Tag Archives: Ava Gardner

Femme Fatales | Lana Turner

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatales Lana Turner

Lana Turner (February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995) (via listal.com)

“A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.”

Lana was born Julia Jean Turner in Wallace, Idaho. As a girl, she was lovingly called “Judy” by family and friends, but changed her name when she became a professional actress at 16. Her father, John Turner, was a miner from Tennessee who was murdered at age 27. Money problems had forced the family to move to San Francisco, and John had started gambling in an effort to bring home extra earnings. It’s believed that on December 14th in 1930, he won a bit of cash at a traveling craps game and stashed it in his left sock. He never made it home. Later, his body was found on a street corner, left shoe and sock missing. Tragically, the murder was never solved.

Famously, Lana caught her big break at a Hollywood drug store. She was skipping a typing class and decided to stop into the Top Hat Cafe located on Sunset Boulevard for a Coca-Cola. She was spotted by William R. Wilkerson (The Hollywood Reporter), who then referred her to Zeppo Marx. Lana was signed and cast quickly in her first film: They Won’t Forget (1937). Her form-fitting attire in the film earned her the nickname “The Sweater Girl”– a nickname which she hated.

Ms. Turner became wildly famous in the 1940s and 1950s due to her roles in such films as: Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Johnny Eager (1942), and Slightly Dangerous (1943)– her popularity and extreme beauty casting her as a favorite pin-up girl for our servicemen overseas. But Lana didn’t truly become a femme fatale until after the war.

She co-starred opposite John Garfield in the immensely successful film noir, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) (a James Cain adaptation). Even though she received critical praise as an actress for the first time, she famously complained about Garfield’s appearance, saying “Couldn’t they at least hire someone attractive?”

In 1957, Lana began a relationship with mobster Johnny Stompanato, a man known for his good looks and ties to Mickey Cohen in the L.A. criminal underworld. She tried several times to end their affair, but Johnny wouldn’t have it. They argued incessantly, and he frequently beat her up.

“In the fall of 1957, Stompanato followed Turner to England where she was filming Another Time, Another Place (1958) costarring Sean Connery. Afraid that Turner was having an affair with Connery, Stompanato stormed onto the set brandishing a gun. Connery punched Stompanato’s jaw once and took away his gun. Stompanato was soon deported by Scotland Yard for the incident.”

On an infamous night in April 1958, Johnny and Lana had an especially violent argument at her house in Beverly Hills. As it escalated, Lana’s 14 year old daughter Cheryl began to fear for her mother’s life. Hefting a kitchen knife, Cheryl ran to Lana’s aid, stabbing Mr. Stompanato–killing him. The event was tabloid fodder overnight, but the courts ruled it justifiable homicide in light of Lana’s dramatic testimony. Observers have said, “her testimony that day was the acting performance of her life.”

Notoriously, Turner was married eight times to seven different husbands: Artie Shaw, Joseph Stephen Crane, Henry J. Topping Jr., Lex Barker, Fred May, Robert P.Eaton, and Ronald Pellar. She said late in her life, “My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around.” (Joseph Stephen Crane is the father of her daughter Cheryl). Sadly, in 1982 Lana’s memoir revealed that she had been through three stillbirths and two abortions. She also acknowledges her struggle with alcoholism and attempted suicide.

In true femme fatale fashion, Lana Turner was a heavy smoker, and it eventually killed her. She died of complications from throat cancer in 1995.

Tragically, Lana didn’t only act in noir films, she lived a noir life. She added to the genre immensely with The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), but she couldn’t escape the genre in her personal life.

“A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.”

Lana Turner in Color

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner in Red

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Lana Turner in Pink

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Lana Turner Femme Fatale

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Actress Lana Turner

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Lana Turner Smoking

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Smoking Lana Turner

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Femme Fatales Lana Turner

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Lana Turner Pin-up

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Lana Turner Pinup

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Lana Turner

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Sweater Girl Lana Turner

“The Sweater Girl” (via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Stephen Crane Cheryl

Lana Turner, Stephen Crane, and Cheryl

Lana Turner Ava Gardner

Lana Turner lights Ava Gardner’s cigarette (via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Clark Gable

Lana Turner and Clark Gable (via lanaturner.org)

John Garfield Lana Turner

John Garfield and Lana Turner (via listal.com)

The Postman Always Rings Twice Lana Turner

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) (via listal.com)

Lana Turner Johnny Stompanato

Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato (via latimesblogs.latimes.com)

