Anything Can Happen—Lana Turner & Lex Barker
When Lana Turner is in love, anything can happen. And it just did.
After months of rumors and counter-rumors Lana married Lex Barker at City Hall in Turin, Italy. The wedding came as a surprise in Italy, since the American Consulate had not been informed of the date in advance, as is customary overseas.
At home the wedding was a different kind of surprise. There had been no question of Lex’s intentions. The superlatives Barker had used to express his admiration and affection for the 33-year-old actress are endless. Certainly a proposal from the one-time Tarzan was expected to be forthcoming the moment his divorce from Arlene Dahl was final. But nobody knew what Lana’s answer would be. Nothing she does seems inevitable. In fact, she didn’t know, herself, what she would do. At least, so she said. Here is a portion of a conversation she had only a few weeks ago with a reporter. Lana was at Elstree, outside of London, finishing up The Flame And The Flesh when the newsman called.
“Is it true, Miss Turner,” he began, “that you and Lex Barker plan to get married some time after October 15, when his divorce becomes final?”
“I don’t know anything at all about it.”
“But you do know Mr. Barker, don’t you?”
“Of course,” Lana said.
“Well, Mr. Barker has never made his fondness for you a secret. In fact, he has told many friends that he’s in love with you.”
“Is that bad?” Lana Turner smiled.
“No, I’d say it’s good,” the reporter continued. “After all, you two have been going together for almost a year now. Will this friendship culminate in marriage?”
“Look,” Lana said, “I don’t have any marriage plans. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“There’s a story making the rounds that you and Lex have quarreled. Is that one true?”
“No,” Lana said. “It certainly isn’t.”
“Have you seen Lex since he went to Italy to make a picture and you stayed in London for The Flame And The Flesh?”
“Yes, I’ve seen him.”
“Isn’t it true,” the reporter asked, “that Lex missed you so much that for the weekend, he flew in from the continent for a rendezvous with you?”
“Had a rendezvous where?”
“In Maidenhead, twenty-seven miles west of London.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“How is he?”
“Just fine,” Lana said. “He has had his two children visiting him in Italy.”
“Isn’t your daughter, Cheryl, with you?”
“Yes, she is. She came over with my mother.”
“Had they ever been to Europe before?”
“How does Cheryl like it? In fact, how do you like it? Have you been working hard?”
“Very hard,” Lana agreed. “And it’s been so dull, but Cheryl loves London. She has a tutor, and we’re not going back to Hollywood for a while. She’s going to stay over here with me.”
“How does Cheryl like Lex Barker?” the reporter asked.
“Very much. She likes him very much.”
‘Don’t you plan to meet Lex in Paris after your picture is done?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“Suppose Lex proposes to you. What will your answer be?”
Lana thought for a minute. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know or you won’t say?”
“I just don’t know. When and if the time comes, then I’ll make up my mind.”
“Are you in love with Lex Barker?”
Miss Turner’s voice stamped its foot a little. “Look, it’s my personal life, and I’ll live it the way I see fit. Some magazine carried an article saying that Lex and I scandalized Europe by traveling around together. Why! The nerve of them! It’s my life, and it’s my business, and I’m going to run it.”
“Of course it’s your life, Miss Turner. All we’re trying to find out is whether you are in love with Lex Barker and, if so, if you intend to marry him.”
“I honestly don’t know. Right now, I have no marriage plans. How things will be m the future I can’t say.”
“Would you say,” the reporter persisted, “that you have no intentions of ever marrying Lex?”
“I’d never say that.”
“Then there is that possibility?”
“Of course.” Lana Turner said, “but right now I don’t know.”
“Is that because, Miss Turner, you’ve been going around with Carlos Thompson in London?”
Lana was angry. “I should say not. I haven’t been out with anyone.”
“What do you do at night?”
“I told you. It’s dull. I just work and sleep.”
Not very long before this conversation took place, Lana had told another reporter, “I’m being attacked in Hollywood for seeing too much of Lex Barker since I left. We’ve been misquoted as saying we’re deeply in love with each other. We’re just close friends, and we’ve definitely no marriage plans. I want a rest from marriage.”
