Lana Turner (1920-1995)
- Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
- Lorraine Krueger, Idiot’s Delight, 1939. Turner was booked among the blondes carrying Clark Gable off at the end of his one and only song ’n’ dance routine. Except she was rushed back to hospital after a botched appendectomy. Scared of messing up, Gable ordered a closed set while he was “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
- Florence Rice, At The Circus, 1939. Lana would have been the sexiest Marx Brothers’ blonde since Thelma Todd in Horse Feathers, 1932. Instead, the title went to Groucho’s choice for Love Happy, 1949, “a young lady who can walk by me in such a manner as to arouse my elderly libido and cause smoke to issue from my ears.” Marilyn Monroe.
- Rosalind Russell, They Met In Bombay, 1940. Actually, they met in Calabasas and the Malibu Hills. Turner was dropped to make this the third and and final partnering of Clark Gable and Russell - the first title was Unholy Partners. His next Russell was… Jane.
- Ingrid Bergman, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1941. Cast as the doctor’s sweet fiancee, Ingrid preferred to be Hyde’s whore. She got her way. Spencer Tracy did not. He wanted both roles played by the same actress - his Kate Hepburn.
- Lucille Ball, Best Foot Forward, 1942. When Columbia’s detested chieftain Harry Cohn couldn’t get Rita Hayworth and Shirley Temple for a film of the Broadway hit, he let MGM buy him out for $150,000. Enter Turner as herself - until her pregnancy meant that Lucy, the Queen of the Bs finally got an A. Lana’s baby was Cheryl Crane who grew up to, if it pleases the court, to save her mother ‘s life…Crane was charged, at age 15, with stabbing her Turner’s gangster lover, Johnny Stompanato, to death. The girl said she was protecting her mother from an assault and the court agreed: justifiable homicide. The gay Crane later became a real-estate agent, with her partner of 30-plus years, Jocelyn "Josh" LeRoy.
- Judy Garland, Presenting Lily Mars, 1942. MGM bought Booth Tarkington's novel for Lana Turner. And then gave the 42nd Street riff to Garland. Not among her best known works. And therefore a cult! Never mind, Meet Me In St Louis was around the next corner.
- June Allyson, Music For Millions, 1944. The start date was too soon after Turner gave birth to Cheryl Crane. Donna Reed, then Susan Peters, finally Allyson, took over as Margaret O’Brien’s older sister. Before selling the script to MGM, Universal planned it as 100 Girls and a Man in answer to its One Hundred Men and a Girl.
- Angela Lansbury, The Harvey Girls, 1945. The birds are waitresses at the famous 1880s’ Fred Harvey restaurant chain. (MGM accepts any excuse for a Judy Garland musical). Turner, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern, had the good fortune to lose Em - which had poor Lansbury hissed at by the public for being a rival (on-screen) to everyone’s sweetheart. Judy! The first idea had been a drama for Clark Gable and Turner. But she was was too busy with her tycoon lover, Howard Hughes. Then, producer Arthur Freed (like who else) decided it should be a musical for Gable and Garland. Just back from WWII, Gable refused to return in a %$#@& musical! He went into the more dramatic Adventure... and Turner waited for Gable’s final MGMovie in 1954: Betrayed.
- Audrey Totter, Lady in the Lake, 1946. MGM plans in 1945 to turn the Raymond Chandler story into a Lana vehicle changed when the suits “nullified” Totter’s loan-out for Universal’s The Killers - and gave the ex-radio actor her first star billing opposite Robert Montgomery as Philip Marlowe and debuting director utilising the subjective camera technique. Also in the official cast, Ellay Mort, as the murder victim : a phonetic spelling of the French for “she is dead”- elle est morte.
- Shelley Winters, A Double Life, 1947. Six girls tested for director George Cukor at Universal - including Lana, at MGM’s behest. Shelley was the only one he remembered from his great Scarlett O’Hara hunt, when she was l3.
- Linda Darnell, Forever Amber, 1947.
Lana and Otto - Chapter One… Fox production boss Darryl Zanuck called up director Otto Preminger: “John Stahl is making a lousy job of it [with his UK Amber] and you must start it over.” OK, with Lana Turner! “No,” rasped Zanuck, “Darnell or nothing,” Preminger gave a dinner party and invited, among others, Zanuck and Lana. “It's up to you now,” Preminger advised her. “She did her best. She flirted shamelessly with Zanuck, at one point sitting on his lap. But he wouldn't change his mind. I gave in. I had to…. It was the worst picture I ever made.”
