Monday, May 10, 2021

Lana Turner and the Death of a Thug

 I've been watching episodes of E's Mysteries and Scandals and the other day I saw the one involving actress Lana Turner. I'd heard about this scandal from my mom when I was a kid, but it happened a few years before I was born. True crime junkie that I am, I read Detour, written by Cheryl Crane, the assailant of the thug, and she was only fourteen at the time of the crime.

Lana Turner

Here's the gist of the story: Lana Turner, one of Hollywood's most glamorous stars of the Golden Age, began dating and then living with Johnny Stompanato, a small time gangster with mob connections. Turns out Lana was rather fickle when it came to men, and when she decided to break things off, Stompanato became violent. Apparently the mob had wanted Stompanato to eventually become Mr. Lana Turner so that the mob would have access to her money.
Lana with daughter Cheryl Crane

Stompanato became physically abusive to Lana on several occasions and refused to leave the home he shared with her. Ms. Turner began to fear for her life, as Stompanato had held a gun to her head more than once. Desperate, she told her 14 year-old daughter Cheryl that she was afraid and needed her help. Most likely she meant, call the police if things get out of hand with that monster.

On one particular evening while Stopananto was beating Ms. Turner, he threatened her by saying, "If you were a man I'd cut off your hands, but since you make a living with your face, I'll cut that up instead!" Cheryl woke up upon hearing the beating and her mother's screams. She went to the kitchen and got a butcher knife, then went upstairs terrified, holding the knife and stood outside her mother's bedroom.
Lana with Johnny Stompanato

When Stompanato had had enough of beating and threatening Ms. Turner, he left the bedroom, only to walk straight into Cheryl's knife, which plunged straight through his abdomen. Needless to say, he died. A heinous thug brought down unintentionally by a frightened 14 year-old girl.

Cheryl Crane says she doesn't even remember going to the kitchen for the knife. Then she stood frightened outside her mother's bedroom unsure of what to do, but she knew her mother needed her.

If you enjoy true crime check out Detour, and for more on the case of Johnny Stompanato's death, click here. Were you familiar with this story?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 3/19/18

Monday, May 3, 2021

Jane Russell: More Than Just a Sex Symbol

I saw a fascinating biography the other day entitled Jane Russell: Body and Soul. If I weren't an old movie buff, the only thing I'd know about Jane Russell was that she was the spokeswoman for the Playtex 18 hour bra back in the 1970s. Since I do know a thing or two about old movies, I knew that Jane was known as a sex symbol,discovered by Howard Hughes and featured in  a starring role in his movie The Outlaw, her bust line being the main attraction.  

However, the documentary I watched told me so much more about Jane Russell and what an amazing woman she really was! Below I have excerpts from an article featured in Lifesupernatural.com.  Be sure to click on the link for the entire article! 


“I love the Lord”  is a beautiful statement that summed up Jane Russell’s philosophy.  While she was  best known for musicals, Westerns, and adventure films, too little has been said about her strong belief in God and how she has practiced her faith.


Jane Russell was raised by a devoted Christian Bible teaching mother who had been a stage actress before she was married (so she wasn’t worried when her daughter later became an actress).  Her husband died at 47 years of age, leaving her with Jane and four younger brothers, an eight-acre ranch, four horses and a cow.

Jane gave her heart to the Lord at age 6, received her baptism at the age of 12, and in her late teens discovered the wiles of what she calls “the world, the flesh, and the devil”.  But the Lord was faithful, never left her side through thick and thin and opened many controversial doors that led to things He wanted her ultimately to accomplish, through the motion picture business, the stage, recordings, and night clubs.  (“All things work together for good…”)
Though Jane  was known for her tall beauty, she would never compromise her Christian moral standards to please  a  studio.   She  says,“   In  those  days  there was a decency code that kept us safe.”  She speaks fondly of her mother who was a “fabulous” bible teacher.  “Mom made the Word come alive,” remembers Jane.  “That stayed with me forever.”
It was when Jane was modeling, that an agent came by the photo studio and “swiped” a head shot of her.  It was shown to movie studios and Jane was called to test for an upcoming movie that needed a half Irish/half Mexican actress.  Soon she was contacted to be awarded the leading role in The Outlaw.  There was a three year publicity campaign that touted Jane Russell in particular and it was a  “smash in the box-office.”

Jane went  on to star in a string of popular movies working with Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Robert Mitchum, and others.  Two of her most famous films were Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Marilyn Monroe and Paleface with Bob Hope.
Jane Russell was  a strong believer in prayer and knew that more than once it saved her life including one night when she was attacked in her own home. One thing she especially prayed for was children.  She had no idea that God would answer that prayer thousands and thousands of times.
During the war years Jane married football star Robert Waterfield  and during that twenty three years she and her husband adopted three children. Her second husband, Roger Barrett, died three months after her marriage, and finally she married John Peoples, to whom she stayed married for twenty-five years until his death in 1999.  Between the two of them, Jane remarks with amazement, they had eight children, fifteen grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
Jane created her own special organization called WAIF in 1955.  The name referred to children without homes.  This organization placed about 51,000 children with adoptive families.  She went all over the nation and overseas as a fundraiser and spokesperson putting her faith to work.   The chapters for the original program have closed with the exception of the one in Los Angeles now known as “Operation Children”.  This group holds four parties a year for four different groups of children and prospective children.  Adults and children intermingle, eat, play games, and get to know each other in a park.  This approach has helped new families to be formed.
Jane also championed the passage of the Federal Orphan Adoption Amendment of 1953, which allowed children of American  servicemen born overseas to be placed for adoption in the United States.
According to some critics, Jane devoted more energy to WAIF than to maintaining her movie stardom.   At various points of her career, she took years off of movies to attend to family and ministry matters.  Her priorities were clear and often very public.
There's much more to the article. I've only scratched the surface here. Had you ever heard of Jane Russell? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 
Originally published 4-2-18

Monday, April 26, 2021

Keye Luke: From Artist to Actor


As Number One Son Lee Chan
Hubby and I have been watching old episodes of Kung Fuwhich featured actor Keye Luke as the blind Master Po. To older generations he is remembered from the Charlie Chan serials as Charlie Chan's Number One Son Lee Chan. Wikipedia says that he was the first Chinese-American contract player signed by RKO, Universal Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was one of the most prominent Asian actors of American cinema in the mid-twentieth century. However, before he was an actor, he was an artist.