Lana Turner Femme Fatale

(lanaturner.org)

*All biographical details were obtained from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lana_Turner

*All quotes were obtained from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/lana_turner.html

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Femme Fatales | Ava Gardner

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatale Ava Gardner

Ava Lavinia Gardner (December 24, 1922 – January 25, 1990) (via felixinhollywood.blogspot.com)

“Because I was promoted as a sort of a siren and played all those sexy broads, people made the mistake of thinking I was like that off the screen. They couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Ava Gardner was propelled to stardom in 1946 for the femme fatale role she played in The Killers. Because of the resounding success enjoyed by that picture, she became a recognized superstar and arguably the most beautiful woman of her day. Born Ava Lavinia Gardner on Christmas Eve, 1922, she was signed to a contract with MGM studios in 1941 at the age of nineteen. She hailed from the farming community of Grabtown, North Carolina, and was the youngest of seven children. After severe economic trouble, their family moved to Newport News, Virginia where her father tragically died of Bronchitis when she was only fifteen years old. Here is a wonderful anecdote about her early career:

Gardner traveled to New York to be interviewed at MGM’s office by Al Altman, head of MGM’s New York talent department. With cameras rolling, he directed the eighteen-year-old to walk toward the camera, turn and walk away, then rearrange some flowers in a vase. He did not attempt to record her voice because her Southern accent made it almost impossible for him to understand her. Though Al thought Ava the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, he believed the test was a disaster and was completely surprised by what he saw in the screening room. On screen she was magnetic. The camera loved her. He sent the test to Hollywood. Louis B. Mayer, head of that studio, sent a telegram to Al: “She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk, She’s terrific!”

After the success of the film noir The Killers, she went on to act in several high profile films: including The Hucksters (1947), Show Boat (1951), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Bhowani Junction (1956), On the Beach (1959), Seven Days in May (1964), The Night of the Iguana (1964), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), Earthquake (1974), and The Cassandra Crossing (1976).

Romantically, she had many famous relationships. Her first husband was Mickey Rooney, whom she met shortly after her arrival in Los Angeles. Their marriage only lasted a year, and they were divorced by 1943. Mickey reportedly bragged about their sex life, and Ava is famously quoted as saying, “He may have enjoyed the sex, but goodness knows I didn’t.” She then engaged in a longer relationship with the aviator Howard Hughes. They were very ‘off-and-on’ and Ava described him in her autobiography as “painfully shy, completely enigmatic and more eccentric…than anyone [she] had ever met.” Her second marriage was just as short as the first, she married the jazz musician Artie Shaw. Ava’s third and final (and most famous) marriage was to Frank Sinatra (who left his wife Nancy for her). Frank received loads of abuse from the press and fans for leaving his wife for a noted femme fatale, and the downward spiral of his career wasn’t reversed until his Oscar winning role in From Here to Eternity (1953). Gardner became  pregnant twice with Frank, but she aborted both the fetuses. She said of Sinatra, “With him it’s impossible…it’s like being with a woman. He’s so gentle. It’s as though he thinks I’ll break, as though I’m a piece of Dresden china and he’s gonna hurt me.” They divorced in 1957. During this period she became friends with Ernest Hemingway.

While staying with Hemingway at his villa in San Francisco de Paula in Havana, Cuba, Gardner once swam alone with no bathing suit in his pool. After watching her, Hemingway ordered his staff: “The water is not to be emptied”.

She received an Academy Award Nomination for her role in Mogambo (1953), but she lost to Audrey Hepburn. Ava continued to act in films up until four years before her death; she died at the age of 67 from pneumonia. The American Institute’s list of the Greatest Female Stars ranks her 25th.

“Deep down, I’m pretty superficial.”

Femme Fatales Ava Gardner

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Femme Fatale Ava Gardner

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Femme Fatales Ava Gardner

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Film Noir The Killers Ava Gardner

The Killers (1946) (via redath.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatale Ava Gardner

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Femme Fatales Ava Gardner

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Femme Fatales Ava Gardner

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Femme Fatale Ava Gardner

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Film Noir Ava Gardner Gregory Peck

Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck (via factoseintolerant.tumblr.com)

Film Noir Ernest Hemingway Mary Hemingway Ava Gardner

Ernest and Mary Hemingway with Ava Gardner (via interwar.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatale Ava Gardner Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner (via marilyndimaggio.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatales Ava Gardner

(via pauvremelodynelson.tumblr.com)

What an incredible femme fatale.

 

 

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