Lana Turner—discovered sipping a soda in a California cafe—turned heads with her brief appearance as a sexy co-ed in They Won’t Forget in 1937. “The Sweater Girl” didn’t utter a line. Hollywood’s latest busty blonde bombshell inspired a generation of fashionistas, and the sheep couldn’t lose their wool fast enough.
She was a World War II pin-up, with her autograph adorning a bomber. It rendered a sexy moment for that aircrew cindering the daylights out of Germany.
Her name electrified marquee signs opposite those of Clark Gable, Spencer Tracey, Mickey Rooney, James Stewart, Hume Cronyn, Ricardo Montalban, John Wayne, Richard Burton. . . . She was alternately ingénue, dream scream queen, the sexually inhibited mother with a mysterious past in Peyton Place.
But Lana played her greatest role in reality with a string of leading men—starting with four husbands by the age of thirty. The junior Johnny Stompanato became her man in the late 1950s.
He hid behind the name John Steele. The alias shadowed his past: a Turkish girlfriend and child, a failed nightclub, two broken marriages to actresses, suspicion of armed robbery, association with mobsters.
Lana loved him. He broke into her apartment, attacked her in England, lured her back, held a gun to her head, and beat her up.
Lana’s daughter Cheryl wasn’t so tolerant. She stabbed Johnny in the belly with a carving knife, and he gasped his last. She was only fifteen.
The jury acquitted Cheryl, and her mother kept looking for Mr. Right.