempting to suffocate her. Cheryl was able to get away, but she made her situation known to her grandmother.
Her grandmother then called Turner, who was hell-bent on ending the turmoil, but that night, while she stood on Barker's side of the bed holding a gun to his head while he slept, she wondered if taking his life was worth her time and career.
She did not go through with shooting him, but as soon as the first light shone, she kicked him out of the house, ending their union. However, the case was never reported to the authorities in a bid to avoid a scandal.
Clark Gable holding Lana Turner in a scene from the film 'Honky Tonk', 1941. | Source: Getty Images
ENTER JOHNNY STOMPANATO
Soon after kicking Barker out, she began dating mobster Johnny Stompanato. Their relationship was riddled with misunderstandings and feuding, and Turner was tired of it and decided to end it.
One night, as Cheryl herself describes the night of the homicide, her mother confided in her that she would end things with Stompanato. People wrote of her interview with KMIR 6 News in 2009:
“I went upstairs to do a book report and mother came in and said, ‘I’m going to ask John to leave. I don’t want you to come downstairs but if you hear us arguing that’s what it’s about."
18th December 1984: American actor Lana Turner (1921 - 1995) with platinum blonde hair and red lips and nails, smiles while arriving for a party for the TV show, 'The Love Boat' aboard the Princess Cruise Line's ship 'Royal Princess,' Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
It was calm at first, but then Cheryl overheard Stompanato threatening to disfigure her mother, and that was when she decided to act. She went down to the kitchen and found a knife.
Only 14 at the time, Cheryl was fearless as she stormed into the room the duo was in upstairs. None of them was expecting what happened next as Stompanato ran towards her and into the knife in her hand. He dropped to the ground, dead.
Later that night, Cheryl confessed to the authorities that she was responsible for killing Stompanato and was placed in juvenile. After her mother gave her version of the night's happenings, the jury reached a verdict.
American actor Lana Turner (C), wearing dark sunglasses, sits next to her ex-husband, Stephen Crane, in a courtroom during the murder trial of their daughter, Cheryl Crane. Crane, who had stabbed Turner's gangster ex-boyfriend Johnny Stompanato, was acquitted for justifiable homicide.1958. | Source: Getty Images
They ruled it as justifiable homicide, and it did not warrant a trial. Cheryl was released under her grandmother's custody.
In 1988, Cheryl finally opened up about the experience in her autobiography "Detour: A Hollywood Story." Her adult life, however, was anything but smooth, and she attempted to take her own life twice.
She is now married to Jocelyn “Josh” LeRoy and has a successful real estate career under her belt. Her mother, after the scandal, continued to act and finally passed on in 1995 after her battle with cancer. She was 75.
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