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Lana Turner was a film actress and sex symbol who was "discovered" while drinking soda at a diner counter. She made over 50 films and was married seven times.
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The move paid off, and in 1958 Turner garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her role in Peyton Place.
Throughout her career, Turner's tempestuous personal life threatened to overshadow her professional triumphs. Her first marriage, at age 20, to the bandleader Artie Shaw, lasted less than six months. She married Stephen Crane, a businessman, in 1942, only to find out that his divorce from his first wife was not yet legal. They married again (this time legally) in 1943, then divorced a year later, after Turner gave birth to a daughter, Cheryl. In 1948, Turner married the multimillionaire Bob Topping, but divorced him in 1951. She divorced her fourth husband, Lex Barker, the onetime star of the Tarzan movies, in 1957, after she learned that he had sexually abused the young Cheryl. She had three more unsuccessful marriages -- to rancher Fred May, businessman Robert Eaton, and nightclub hypnotist Ronald Dante -- and was rumored to have many more lovers, including such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, Howard Hughes, Fernando Lamas, Dean Martin, Kirk Douglas, and Tyrone Power.
On June 4, 1958, police were called to Turner's Beverly Hills home to find the actress's lover, Johnny Stompanato, a minor Los Angeles hood and an associate of the notorious gangster, Mickey Cohen, dead of a stab wound that had punctured his kidney and aorta. Turner's 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane, had stabbed Stompanato after overhearing him threatening to kill her mother during a domestic dispute. A judge ruled that the incident constituted justifiable homicide, but Cheryl was sent to live with her maternal grandmother. The scandalous publicity failed to break Turner's professional momentum; ironically, her biggest hit came in 1959 with Imitation of Life, in which she played an ambitious actress who sacrifices her daughter's affection for the sake of her career. She had another success in 1966, with Madame X.
In the years that followed, however, Turner seemed to have been relegated to second-tier films and television productions. In the 1970s, she toured with several stage productions, and in 1982 she began appearing on the hit TV series, Falcon Crest, opposite Jane Wyman. She published her autobiography, Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth, in 1982. A year later, Turner officially retired from acting.
In 1981, Turner reconciled with her daughter Cheryl, who overcame continuing emotional problems (including a 10-month stay in a mental hospital at age 17) to become a successful businesswoman. Turner lived quietly and stayed out of the public eye until 1992, when rumors began to spread that the actress, a longtime heavy smoker, was undergoing treatment for throat cancer. On June 29, 1995, at age 75, Turner died at her home in Century City, Los Angeles, with her daughter at her side.
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