By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin November 26, 2009 at 12:32AM
by Cheryl Crane and Cindy De La Hoz
I’ve become wary of coffee-table books devoted to great stars. Although they are usually handsome, too often they strike me as a product rather than a book, with text serving merely as filler between photographs. This volume is a notable exception. Not only is the writing compelling and informative, it’s personal, being the work of Lana Turner’s daughter (and coauthor Cindy De La Hoz). What’s more, every aspect of Turner’s life and career discussed in these pages is illustrated with ideally-chosen photographs from the vast collection of Lou Valentino, long acknowledged to be the world’s foremost Lana Turner aficionado.
The book is less a biography than a celebration of Lana, as Crane recounts her mother’s thoughts about stardom, marriage, makeup, jewelry, parties, nightclubs, friendships, pets, working at MGM, and of course the many men she dated (let alone married) over the years. The text is fascinating and dishy but never catty or salacious. For instance, here’s Cheryl on the subject of her mother dating Tony Martin: “Life imitated art and gave Mother and Tony a cinematic start to their romance. He gave her a signature song by introducing ‘You Stepped Out of a Dream’ as she took the stage in Ziegfeld Girl. Tony’s three-year marriage to Alice Faye had ended shortly before he came into Mother’s life in November 1940. Gran [Lana’s mother] adored him for her daughter. I think at the time Mother’s relationship with Tony Martin meant more to her than she later let on, but he was certainly her most steady boyfriend of the early ’40s. Indeed, they were engaged to be married for a short time. They were out all the time and the photos speak volumes about how much fun they had together. Her jewelry collection contained many lovingly engraved pieces from him.
“After Tony found his lifetime partner in Cyd Charisse and they married in 1948, the pair become one of Mother’s favorite couples. There were past beaux, like Tony, who she later came to adore as part of a couple. George Montgomery and Dinah Shore, Robert and Rosemarie Stack, James and Gloria Stewart, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and Tony and Cyd were some of Mother’s favorite married couples. They were friends she thought were perfectly matched. Once a former boyfriend became part of what she saw as a great couple, she downplayed her past with him.”
The latter portion of the book documents every one of Turner’s film appearances, with an eye toward readability and an emphasis on behind-the-scenes stories. Again, the photos are rare and well chosen.
The end result is a comprehensive and sympathetic portrait of a teenage girl thrust into the spotlight who managed to maintain a career for several decades, repeatedly made headlines, endured seven marriages, and never surrendered her status as a Movie Star. It is one of the best books about a star I’ve ever read, so much so that I recommend it not only to dedicated Turner fans but to anyone who wants to learn a bit more about the truth behind the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age.(Running Press)