Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato - Hollywood Homicide

Lana's Loves

Lana Turner was no stranger to violent crime. She was born in an Idaho mining town, the daughter of a miner. Her father supplemented his meager income by gambling and was well known as a skillful card player. One evening after a successful run at the tables, John Turner was robbed and murdered. He made the mistake of bragging that he was going to buy his beloved daughter a bicycle and attracted the attention of thieves. His murder, while the family was living in San Francisco, was never solved. Her mother moved to Southern California when Lana was a young girl and she lived a nondescript life until Billy Wilkerson discovered her at the Top Hat Cafe.

Lana's first attempt at marriage was unsuccessful, apattern she repeated six more times before her death. Lana and band leader Artie Shaw met on the set of a film featuring Shaw's orchestra, {Dancing Co-ed}, which was Lana's first top billing. Shaw was an arrogant intellectual who was not well liked by the members of his band. He considered himself a scholar who led a band as a means to earn a living, but his true love was writing.

In her biography, Lana: The Lady, The Legend, the Truth, Turner remembers that although she was a star, she was a naive 19-year-old on the rebound from her first love when Shaw entered her life. Had she not been despondent over the end of that relationship, her marriage to Shaw never would have occurred.

Lana Turner, early publicity picture (AP)
Lana Turner, early
publicity picture (AP)
The marriage was difficult almost from the beginning. Lana was no dummy and she wasnt a shrinking violet, but Shaw made it clear he did not think her his intellectual equal. He demanded that she dress down, not wear makeup and be on hand to serve his every whim. Artie was jealous of the time Lana spent making films; this drove a wedge between them and doomed the relationship. The marriage barely lasted a year and they parted bitterly.

Stephan Crane, a restaurateur with no formal Hollywood connections, was Lanas second husband, and their relationship caused a bit of a stir when, shortly after their wedding, Crane learned that his Mexican divorce from his first wife was not recognized in the United States.

Lana Turner with young daughter Cheryl Crane in 1946 (AP)
Lana Turner with young
daughter Cheryl Crane in
1946 (AP)
In the meantime, Lana became pregnant with her daughter and only child, Cheryl. Crane secured a legitimate divorce from his first wife and remarried Turner before Cheryl was born. Unfortunately, that second marriage was no more successful than the first, although Crane and Turner remained friendly.


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