Born Julia Jean Mildred Francis Turner on February 8, 1921, in Wallace, Idaho, Lana Turner was a movie goddess of the 1940s and early 1950s who built a successful movie career as an actress and a sex symbol. Shortly after her father’s death in 1929, Lana’s mother moved with her and her siblings to California where she believed jobs were “plentiful”. It is here, in 1937, that the beautiful teenage “sweater girl” was discovered by a reporter while drinking soda in a Hollywood dinner counter. This encounter marked the beginning of Lana’s film career and quick rise to stardom making over 50 films with longtime studio MGM before passing away on June 29, 1995 in Century City, California.
In her years as an actress, Lana Turner came to crystallize the opulent heights the film business could offer her, including its darkest and most tragic depths. She forged her statuesque into a bedazzling and a smoldering elegance girl whose coquettish sensuality and scheming femme fatale made her fit into a number of any pop cultural effigies. Here are four best movies Lana participated in – arranged in chronological order:
1. The Postman Always Rings Twice
Released in 1946, The film’s director, Tony Garnett chose to make Lana the highlight of every scene. The decision to play her star credentials (as Cora Smith) in this black and white film, with the actress exclusively dressed in white, combined with her platinum blonde hair, made her the focus of every scene. White symbolizes purity and innocence, things Cobra Smith is neither. However, the costume itself makes her less threatening and the audience is able to forgive her scheming and indiscretions.
2. The Bad and the Beautiful
The 1952 MGM melodramatic film is told in flashback form, and tells the story of the rise and fall of Jonathan Shields, a hard-driving, ambitious film producer who alienates all around him. He ruthlessly uses everyone in his way, by any means, to make it in Hollywood. He rescues Lana Turner, a small-time actress, from semi-alcoholism and turns her into a star. Shields then gives Lana the leading role in one of his movies at the disapproval of everyone including movie director Fred Amiel and producer Harry Pebbel. He pretends to fall in love with her so she does not self-destruct and he gets the performance he needs.
3. Peyton Place
It is from this 1957 Best Picture nominee film that Lana Turner received her first and only Best Actress Oscar nomination for playing Constance MacKenzie, a cold single mother engraved in a love affair with the school’s new principal. The film, directed by Mark Robson, exposes the lives and loves of the residents of a small mill town in New England in the heart of World War II, where moral hypocrisy, homicide, suicide, scandal, and incest are hidden behind a tranquil facade.
4. Imitation of Life
Directed by Douglas Sirk and produced by Ross Hunter, the American romantic drama was released by Universal Pictures in 1959. The film dealt with gender, race and class issues and it is one of the greatest successes of Lana Turner’s career. In fact, by capitalizing on Turner’s new-found notoriety, the film’s result became one of the biggest hits of the year.