In 1958, Lana Turner was one of the most famous actresses in Hollywood having starred in hits like the postman Always calls two times (Tay Garnett, 1946), The Three Musketeers (George Sidney, 1948) o Captives of evil (Vincente Minnelli, 1953). Turner was also the head of the gossip press because of his hectic love life.
The star had married musician Artie Shaw in 1940. In 1942, with the actor Steve Crane whom she divorced to remarry that same year and divorce again. In 1944, she married millionaire Bob Topping, from whom she also separated to have a hectic love life. His affairs include Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes, Tyrone Power and Fernando Lamas. But of all those relationships there was only one daughter born from his second marriage, Cheryl Crane.
In 1957, Lana was recently separated from her fourth husband Lex Barker, an actor well known for having played Tarzan. Turner was alone and Johnny Stompanato, a bodyguard linked to the mafia, took the opportunity to shoot him. He called her, made a date, and they started a relationship. A violent relationship. The actress moved to London to shoot the film with Sean Connery Mists of unease (Lewis Allen, 1958) and Johnny followed her to the British capital.
On the set, Stompanato had a fit of jealousy and tried to assault Connery, for which he was expelled from the UK. Back in Beverly Hills, the violent romance continued. Until the night of April 4, 1958. The couple had a fight and Johnny attacked Lara: “I’m going to cut you and then I’ll do the same with your mother and your daughter,” the man shouted at the actress. Young Cheryl, then 14 years old, heard these threats and was scared.
He went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and ran to help his mother. The girl drove the gun into the lover’s stomach, who collapsed and died. And so began the first really media trial in history. The process was broadcast on television and had millions of American viewers glued to the screen.
On the stand Turner acted like never before. He wailed, cried, and was about to faint. In parallel, his love correspondence with the deceased was aired by the tabloid press, while various conspiracy theories came to light. Suspicions that Lana was the real murderer, rumors that Cheryl died of love for Stompanato … But none of that served to discourage the jury that, rendered at the feet of the actress, only took 20 minutes to deliberate and dictate the verdict that exonerated the girl: “justified homicide”.
Far from sinking the actress, the lawsuit gave new wings to her career. La Universal hired her immediately to star Imitation of life (Douglas Sirk, 1959), a remake of the John M. Stahl film of the same title that led to Claudette Colbert’s success in 1934. The plot of the film saw Turner as a glove, as it told the story of a mother and daughter vying for the love of the same man. Imitation of life It was all a blockbuster, but Lana’s relationship with Cheryl was never restored. The actress passed away in 1995 and left her entire fortune to the service employee. His daughter only received a small bequest.