- Ava Gardner, The Great Sinner, 1948. Oh dear… "The story is inspired by the work of a great writer, a gambler himself, who played for his life and won immortality." And that is the demi-credit for the adapted novella The Gambler by the un-named Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. Adding insult to injury, the working title was The Gamblers…. covering Gregory Peck and and Gardner. It was such a flop that German director Robert Siodmak refused to admit that he had actually made it!
- Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1948. Apart from such inevitables as Turner and Rita Hayworth, pompous director CB DeMille had some bizarre notions for his Delilah. The veteran Laraine Day (31), song ’n’ dancer Betty Hutton, demure Nancy Olson and the way too young Jean Simmons (19). Most of their studios were not interested any loan deals. Or not with CB. His film might hit bihg, bolster the sctress’ status and she would then demand more pay from her home studio contract!
- Jennifer Jones, Madame Bovary, 1949. What a notion! Lana was ousted as her image plus the erotic plot loomed large as a Breen Office censorship battle. Hollywood sniggered as Jones stated her role of a young mother deserting husband and child to gain romance and social status was “completely out of keeping with my own personality.” D’oh! It was an exact, mirror-image of her desertion of actor Robert Walker and their sons for producer David Selznick.
- Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1949. MGM refused the loan out deal requested by Paramount.
- June Allyson, The Reformer and The Redhead, 1949. Turner had once been set - just not in concrete - as the hot-tempered daughter fighting for the job of her zoo-keeper father. And falling for their lawyer: Robert Taylor. They were switched into the great couple (on-screen and off), Allyson and Dick Powell, in the first of their (too few) films together.
- Barbara Stanwyck, To Please A Lady, 1949. Turner was announced as Clark Gable's co-star in the fast moving motor-racing drama- then quickly dethroned by La Barb. Director Clarence Brown had been a car test driver before running a car sales agency. Imagine that. A car salesman becomes a director… only in Hollywood!
- Deborah Kerr, Quo Vadis, 1950. Took America 26 years to film Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 1895 epic novel about ancient Rome. MGM won the rights in 1925. And planned to shoot the ancient Rome epic in 1935…or ’42… or ’43… By 1950, Turner was in director William Wyler’s mix for Lygia.
- Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday, 1950. Columbia's crude chief Harry Cohn spent the first $1m for a play - written for Jean Arthur - as a Rita Hayworth vehicle. As she swanned around Europe with the Aly Khan, Cohn preferred Arthur, Turner, Alice Faye, Paulette Goddard, Gloria Grahame, Celeste Holm, Evelyn Keyes, Marie McDonald, Marilyn Monroe, Jan Sterling - anyone other than “the fat Jewish broad,” the understudy who had made the play a hit. Katharine Hepburn waged a campaign to change Cohn’s mind, by virtually turning Judy’s support role in Tracy and Hepburn’s Adam’s Rib into the most elaborate screen test. An act of generosity unsurpassed in Hollywood history. Cohn gave in, gracefully. “Well, I've worked with fat assess before!” He paid a meagre $4,500 to the actress who did the impossible - and wrested Oscar from Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd on March 29, 1951 Judy also won Kate for a lover - Hepburn’s final lesbian affair at a mere 43.
- Ava Gardner, Mogambo, 1953. MGM have her three choice of two movies. “The Mogambo script didn't appeal to me, and I elected to do Flame and the Flesh. A big mistake! Ava Gardner took the Mogambo role and played it beautifully, but with a script very different from the one I read.” So there was one agent missing his Christmas hamper…
- Tamara Toumanova, Deep In My Heart, 1954. "To all those who love the music of Sigmund Romberg." Turner, Linda Christian (Mrs Tyrone Power) and Eva Gabor were playing musical chairs for leggy French chanteuse Gaby Deslys in the star-stuffed bio-musical. Cyd Charisse, Rosemary Clooney, Vic Damone, Howard Keel, Tony Martin, Ann Miller, Jane Powell, Russ Tamblyn… even Gene Kelly dancing with his brother Fred.
- Susan Hayward, Untamed, 19545. Everyone from Joan Crawford and Lana to Eleanor Parker and Jane Wyman wanted what Fox called “Africolossal.” Time magazine, however, called it “a Zulu lulu.”
