Showing posts with label Lana Turner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lana Turner. Show all posts

Friday, July 1, 2022

Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth by Lana Turner

Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth
by Lana Turner
Dean Street Press
250 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781914150791
Originally published 1982
New edition October 2021

This review was originally published at the Classic Film Collective Patreon in May 2022.

“Nobody put a gun to my head to get me to write this book. I did it for two reasons: to set the record straight about me, so that all the lies could be answered by the truth, and because the timing was right. “ — Lana Turner

Lana Turner was the epitome of a movie star. With her perfectly coiffed blonde hair, an enviable wardrobe of designer gowns, furs and jewels and her sultry stare, Turner's adoring fans worshipped her. Over the years she evolved with her roles from being the sweater girl in They Won't Forget (1937), the femme fatale in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and the queen of soaps in Peyton Place (1957) and Imitation of Life (1959). She wasn't always taken seriously as an actress and had to constantly prove her worth. After 5 decades of being in the business, she had over 50 movies to her name and a sole Academy Award nomination. Along with her success were also many personal troubles. She endured family tragedies, seven failed marriages and a scandal involving her daughter Cheryl and her mobster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about Lana Turner and rumors would often spread like wildfire. In 1982, Turner decided to take matters into her own hands and tell her side of the story.

"Like many of the stars contracted into the old studio system, Lana was at the mercy of public opinion, which dictated every aspect of her life—including whom she could marry and have children with. And her story was not a Hollywood dream. There were many nightmares and heartbreaking tragedies she had to endure; which were then turned into fodder for public consumption.” — TCM host Alicia Malone

Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth is an emotional memoir about a woman who lived to love but fell victim to the trappings of the Hollywood studio system. Like many movie star memoirs, you have to take this one with a grain of salt because it's clear that Turner wore her heart on her sleeve. The memoir is filled with candid tales of love and loss, of triumph and failures. It's a personal memoir but was also a way for Turner to protect her image and her legacy. 

Turner had developed a reputation as a glamorous movie star who was demanding on set. Reading between the lines, I see a woman who may have been temperamental but was also a shrewd business woman who knew her worth. She was a woman driven by emotion and instinct and built a life and career by a combination of her own rules and ones that were well established in the entertainment industry.

In the memoir, Lana Turner discusses many of her films and offers a little behind-the-scenes information on most of them. She only discusses her process a couple of times and focuses more on the people she worked with rather than her craft. Every single one of her seven marriages is discussed at length. It's clear that these men were emotionally volatile and were drawn to Turner's beauty, fame and financial success. There are also devastating stories about Turner's suicide attempt, her abortions, her stillborn births, her failed love affairs with Greg Bautzer and Tyrone Power and a few hints at a drinking problem. About three chapters are devoted to Johnny Stompanato, the events leading up to her daughter Cheryl Crane killing him in self-defense and the aftermath. Turner lacks some self-awareness at certain points but then in others she recognizes her shortcomings and also the struggles of being a women in a strict patriarchal society. The biggest takeaway about her many romances is that if the expectation had not been that she marry to keep up appearances, her husbands would have remained lovers instead.

Readers will learn more about Lana Turner as a woman rather than as a working actress. But there are still plenty of interesting old Hollywood tidbits from the book:

  • Lana Turner admitted to being naturally shy. Instead of butterflies she likened her nerves to "eagles, with flapping wings and tearing claws."
  • Her image as the sweater girl got Turner her start in Hollywood. But she quickly grew to dislike it.“That image clung to me for the rest of my career. I was the sexual promise, the object of desire. And as I matured, my facade did too, to an image of coolness and glamour—the movie star in diamonds, swathed in white mink.”
  • For Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), she pleaded with producer Carey Wilson not to put her in a sweater. She wore a bathing suit instead.
  • She had a congenital condition, Rh blood factor, which prevented her from taking on roles in films like Mogambo (1953) which were shot in "exotic" locations.
  • She met husband #1 Artie Shaw and husband #5 Frederick May on the set of Dancing Co-Ed (1939).
  • She claims to have become the highest paid actress in the world in early 1945.
  • Turner had this to say about the remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice "It always amazes me that when Hollywood makes a really good movie, and some producer gets the bright idea to remake it, he comes up with something inferior to the original.”
  • She refused to star in A Life of Her Own (1950) with Wendell Corey. She fought with Dore Schary to get him off the picture (not because she didn't like him but because she didn't think he'd make a good co-star). Ray Milland was cast instead.
  • Despite the still recent Stompanato scandal, producer Ross Hunter still wanted her for Imitation of Life (1959).
  • Turner was going to star in Anatomy of a Murder (1959). At that point in her career she was fastidious about her look. Every detail from her hair, makeup and clothes had to be just perfect. When she made demands about her wardrobe, director Otto Preminger called to yell at her. Turner was not having it and asked her agent to pull her from the film.

