DarkMarc over a year ago

During what is considered to be Hollywood's Golden Era no two actresses were as popular with the movie going public then Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. Both actresses found themselves contracted to the same studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. As they were groomed for stardom they became the best of friends and would remain friends until Gardner passed away in 1990. Born Julia Jean Mildred Frances on February 8, 1920 or 1921 in Wallace, Idaho. Eventually, moving to San Francisco where two weeks before Christmas in 1930 her father was murdered. After his death mother and daughter moved to Los Angeles. Turner's start in Hollywood began while she was attending Hollywood High School, one day in January 1936 the rigors of typing class proved to much to bear so, Judy slipped across the street to Top's Cafe, (its location was at 6750 Sunset Boulevard at Highland Avenue) where she sat at the counter and ordered a cold drink. Sitting at the same counter was the publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, Billy Wilkerson who had notice the teen so he asked the manager to introduce him to Judy. Wilkerson came over and presented his business card, as he handed her his card he asked her, "How would like to be pictures?" Turner thought she had heard everything, but when Wilkerson suggested that she come to his office later that evening accompanied by her mother, Turner thought that was a new twist. When she got home she told her mother and a close friend what happened they all had different reactions. At first they laughed then they looked at me a little frightened and then we went out to buy a Hollywood Reporter and saw Billy Wilkerson's name as publisher they decided to see Billy Wilkerson. When Judy introduced her mother to Wilkerson he told them that he was still interested and for his next idea was to introduce mother and daughter to hotshot agent Zeppo Marx Agency, where Henry Willson, its young vice-president decided to take a chance on this young lady. Contrary to popular belief, Lana Turner was not an instant success. She did get some as an extra - in David O. Selznick's A Star Is Born (1937, United Artists). After that they found out that director Mervyn LeRoy who was at Warner Brothers was looking for a teenage girl to portray a murder victim in They Won't Forget. When they meet he had one word for her "Walk" and she was hired, he also had one suggestion change her first name which was Julia Jean Mildred Frances to something more alluring since Judy sounded too girlish. Judy herself thought of Lana which was supposed to be pronounced "Lah-nah." The role of Mary Clay, who would be raped and murdered very early in the film. The tole was small, but it was key. The girl had to be young and pretty and he's the hard part--both innocent and sexy. LeRoy knew that whoever he cast would have to leave a definite impression on the audience. In just twelve minutes of running time this pretty young girl must be unforgettable and powerful enough that the audience remembers her and wants justice to be served. But it was her last scene that people remember, as she walks down a seventy-five-foot tracking shot had all the "fresh impact" anyone could possibly hope for. Turner sashayed down the street and into stardom. One of Turner's greatest assets was her confident and graceful walk that commanded every in theater. In 1938 Mervyn LeRoy was lured away from Warner Brothers by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before leaving he asked if he could take Turner with him and Jack Warner told him to go ahead. Young Lana Turner moved into the right place MGM) and the right time (Studio System). At the peak of what became known as the "Dream Factory," years Turner was welcomed to the top studio MGM. MGM was known for its many glamorous female stars, and as she entered MGM she entered on the arm of a very important man. Mervyn LeRoy arrived at MGM as King of the Lot, as big a name as there was in those years. MGM was the studio that Turner was born for, with its roster of famous movie actresses, it prestigious presentations, and its devotion to the star system. Ava Gardner always claimed to be, "I'm just a plain, simple girl off the farm." When Ava Gardner entered a room all eyes were on, but she herself was not impressed. With her earthy eroticism, her natural beauty looks, and her distinctive voice, these qualities were special and she could enact regional American accents with perfection or women from the most exotic of nationalities. Ava Lavina Gardner was born on Sunday, December 24, 1922 the youngest of six children in Grabtown, North Carolina. After graduating high school Ava felt at loose ends. Her older sister Beatrice Elizabeth Gardner (nicknamed Bappie) was living in New York with her second husband photographer Larry Tarr. So Bappie wrote to her sister Ava (their age difference was close to 15 years) and invited her to visit with the tempting offered that perhaps she might find a secretary job there. Ava arrived in Manhattan in the summer of 1940, and when Beatrice's husband saw her he was immediately struck by her green-eyed beauty. Tarr's father