- Lauren Bacall, The Cobweb, 1954. Being a neglected wife was, perhaps, too close to home.
- Maureen O'Hara, The Magnificent Matador, 1955. Like Ava Gardner, Lana simply refused to work with Anthony Quinn. Whereas O’Hara was enchanted with him, reported writer-director Budd Boetticher.
- Rossana Podesta, Helen of Troy, 1956. Director Robert Wise displayed little wisdom when selecting a curvy Italian with limited English over Lana, Yvonne De Carlo, Rhonda Fleming, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor. And all the time, stuck in a minor role, he had the perfect face to launch a thousand ships. That of... Brigitte Bardot.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1956. On veteran Hollywood director George Stevens’ list of 30 potential Leslie Benedicts. Thirty! Such a list would be impossible today.
- Cyd Charisse, Meet Me In Las Vegas, 1956. Producer Joe Pasternak’s idea for Lana-Carlos Thompson was re-scored for Charisse-Dan Dailey - with Cyd’s husband Tony Martin topping the Vegas guest stars.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, 1957. Considered for Maggie the Cat alongside Carroll Baker, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. Playwright Tennessee Williams hated the movie and told the queues: “This movie will set the industry back 50 years. Go home!” Then, he took his cheque to the bank.
- Eva Marie Saint, Raintree County, 1957. She also lost “the next Gone With The Wind” - first planned in 1949 for Lana, Ava Gardner, Robert Walker, Van Heflin.
- Kim Novak, Vertigo, 1957. In the summer of ’56, Turner was Alfred Hitchcock’s choice for Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton. Problem? “She wanted too much loot.” Jean Wallace was shortlisted, then Vera Miles – but she was pregnant. Hitch borrowed Novak from Columbia. In the 2012 Sight & Sound critics’ poll, Vertigo replaced Citizen Kane as the greatest film of all time. Hitch would not agree. He felt Novak was all wrong and Stewart too old - the reason why the film flopped. Hitch never worked with Jim again.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, 1958. Lana and Grace Kelly were considered for Maggie the Cat. Playwright Tennessee Williams hated the movie and told the queues: “This movie will set the industry back 50 years. Go home!”
- Lee Remick, Anatomy of a Murder, 1958.
Lana and Otto - Chapter Two…Obviously she didn’t think slacks went with sitting on laps... She didn’t approve the designs of producer-director Otto Preminger’s costumier (and future wife) Hope Bryce. Lana wanted a wardrobe far too ritzy for an US Army wife - by the fashionable Jean Louis. “Besides,” thundered Preminger, “I and nobody else determined what the actors wear in my films. Lana’s agent, Paul Kohner, said: ‘Sorry, she won’t do it.’ ‘Fine,’ I said, ‘send me a letter stating that she would like to cancel her contract unless her clothes are designed byJean Louis. I will release her immediately. Kohner knew that Columbia was anxious to have her in the film and assumed I was bluffing. He sent the letterand I released her. When Columbia executives learned about it, they were very upset. They even offered to pay Jean Louis' salary without charging it to the picture. I refused and signed Lee Remick [already selected for Kathryrn Grant’s role] who became a star with the part.”
- Margaret Leighton, The Sound And The Fury, 1959. For once Lana was replaced by a real actress for this trip deep into William Faulkner country.
- Janet Leigh, Psycho, 1960. Turner (again !), Martha Hyer, Shirley Jones, Hope Lange, Piper Laurie, Eva Marie Saint were considered by Alfred Hitchcock for Marion Crane - and (an early) death in the shower at the Bates Motel., Paramount considered buying rights to Bloch’s book in February 1959, but the reader who synopsized the advance copy submitted to the studio called the novel "too repulsive for films, and rather shocking even to a hardened reader."
- Bette Davis, Dead Ringer, 1963. Robert Aldrich was at the helm when Turner refused to play twins (good and bad). Davis passed on a Sinatra Clan cameo in 4 For Texas to make the horror film because she’d been here before - twinning A Stolen Life, 1945. Aldrich and Davis had made Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? the year before but when she turned up for work, her director was her Now, Voyager two-cigarettes-lighting co-star Paul Henreid.
- Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967. On producer Lawrence Turman’s handwritten wish list of a dozen stars (Ingrid, Ava to Jeanne, Shelley) for Mrs Robinson. Director Mike Nichols was less interested in flash than Annie, who greatly resembled his ex-comedy partner. Elaine May.