Originally published in 1982, Dean Street Press released a new edition of Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth in October of 2021 in paperback and e-book formats. It includes an introduction by TCM host and author Alicia Malone.

Thank you to Dean Street Press for a copy of the book to review!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Madame X (1966)

"The moments of love are the only ones that matter." - Madame X 

Directed by David Lowell Rich, Madame X (1966) is one in a long line of frothy soap operas that delivers a good old-fashioned sob story. This film pulls out all the stops and leaves nothing behind in an effort to put its viewers' emotions through the wringer. It stars Lana Turner as Holly, later known as Madame X. She starts out as a happy woman, still beaming with that newlywed glow, but over the years her life slowly spirals out of control and she loses everything; her family, her identity and her will to live. Holly is married to Clay Anderson (John Forsythe), an upstart politician with big aspirations for his career. They live at the Anderson family mansion in Fairfield County, Connecticut with Estelle (Constance Bennett, in her final role), the glamorous matriarch who secretly hates her new daughter-in-law. Holly and Clay have a son, Clay Jr., and as Clay's work takes him abroad, Holly finds herself alone and neglected. She seeks solace in the arms of playboy Phil Benton (Ricardo Montalban). When tragedy strikes, Estelle finally finds a way to get rid of Holly from the Anderson family's life for good. Holly is given a new identity and a new life and any semblance of happiness becomes a thing of the past.

To tell you any more about Holly's story and the other characters who come into her life would be to spoil some major plot points. The fascination with Madame X/Holly's story is how many twists and turns it takes. Many men come into her life refusing to take no for an answer including her husband Clay (John Forsythe), her lover Phil (Ricardo Montalban), her Swiss rescuer Christian (John Van Dreelen), her blackmailer Dan (Burgess Meredith) and finally her grown son Clay Jr. (Keir Dullea). She's the pawn in a very cruel game of life and shows just how ugly it can be.

Madame X is one of many adaptations of French writer Alexandre Bisson's 1908 play La Femme X. Film adaptations began in 1916 and over the years it's been remade or has loosely inspired stories. There is a Madame X (1920) with Pauline Frederick, Madame X (1929) with Ruth Chatterton, Madame X (1937) with Gladys George and a 1981 TV adaptation starring Tuesday Weld. By the mid 1960s, the story had long been a property of MGM. When producer Ross Hunter procured the rights to adapt Bisson's play once again to film, he brought the property with him to Universal. He wanted it brought up to date for 1966 and screenwriter Jean Holloway was assigned to work on the script. Hunter had his eye on Douglas Sirk to direct but that plan fell through and David Lowell Rich, who went on to become known for his disaster films, was assigned to the project.

This was a nice plum role for its star Lana Turner. Over the course of the story she undergoes several transformations starting out as a glamorous blonde dressed in Jean Louis gowns and draped in jewels by David Webb and furs provided by Ben Kahn. As we follow Holly's story her look changes to reflect her changes in identity, her downward spiral and the passing of years. Turner effectively plays the character who eventually becomes known as Madame X because she will not say her own name to protect her loved ones. This character suffers one injustice after another and essentially carries the burden of the world on her shoulders. It can be too much even for a melodrama.

Madame X is worth watching for the fine cast of performers but the story is tiresome. There is no respite from all the suffering Holly has to go through and that made me feel exhausted by the end of that 1 hour and 40 minute journey.

The opening sequence and some of the early scenes were shot at the Anderson Estate in Holmby Hills, California. The Gothic Tudor style estate was built in 1927. 5 years after Madame X was filmed it was purchased by Hugh Hefner upon his girlfriend Barbi Benton's encouragement. It was later transformed into the Playboy Mansion. In season 5, episode 1 of the reality show Girls Next Door, Hugh Hefner shows the film to his girlfriends Holly, Bridget and Kendra and explains how the driveway was shot repeatedly to make it seem like it was longer than it was. In the film, we see the opening gate, the driveway, the mansion and a couple other areas of the estate. The interiors were shot at Universal.