What is the truth? Will Lana marry Lex or won’t she?
According to an intimate, “Lana doesn’t know, herself. She says she wants a rest from marriage, but that’s only because her marriages, thus far, have been unhappy. This girl is completely without self-sufficiency. She’s got to have a man. Now, for a girl like that, marriage is indispensable. That’s why I think she’ll marry Lex before the year is over.”
This same source, a leading figure in the motion picture industry who has known Lana since she was fifteen, goes on to point out that Barker would probably make the actress an excellent husband.
“One of Lana’s biggest mistakes,” he explains, is her poor judgment when men are involved. Artie Shaw was too smart for her. Stephen Crane wasn’t good enough for her, and Bob Topping had too much social background for her.
“This Barker boy, however, seems to fit her needs perfectly. You’d never call him dull, but certainly he’s no mental heavyweight. Neither is Lana. He got a few more years in high school than she did, but intellectually, they’re on a par. That’s one reason they get on so well together. Primarily, they’re physical creatures, both very attractive, both very charming, both very kind.
“Lex has been married a couple of times and so has Lana. What have they got to lose?”
This seems to be the consensus of Hollywood opinion about Lex and Lana, but where the Turner beauty is concerned, one rule has always held true—anything can happen.
Lana is a mercurial woman who falls in and out of love quickly and unexpectedly.
Just look at some of her past performances. Supposedly, she was in love with Greg Bautzer when she ran off and married Artie Shaw. Supposedly, she was in love with Turhan Bey when she ran off and married Steve Crane. Supposedly, she was engaged to Tyrone Power when a few months later she became Mrs. Henry “Bob” Topping. Supposedly, she had been in love with Fernando Lamas when, not long after, she flew to Europe with Lex Barker.
How do you figure a girl like that? Is she a creature of whim, a victim of circumstances, a child of impulse?
Adela Rogers St. John, a writer who has watched Lana in action at MGM for more than a decade, says, “Lana is an exaggerated, unconventional, slightly mad, utterly enchanting creature unlike anybody else in the world, with plenty of brains but practically no sense.”
All of which means that Lana Turner is absolutely unpredictable, or as one girl on the set of The Flame And The Flesh confided to a columnist, “She’ll marry Lex Barker, I think, provided she doesn’t fall in love with somebody else before she gets around to it.”
Friends of Lex Barker say that Lex knows this, that he realizes how susceptible Lana can be to masculine charms, and they attribute his European stay to that very understanding.
When Lex flew over to Paris with Lana this past spring, he was scheduled to return to Hollywood in the summer to make a film for producer Eddie Small. Only Lex didn’t return. He had his agent, Paul Kohner, find some film work for him in Europe. Lex wanted to be near Lana. For weeks during the months of April and May they had been inseparable, traveling through France, Spain, and Italy. Lex had even accompanied Lana to England. He had spent so much time courting this beauty in Hollywood and Palm Springs, he was taking no chance of losing her to some European dandy. He asked Eddie Small for an extension of Cannibal Island, the picture he was scheduled to make in Hollywood. Small said, “Sure.”
Oddly enough, there wasn’t too much difficulty in getting Lex a job or two in Europe, despite the fact that most continental film producers had never heard of him except in connection with Lana Turner. This isn’t surprising. As an actor, Lex is a relative beginner.
Anyway, Paul Kohner signed him to a role in a picture tentatively entitled Tiger Of Malaya, and then booked him for work in a French film, They Still Fish On Sunday.
As a result of these bookings, Kohner is now asking $25,000 per picture for Lex Barker, and Lex has had enough money to phone Lana in London practically every night. Not too long ago, Lex wrote a friend in Hollywood, explaining that he was very upset about items in the newspapers to the effect that he had quarreled with Lana.
“We’ve been apart for about a month,” he wrote at the time, “but we call each other every other day. It’s expensive but helpful.”
A few days later, unable to stay away from his love, Lex flew to London. He and Lana saw each other at Maidenhead over the weekend. Then Lex flew back to work.
When Hollywood heard about Lex’s fast flight to London, one columnist quipped, “Boy! That’s a switch.”
