Late actress Lana Turner may have been one of the most prominent actresses in the 1940s, but her love life wasn't a walk in the park. Only one child was born out of her three known pregnancies.
Lana Turner's story and how much control MGM had over her life will definitely change the minds of those who firmly believe Hollywood has not changed much over the last decades.
Lana Turner circa 1937 and Tyrone Power in the 1940s | Photo: Getty Images - Wikimedia Commons/Movie studio - eBay (PD)
LANA TURNER'S FIRST HUSBAND
Turner's first husband was musician and actor Artie Shaw. They met on the set of 1939's "Dancing Co-Ed," but things between them didn't start with the right foot.
The former couple was introduced right before shooting a scene where he had to play for her to dance. To lighten the mood, Shaw joked that Turner had to be nice to him or he'd screw up her tempos. "You better not!" she firmly responded.
Shaw believed she was "a little dumb," so he completely forgot about her when the film was over. Two years later, actor Phil Silvers took Shaw to a movie set where Turner was acting, and she was shooting a scene in a green-silk dress that fit her perfectly.
Promotional photo of Lana Turner circa 1937 | Photo: Getty Images
After wrapping up the scene, she approached both men, and Silvers introduced her to Shaw even though he knew they had previously met. It made the musician wonder if Silvers had "some mischief in mind."
Unlike the first time they met, Turner treated Shaw sweetly. He eventually got the courage to ask her out, and she accepted. While in his car, she said she wanted to have a home and kids.
Shaw, who also wanted a family to come home to, believed she didn't mean it. He sort of proposed, and she sort of said yes, but even then, he wasn't sure Turner meant it.
Studio portrait of Lana Turner circa 1950 | Photo: Getty Images
When they got to Shaw's house, he called an air service guy and asked for a plane to wherever they could tie the knot that same night. They went to the airport to go to Las Vegas, and he figured Turner would pull the plug on the marriage right there. She didn't. Shaw said:
"This is Lana Turner – I don't even know her. We'd just had our first date. She was a total stranger. We got married. It was a dream. A trance."
Studio portrait of Lana Turner in 1958 | Photo: Getty Images
TURNER'S FIRST ABORTION
Unfortunately, Shaw and Turner's romance was short-lived, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) played a part in it. Shortly after eloping in Las Vegas, Turner went to a movie preview, and Shaw stayed home.
Late that night, film producer and MGM co-founder Louis Burt Mayer showed up at his place with a "delicate" topic to discuss. Mayer asked Shaw if he and Turner had plans to have children.
She even admitted [Tyrone Power] was the only man she loved.
Lana Turner in a nautical style dress circa 1937 | Photo: Getty Images
Shaw admitted he wasn't sure, and while they were not planning on having them, they were not taking any precautions, so it was a real possibility.
Mayer responded that MGM had invested a "considerable amount of money" in her – she became one of the studios' biggest stars and was widely regarded as one of the Hollywood love goddesses – so it would be "disastrous" if she had a child.
Lana Turner circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images
The businessman added that love goddesses didn't have children, but he still couldn't change Shaw's mind. A couple of months later, Shaw learned that his wife had an abortion after being instigated by Mayer and Johnny Hyde, her agent.
Turner never discussed the matter with Shaw, and when he found it out, the marriage was over. He didn't necessarily want the child, but he felt betrayed. According to author Jane Ellen Wayne, MGM girls were supposed to keep their "virginal image" even if they were married.
Tyrone Power at London Airport, England, in January 1956 | Photo: Getty Images
TURNER'S SECOND ABORTION
In the mid-1940s, after another short marriage with actor and restauranteur Steve Crane, Turner fell in love with "The Mark of Zorro" star Tyrone Power. She even admitted he was the only man she loved.
Turner was so in love that she once left the set of a film she was shooting to go to Mexico, where Power was on location. The former couple probably would have tied the knot if he wasn't married to Annabella, his first wife.
[Turner's daughter] made headlines when she was 14 years old for killing Turner's boyfriend.
Lana Turner in Los Angeles, California on December 18, 1984 | Photo: Getty Images
During Turner and Power's romance, she got pregnant, but it wasn't good news. She once revealed that people didn't have kids back then just because they were in love, and had she welcomed that child, she would have probably never worked again.
Power left the decision up to Turner, and she got the pregnancy terminated. MGM head of publicity Howard Strickling made all the arrangements, and it is believed that he was the one making the decision, not Turner. This abortion deeply affected the actress as she said:
"[It] took more than a fetus from me. It took some part of my heart, a living symbol of the happiest time of my life."
Turner and Power's relationship ended shortly after. He met actress Linda Christian in Rome and ended up marrying her in 1949.
It is important to point out that Strickling was known as MGM's fixer. Not only did he arranged Turner's first abortion, but he did the same when Judy Garland got pregnant with Power's child (product of their affair in the early 1940s).
Lana Turner and her daughter Cheryl Crane in July 1944 | Photo: Getty Images
TURNER'S ONLY CHILD
Out of Turner's three known pregnancies, she only had one child: Cheryl Crane, born in July 1943 during the actress' marriage to Steve Crane.
Cheryl made headlines when she was 14 years old for killing Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. Turner had warned Cheryl that she would kick Stompanato out of their home, trying to prevent her from worrying if she heard them arguing.
Lana Turner and ex-husband Steve Crane at the murder trial of Cheryl Crane in 1958 | Photo: Getty Images
However, things escalated when Stompanato threatened to destroy Turner's family. Cheryl ran downstairs, grabbed a knife, and came back upstairs. Turner then opened the door, and Stompanato "ran into the knife."
After spending three weeks in a juvenile hall, the jury decided it was a justifiable homicide, so Cheryl was released without trial. Turner passed away in June 1995 and left an incredible career and shocking life behind.
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