Madame X (1966) is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is a must especially if you want to take in the film in all of its Technicolor glory. It includes brand new audio commentary by film historians Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood, English subtitles, the film's theatrical trailer as well as various other Kino Lorber trailers.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of Madame X (1966) for review.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stars & Their Hobbies ~ Lana Turner

Lana Turner, Deep Sea Fishing
On wanting her next role to be worthwhile... “Otherwise I’ll go fishing.” – Lana Turner

Thanks to J.P. of Comet Over Hollywood for the tip on this one! Lana Turner had several hobbies and by far the most interesting of them was deep sea fishing. Turner picked up this hobby when she married husband #3, wealthy socialite Henry J. Topping (also known as Bob Topping).  He owned a fity-eight foot long Yacht named “Snuffy” that came fully equipped with deep sea fishing supplies. They would travel down to the Bahamas to catch Bluefin Tuna. When they eventually separated, it was said that Topping fled to Oregon to go deep sea fishing alone. I wonder if Lana Turner only dabbled in this hobby while she was married to Topping?

Turner with her husband Topping and some Bluefin Tuna they caught.  Source
My series Stars & Their Hobbies explores how notable actors and actresses from Hollywood history spent their free time. Click here to view a complete list of entries.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Man Who Seduced Hollywood by B. James Gladstone

The Man Who Seduced Hollywood
The Life and Loves of Greg Bautzer, Tinseltown's Most Powerful Lawyer
by B. James Gladstone
ISBN 9781613745793
Hardcover 352 pages
Chicago Review Press
May 2013

Barnes and Noble

“... Bautzer’s legacy is the way he created a public image in order to advertise his services and the swashbuckling way he practiced law. He planned his life as if it were a movie. He wrote the script, cast himself as the star, and directed it himself.” - Gladstone

I confess that I've never heard of famed Hollywood lawyer Greg Bautzer. Now thanks to B. James Gladstone's book I'm fully informed about this fascinating man. Bautzer was a quintessential charmer who used his people skills to woo beautiful women and win court cases. His list of romantic conquests is as impressive as his list of clients. Bautzer had relationships with actresses Lana Turner, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Dorothy Lamour, Merle Oberon, Jane Wyman, Ann Sheridan, Simone Simon and that's only part of the full list.  Bautzer's clients included Howard Hughes, Marion Davies, Ingrid Berman, Robert Mitchum, Farah Fawcett, Jeanne Crain, Kirk Douglas and more. One of his clients and friends was actor Robert Wagner who wrote the foreword for this book.

Bautzer handled many high-profile Hollywood divorce cases most notably the very complicated one between Ingrid Bergman and her first husband Petter Lindstrom. There was adultery, a pregnancy, child custody issues as well as a morality clause in Bergman's film contract. Bautzer also handled Nancy Sinatra's divorce from Frank Sinatra but still managed to befriend Frank after the fact (that's an accomplishment if there ever was one!). He also handled wills and estates of big tycoons like William Randolph Heart and Howard Hughes as well as financial transactions of major corporations like TWA, CBS, Warner Bros., MGM, Paramount and the Flamingo casino in Las Vegas. He faced notorious gangster Bugsy, got punched by actor George Hamilton and tried to pick a fight Humphrey Bogart. Needless to say, there are countless stories about all the romances, fights, legal battles, friendships and partnerships that Bautzer had in his long life and career. Bautzer wasn’t perfect. He had a short temper, was obsessed with winning and eventually became an alcoholic. He wasn’t very good at monogamy either and didn’t take naturally to fatherhood. However, he was a talented lawyer who wanted loyalty above all else, loved his clients and would do anything for them. He was generous too and even waived legal fees if his clients were in financial straits.

The author B. James Gladstone is the Executive Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs for Lionsgate Entertainment.  In this book, he’s covering the life of a figure who is both a legend and a hero to him. I couldn’t quite tell if Gladstone had ever interactive with Bautzer during his lifetime but he did have a brief friendship with actress Dana Wynters before her death in 2011. Wynters was Bautzer’s third wife, the mother of his only child Mark Bautzer and proved to be an invaluable resource to Gladstone in writing this book.

This book is an endlessly enjoyable read full of interesting stories about a figure who is very captivating. It follows Bautzer’s life story chronologically for the most part but some chapters dip in and out of different time periods. Some chapters focus on big moments, relationships and trial sin Bautzer’s life and career. These chapters profile Bautzer’s relationships with the following key figures: Lana Turner, Bugsy Siegel, Howard Hughes, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Dorothy Lamour, Marion Davies/William Randolph Hearst, Robert Evans (Paramount), Kirk Kerkorian (MGM), Dana Wynters, etc.