The reference was to the time in 1947 when Lana was very much in love with Tyrone Power. She was making Green Dolphin Street at MGM and Ty was on location in Mexico. Undaunted, Lana decided that she simply had to see her sweetheart. She flew to Mexico where bad weather prevented her from getting back to work for two days. Luckily, a kind director shot around her while she was absent.
Lana isn’t that foolhardy any longer—either that, or she doesn’t care for Lex in the same way she cared for Ty—but she still believes in obeying her impulses. As a matter of fact, that’s how her friendship with Lex began—on impulse.
Last year, at the extravaganza thrown for Johnny Ray at the Marion Davies mansion, Lana was escorted by Fernando Lamas.
Lex came to the party with Susan Morrow. During an interlude, Lana impulsively asked Lex Barker for a dance. Lex said it would be an honor. It’s a matter of record that Lamas blew his top when he saw Lana and Lex together. He called Lana some choice names, challenged Lex to a fight, and then drove Lana home.
Lana will not tell what happened after Lamas brought her to her house on Mapleton Drive. The next morning, however, she was in a sorry state, and admitted that she and Fernando were finished.
Several weeks later, Lex Barker began to lay siege to the Turner heart, and his ardor has never diminished. For almost a year, he has been Lana’s trusted friend.
When Lana announced that she was going overseas to make pictures, Lex, through his press agent, announced that he was seriously thinking of forming his own independent production company in Europe. What this meant, of course, was that Lex intended to follow Lana, to be with her as much as possible. An MGM executive, upon hearing this, expressed the opinion that it would not be in the best taste for Lex and Lana to travel all over Europe together.
Like Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner, two other children of impulse, Lana Turner has never catered to public opinion. When she flew to Paris this past April, Lex Barker was with her. When she arrived in Spain, Lex Barker was close at hand. At Cannes, Capri, in Rome, in London, it was Lex and Lana. Tongues wagged but the lovers paid them no heed.
Allegedly, Lex said that it was okay for him to travel with Lana, because his intentions were honorable; and they certainly have been.
When Lex left Lana in London to continue work on The Flame And The Flesh—some background shots had been made in Naples previously—Lana had dyed her hair from the familiar blonde to dark reddish.
Lex was sad to leave her. Lana, however, threw herself into the picture with enthusiasm and vigor. “I’ve got more acting to do in this one than I’ve ever done before,” she explained to one newspaperman. “It’s really very tough. I play a young Italian girl, cynical, tough, jaded. She’s not exactly a prostitute, but she wanders from man to man, and I’m trying to make the girl look very real.
“I don’t want people to say, ‘Turner’s bitten off more than she can chew.’ I spent a lot of time in Italy watching how girls of this type dress and walk and behave, and in this picture, I just wear a dress and an old suit, and my hair. Well, you can see for yourself. Pretty dark, isn’t it?”
The reporter asked if, after thirty or forty films, she had conquered her stage fright.
“No,” she said, “I still almost have a nervous breakdown before a picture starts. I’m afraid I’ll forget my lines or trip over my feet or just make a fool of myself.”
Reputedly in financial trouble (the story goes that she had to take a whopping advance from MGM in order to meet her back income taxes) Lana admitted that she is trying to sell her Holby Hills house, the one with the six TV sets. “I don’t intend to return to Hollywood for a while, so I might as well sell the place.” No one has met the asking price of $175,000.
Lana also said that she did not favor her daughter’s future entrance into show business. “I once said I’d try to keep her out of this rat race, and I mean it. It’s okay if you stay up there among the winners, but everyone can’t be lucky.”
As for being in love with her latest suitor, Mr. Alexander Crichlow Barker of Rye, New York, Lana insisted that she had been misquoted. “We’re just good friends.”
There’s nothing wrong in a girl’s marrying a good friend especially when he’s tall, handsome, slavish in his devotion, and capable of making a good living.
Now, that The Flame And The Flesh is finished, and work is no longer on her mind, Lana has done that very thing. If she hadn’t, all of Hollywood would have been disappointed.
Lana has been in love with the idea of marriage for a long, long time.
—BY CONSUELO ANDERSON
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1953