owned several photography studios in the New York area and he needed a model so he convinced Ava to pose for some photos. Tarr then proceeded to take many photos of sister-in-law, displaying some of them in the Fifth Avenue store window in one of his father's shops. There was one photo in which Ava wore a sleeveless print dress she borrowed from Bappie and a straw bonnet with a ribbon tied underneath her chin. She smiled at the camera with a sweet yet guarded smile. It was the photo that would change everything. Barney Duhan, then a clerk in MGM's legal department and later a New York policeman, saw the display and was so affected by the "Vibrant Face" that he phoned the shop to find out who the model was, intending to ask her out for a date. Beatrice answered his call, and Duhan said that he wanted to find out about Ava because he was an MGM talent scout. Duhan sent sixty photos of Ava around the New York offices where Martin Schenck, in charge of of talent there, and publicity head Howard Dietz had Duhan and Ava's sister Bappie called Ava back to New York City for a screen test. The people involved in the screen test gave her one of the best, a silent one (Southern accent was strong) with the best possible lighting and sent the result out to Hollywood. Ava left for Hollywood with sister Bappie in tow. Ava would make another screen test but this time with sound. When studio head Louis B. Mayer witnessed the test, he exclaimed , "She cannot act, she cannot talk, she's terrific. With that, Ava was given a standard contract for potential starlets, joining the ranks of: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Hedy Lamarr, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland and Greer Garson. Around the same time a young new starlet arrived at MGM who's name was Lana Turner. Even though MGM did not know it but Ava Gardner was to be the last, the final studio-made glamour star that included the secrets of Garbo and the earthiness of Joan Crawford. Gardner was willing to experiment during her career, as when she played Julie Laverne, the suffering half-caste "second heroine" in MGM's musical remake Showboat in 1951. A sentimental musical that Gardner did a creditable job, doing her own singing on "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." and "Bill" and bringing them off, unlike most non-singers, as if she understood how a musical works and why the songs are there. She is also at ease when she does an impromptu "shuffle dance" that follows "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Men." For strange reasons MGM decided to overdub Gardner's vocals with Annette Warren, meanwhile, the record album had come out with Gardner's tracks intact, and they survive to argue for the honesty of her portrayal. Gardner's beauty like that of Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney, was never an end in itself but only a means of reflecting the woman within. For such a dynamic, mythic screen presence, Gardner's career has been surprisingly spotty. Like so many of the great stars, she made most of her films before her image had come into focus. There were too few afterwards, she grew older during her long absences, returning in roles that somewhat disappointed by their lack of opportunity for her. And yet the effect was still there even when she no longer the same beauty as before. Lana Turner and Ava Gardner had much in common: Both had been teenagers when plucked from out of nowhere without any experience or education, Lana was Metro's previous hot sex symbol, ans she and Gardner seemed to fall for many of the same men. Some of them, like Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra, had been Lana's first; others, like Howard Hughes and the racketeer Mickey Cohen's sleek thug Johnny Stompanato, were Ava's castoffs. Ava liked Lana, she could be unintentionally funny as when, with the manner of an IRS accountant review the genital size and ability of her various lovers. Texan Ann Sheridan, eight years older than Ava, was another straight-shooter about men and romance. Ava met Sheridan, the Warner Brothers "Oomph Girl" through local radio star Johnny Grant. Grant remembered, "to hear Ava and Sheridan talking together was like being in a navy boat with a crew of horny guys. Ann was a gal that would greet you saying, "Hello you cocksucker." An Ava was just as bawdy. They both were insomniacs, too, so they never went to sleep. These were great ladies who in those days you could say were real "broads" and they took it as a compliment." In 1968, tax trouble in Spain prompted Ava to move to London, where she spent her last 22 years in reasonable comfort. Ava Lavina Gardner passed away on January 25, 1990 from bronchial pneumonia in Westminster, London, England, she was 67 years old. I liked what Ava's last was to be: "I wish to live until 150 years old but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other." Lana Turner passed away on June 29, 1995 from throat cancer in Century City, California. Lana Turner had a sense humor about herself: "I planned on having one husband and seven children, but it turned out the other way around.

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