Bautzer was a key figure in many deals, transactions, divorces and meetings. Because of him certain movies were made and certain careers rose and flourished. While not essential to one’s film history education, I think it’s very interesting to read about the other people who worked Hollywood during it’s golden era. It wasn’t just actors, actresses, directors and producers. Many people in the industry and on the peripheral influenced film history in many ways.

I loved the story of how Bautzer borrowed $5,000 to start his career. He used that money to dress nicely, get the best tables and the best restaurants so he could pique the interest of the Hollywood elite and open doors to both meet them and work with them.

I did find one error in the book. The author recounts a story that Bautzer himself told many times of Marion Davies requesting a black Rolls Royce so she can take it to the 1953 New York wedding of JFK and Jacqueline Bouvier. The wedding was actually in Newport, Rhode Island. I thought maybe it was just a location error until the story also said that Davies had the car waiting for her at Grand Central Station. It's very possible that the story was actually about Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy's New York wedding in 1954. I did a little digging and found out that Davies was a guest at that wedding. Davies might have also gone to the JFK-Bouvier wedding too. I've been told that the author is looking into it and it will be clarified when the paperback is released.

Thank you to Meaghan of IPG for sending me a copy of this book to review!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Dancing Co-Ed (1939)

What a rush it is to discover a movie that becomes a new favorite. I love that feeling, the moment of discovery, the wash of pleasure that passes over you and the settling in of contentment.

Dancing Co-Ed is from the golden year of 1939. There must have been something magical in the water in Hollywood in 1939 because it was consistently a good year for movies, even B ones.

Dancing Co-Ed (1939) is an MGM production starring Lana Turner, Richard Carlson, Ann Rutherford (she was the last surviving cast member when she passed away last year) and features popular musician Artie Shaw, Lana Turner's soon-to-be first husband.

The Dancing Tobins are a married dancing duo who are famous for their movies. When ToddyTobin announcing she's expecting their first child, it leaves Freddy Tobin without a dance partner for their upcoming movie Dancing Co-Ed. Producer Joe Drews (Roscoe Karns) has promised Patty (Lana Turner) a part in the picture but now it all seems unlikely. Drews, under pressure to make the film without a major star, comes up with the idea of a college contest in which unknowns try out for the part in the movie. They'll send Artie Shaw and his Orchestra to perform at the college and it would get the movie studio great publicity. But Joe Drews and Freddy Tobin don't want to risk the movie being a flop so they chose a dancer to replace Mrs. Tobin and plant her at a college so she can pretend to be a student, enter the contest and win. And that dancer is Lana Turner's Patty.

It's a "potato of an idea"! Joe Drews sends Patty with his secretary Eve (Ann Rutherford) who will accompany her as a student, keep an eye out for her and help her with all the academic stuff. At the college they meet Pug Braddock (Richard Carlson), a college student and editor of the school's newspaper The Porcupine. He thinks the contest is a scam and is investigating it. But he also has a crush on Patty not knowing she's the contest's plant. While rehearsals and auditions are going on, Patty has to keep Pug off her back. She comes up with a new potato of an idea that she'll "help" Pug with his investigation so that she'll be ruled out. It all becomes a lovely complicated mess as the big contest date looms.

Dancing Co-Ed is charming and fun. It has collegiate culture, dance, music, romance, a little bit of drama and a delightful, light-footed and well-dressed Lana Turner. I love the conceit and the actors are all wonderful especially Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford and Leon Errol who plays Patty's showbiz father. It's hard for me to articulate why I adore this movie so. I'm still trying to pinpoint my decade long love affair with Bachelor Mother (1939) so I imagine this one will not be easy either.

This movie reminds me a little bit of The Disenchanted, the Budd Schulberg novel I recently reviewed, with it's Hollywood meets College campus theme. 

Dancing Co-Ed (1939) is available on DVD from Warner Archive. I rented this film from Classicflix but I'm going to buy it on my next Warner Archive purchase.

The Jelly Jar seems like a jivin' place to be! 

Pug: Go on, you heard what the man said. Get hysterical.
Patty: I can't, it gives me hiccups.

Lana Turner, Sweater Girl

Pug to Patty: You look like you swallowed a sunset.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I rented Dancing Co-Ed (1939) from Classicflix.

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