Its the 16th of February. Candy hearts are half off at the Dollar Tree and the hint of consumerist love still drenches the air. Thus Always, Lana may be the perfect late weekend read. Written by Taylor Pero, a bisexual back-up singer who catered to both Lana Turner’s business and boudoir needs for 10 years, this slim tome details the latter day diva glazed romantic and professional antics of one of MGM’s comeliest stars.
Historically, I was first introduced to this book as a soap opera obsessed 14 year old. At the time, Lana was appearing on Falcon Crest and her character’s onscreen combativeness with Jane Wyman’s matriarchal lead fueled my love for show business. Thus, I asked for a bio on Turner for Christmas that year. With unknowing prescience, this was the volume that my parents picked out for me. (Of course, it very well may have been the only option available at the tiny Zayres book department in Jamestown, NY.) While I found myself both intrigued and repelled by Pero’s sexual exploits, its tales of Turner’s adventures on the summer stock circuit and infrequent film projects have remained as wispy, silver smoked memories in my consciousness over the decades since.
Revisiting the memoir this Valentine’s week, Pero’s economic exploitiveness here actually reads with a sense of sympathy and understanding for the star that he devoted himself to. Her eternal tardiness, precise self focus and obsession with her appearance are explained as being a product of a studio system that prized beauty and self deception over emotional and spiritual growth. The author also nicely details Turner’s humor and her ability to deal with the multiple disappointments that life brought down upon her shoulders.
Nicely, one disenchantment that is given prime focus here is Persecution (AKA The Terror of Sheba), the one true Gothic Horror (in the Baby Jane tradition) that Turner appeared in. This project is usually given little import in other treatments of her filmography, but with Always, Lana it gets almost a full chapter. The author chronicles everything from the year long inception of the project to the shimmering star’s on set battles to the aborted reactions to this much troubled film upon its official release.
As with similar writings, this is a quick read and may be worth exploring for genre fans for this particular aspect alone.
Horror Hall of Fame:
Turner was a glimmering presence in the 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and she always spoke fondly of co-stars Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman for instilling her with a sense of professional confidence). She also gave breakdowns a groovy, psychedelic glow in the 1969 cult classic The Big Cube.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!