Lana Turner's Teen Daughter Avoided Jail for Her Lover's Death & Hid the Reason for 30 Years
Lana Turner and her daughter's life forever changed the day she stood up for her mother when she was 14. The girl avoided conviction for the death of her mother's lover, but the truth about that day only came to light three decades later.
American iconic actress Lana Turner was well known for her acting prowess, which earned her many accolades for the entirety of her decade-long career. She was also famous for her many love affairs and a highly publicized lifestyle.
The actress had just one child and daughter Cheryl Crane, who became responsible for her boyfriend's death under extenuating circumstances. However, the reason behind the teenager's action remained a secret for 30 years.
Johnny Stompanato is pictured here with screen star Lana Turner at a Hollywood nightclub[left].Cheryl Crane (left), daughter of Steve Crane and actress Lana Turner, is escorted from the jail here to juvenile hall in Los Angeles on April 5,1958[right] | Photo: Getty Images
THE LIFE OF TURNER
Turner was a self-made woman who rose to fame in showbiz with her skills, and she became a sex symbol in the 40s. Turner wasn't born with a silver spoon, and she rose to fame through hard work.
Before a writer for The Hollywood Reporter discovered Turner, she went through a tumultuous childhood. Her father, John, was killed on his way home from an illegal craps game, and she found herself in foster care.
Lana Turner in publicity portrait for the film 'The Lady Takes a Flyer', 1958 | Photo: Getty Images
Her mother worked long hours as a cosmetologist to support the family. According to Darwin Porter, co-author of "Lana Turner: Hearts and Diamonds Take All," Turner wished to become a fashion designer when she grew up.
But the dreams of becoming a designer changed when she was granted the opportunity to become a movie star. She rose to stardom with her first role in "They Won't Forget."
And, in the years that followed, she starred in more movies, including "The Bad and the Beautiful," "Ziegfeld Girl," and "The Postman Always Rings Twice."
Portrait of Hollywood actress Lana Turner, circa 1937 | Photo: Getty Images
With hard work and consistency, the actress soon became one of the highest-paid actresses in the United States in the 1940s. But the glamor and a successful career didn't give Turner all the happiness she desired.
She was constantly in and out of relationships which were part of her many scandals. Although Turner's love affair mostly ended with heartbreaks, she once revealed that she desired "some security and peace," which seemed impossible in her relationships.
Portrait of Lana Turner circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images
The movie icon married Artie Shaw in 1940, but she suffered emotional abuse, and the marriage was eventually dissolved. She moved on with actor Stephen Crane with whom she welcomed her daughter Cheryl, but their marriage also went down the drain.
Turner dated Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable, and Frank Sinatra, but the relationships didn't last, just like her other marriages. However, she seemed to have experienced some love and care during her time with Tyrone Power, who she once described as "the most gentlemanly, enchanting man" she met.
Studio portrait of Lana Turner circa 1950 | Photo: Getty Images
Although Turner's career continued growing bigger amidst her relationship complications, she hated being portrayed as someone who was constantly "picking up men."
The actress, who struggled with depression and attempted suicide in 1951, once made it clear that sex was never her priority in a relationship. Things became more intense in 1958 when she was dating Johnny Stompanato, a reputed mafia-connected thug killed by 14-year-old Cheryl.
Lana Turner stands in a doorway in publicity portrait for the film 'Love Has Many Faces', 1965 | Photo: Getty Images
INSIDE STOMPANATO'S DEATH
On the night of April 4, 1958, lying on the floor of Turner's bedroom was the lifeless body of her boyfriend, Stompanato. Reports revealed that the couple had an argument that grew violent, and Turner's daughter Cheryl had to get involved.
As authorities took action, they detained the 14-year-old to await further court action in the fatal stabbing of Stompanato. Proper measures were taken, and Turner also gave testimony during court proceedings.
Hollywood actress Lana Turner with her daughter Cheryl Crane on July 25, 1944 | Photo: Getty Images
Stompanato had been stabbed in the abdomen with a butcher knife, and Cheryl admitted that she had committed the crime. During the court hearing, Turner revealed that Stompanato was a violent and possessive man.
She explained that she had prepared Cheryl for a possible confrontation as she planned to end their relationship on the night of the fatal incident.
And when she broke up with Stompanato, Turner noted that he wasn't satisfied with her decision and threatened to cut her face if she didn't accept his commands.
Lana Turner and her gangster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato | Photo: Getty Images
Turner further revealed that she could not shield her daughter from the ugly event, and when their argument fired up, she asked Cheryl to go to her room. But the teenager was at the door when Turner later opened the door of her bedroom, and she testified:
"I swear it was so fast, I … I truthfully thought she had hit him in the stomach. The best I can remember, they came together and they parted. I still never saw a blade."
After hearing Turner's testimony, a 12-member coroner's board reached a concordant verdict of justifiable homicide. Cheryl was taken to Juvenile hall during the hearing and did not testify.
American actor Lana Turner ,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 | Photo: Getty Images
REAL STORY BEHIND STOMPANATO'S DEATH
As a celebrity's child, Cheryl grew up without the motherly love she craved. Her mother was always away working, and she once revealed that she sometimes goes into Turner's closet to "inhale her essence."
Even when the little girl tried reaching out to her mother, she always got pushed away. However, years after making headlines for stabbing her mother's boyfriend in 1958, Cheryl revealed that she did it to protect her mother:
"[...]I was the only one there and I had to do something."
Picture of Cheryl Crane after arrest for murder of Johnny Stompanato on April 9, 1958 | Photo: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
She was motivated to share her story in 1985 after reading "My Mother's Keeper" by B.D. Hyman who claimed that Cheryl and Stompanato were lovers. She cleared all the rumors surrounding the killing, and her boyfriend, Joyce, supported her.
After her teenage years, Cheryl decided to change her story, and she went to work for her father at his Los Angeles restaurant. And, after a few years of working under her father and studying at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, she became her father's deputy.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.
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