According to IMDb, Keye Luke was born in Canton, China. He grew up in Seattle, Washington, and entered the film business as a commercial artist and a designer of movie posters. He was hired as a technical advisor on several Asian-themed films, and made his film debut in The Painted Veil (1934). It seemed that he appeared in almost every film that called for Chinese characters, usually in small parts but occasionally, as in The Good Earth (1937), in a meatier, more substantial role. In addition, he played Dr. Kildare's rival at the hospital in the Dr. Kildare series at MGM.

As Blind Master Po
More from Wikipedia says Luke worked on several of the murals inside Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and he did some of the original artwork for the 1933 King Kong pressbook. Luke also painted the casino's mural in The Shanghai Gesture. He published a limited edition set of pen and ink drawings of The Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam in the 1950s. He also created illustrations for the books The Unfinished Song of Achmed Mohammed by Earle Liederman, Blessed Mother Goose by Frank Scully and an edition of Messer Marco Polo by Brian Oswald Donn-Byrne (unpublished). Other art done by Luke included the dust jackets for books published in the 1950s and 1960s. It was through his studio art work that he was recruited for his first movie roles.

I always find it fascinating to learn about an actor's life before the acting began, so just thought I'd share! By the way, are you a fan of Kung Fu? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 10/23/17 

Monday, April 19, 2021

White Like Her

 

Gail's Mother
Mystery writer Gail Lukasik tells the story of her mother's mixed race ancestry in her memoir White Like Her. This is an excerpt of a 2017 article about her book from The Washington Post. I found it so fascinating, I ordered the memoir and have since read the heartbreaking account. I love family histories, especially when a secret is involved. An excerpt of the article is below:

I’d never seen my mother so afraid.
“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”
For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.
The discovery had left me reeling, confused and in need of answers. My sense of white identity had been shattered.
My mother’s visit to my home in Illinois seemed like the right moment. This was not a conversation I wanted to have on the phone.
Author Gail Lukasik
But my mother’s fearful plea for secrecy only added to my confusion about my racial identity. As did her 1921 birth certificate that I obtained from the state of Louisiana, which listed her race as “col” (colored), and a 1940 Louisiana census record, which listed my mother, Alvera Frederic, as Neg/Negro, working in a tea shop in New Orleans. Four years later, she moved north and married my white father.
Reluctantly, I agreed to keep my mother’s secret. For 17 years I told no one, except my husband, my two children and two close friends that my mother was passing as white. It was the longest and most difficult secret I’d ever held.
My mother’s pale, olive skin and European features appeared to belie the government documents defining her as African American, allowing her to escape that public designation for most of her adult life.
In the silence of those 17 years, I tried to break through my mother’s wall of silence. But every time I tried, she politely but firmly changed the subject. Her refusal to talk about her mixed race only fueled my curiosity. How had she deceived my racist white father? Why was she so fearful and ashamed of her black heritage?
Using my skills as a seasoned mystery author, I started sifting through the details of her life, looking for clues that would help me understand her. But this real-life mystery only intensified as I tried to sort truth from fiction.
I am eagerly waiting for my copy of White Like Her to arrive! Any secrets in your family?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Originally published 12/11/17

Monday, April 12, 2021

Advice from Anthony Hopkins

I stumbled across an entertaining interview with Sir Anthony Hopkins from Fox News. He shared some fascinating facts about his life and also provided some great advice.
Sir Anthony Hopkins discussed his battle with alcoholism in a speech to students at the University of California on Wednesday.
Hopkins, 80, was a guest speaker at the LEAP conference and addressed a crowd of about 500 students, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Academy Award-winning actor told the crowd he was not the easiest person to work with.
"Because that's what you do in theater, you drink. But I was very difficult to work with, as well, because I was usually hungover,” Hopkins admitted.

“The Silence of the Lambs” star said he was "disgusted, busted and not to be trusted" when he drank. However, the actor said his life turned around in 1975 after a conversation with a woman from Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Why don’t you just trust in God?” the woman asked Hopkins.
The “Westworld” star said he did not have the urge to drink after the conversation.
Hopkins also told the crowd why he got into acting because he “had nothing better to do” and was “not all that bright in school.”
"I believe that we are capable of so much," he told the crowd. "From my own life, I still cannot believe that my life is what it is because I should have died in Wales, drunk or something like that." 
"We can talk ourselves into death or we can talk ourselves into the best life we've ever lived. None of it was a mistake. It was all a destiny,” he continued.
As for his advice to students, Hopkins told them to not chase money and success.
"If you chase the money, it's not gonna work. And if you chase success, it's not gonna work," he said. "You just have to chase whatever you want to be, but live it as if it is happening now. Act as if you're already there, and it'll fall into place.”

Is any of this information about Anthony Hopkins new to you like it was to me? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Originally published 7/30/18