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Is There A Home For Two Desperate Women?

Not many people driving along U.S. Highway 60 in Chino, California, recognized the family group riding along the bridle trail that skirts the road before it curls into the woods.

The teenage girl, her dark hair flying as she cantered smartly ahead, her legs long in the stirrups; the mother, young-looking and pretty, her skin tanned and healthy, only wisps of blonde hair showing from under the bandana tied around her head, and the dark-haired man, firm-jawed and protective-looking, riding close by the two as though he loved and cherished them very much.

On a weekend away from the confines of El Retiro School were Cheryl Crane with her mother, Lana Turner, and Fred May, the man who, in marrying Lana, has undertaken to protect both Lana and her daughter.

Even Lana’s friends were surprised recently when they learned that she and her long-time admirer had obtained a license to marry. They knew that Lana had been seeing Fred steadily, but they remembered that she had originally planned to marry him last March. Then, on the eve of her marriage to Fred, juvenile authorities suddenly placed Cheryl behind the high wall at El Retiro, a school for wayward girls.

That evening, Fred had come to see Lana. With tears in her eyes, Lana had told him, “Darling, I can’t marry you now. Oh, I still love you—it’s not that. But I can’t ask you to take on my burdens with Cheryl. A bride should be happy. I can’t be. I’m terribly worried about my child. She’s going to take up all my time and thoughts. It wouldn’t be fair to you. . . .”

Even though Fred had insisted that his love hadn’t changed—in fact, he’d protested, it had increased, if anything, because of Lana’s troubles—Lana wouldn’t listen to his pleas that they get married.

Not many men would have the courage to stick by a woman who’s had to go through the kind of hell Lana has had to face because of her daughter. Most men would have run thousands of miles to get away from a woman who had as great a problem as Lana.

Lana offered to release Fred. But he wouldn’t leave her.

HE WAS HURT when she suggested he go. “What sort of man do you think I am?” he said. “Do you think I’d walk out of your life just when you and Cheryl need me most. I love you, honey!”

lana smiled faintly and felt relieved, knowing that Fred wanted to share her burden with her. Nevertheless, she insisted that until everything was cleared up, she and Fred would not get married.

Lana was determined to remake her life. The court had held that she couldn’t offer Cheryl a disciplined, wholesome home. Juvenile authorities evidently believed everything about Lana they’d read in the headlines. She made up her mind she’d stay out of the headlines and prove she was capable of being a good, serious-minded mother.

She and Fred went on together, the dark-haired, patient man and the beautiful woman who had known many men but never a man like this—who asked for so little and was willing to give so much. Fred was dependable, He’d built up a successful business, then retired at the age of thirty-eight to buy a ranch in Chino where he bred thoroughbred horses. He was a steadying influence in her life. A man as reliable as sunlight. And how she needed sunlight in a life suddenly full of shadows.

Through months of turmoil he was at her side. When newspapers and magazines blamed Lana’s faulty upbringing of Cheryl for the girl’s troubles, he furiously defended Lana.

“Honey,” he’d tell her, “what do those people know? I know the kind of woman you are. When writers print that kind of hooey I wish I could knock their teeth in.”

Lana smiled in spite of herself at the thought of Fred knocking anyone’s teeth in. She had ceased to be attracted by violence. She had known a very violent man, and had paid in fear, trembling, and the menace to her daughter’s future, for having been infatuated by such a man. In Fred she saw no violence or threat of violence—only good nature, kindness and understanding.

Actually, Fred had not been kidding when he said he wished he could knock down some of the columnists and writers who criticized Lana.

He proved that he meant what he had said one night at a party that was given at Romanoff’s after the premiere of Lana’s picture, Portrait in Black.

It was a gay party. Lana was in better spirits than she had been in months. Only a short while before she had returned from a visit with Cheryl at El Retiro, and had been cheered by the change in Cheryl’s attitude. She and Cheryl had had a long talk, and the child looked more at peace, the rebellious thrust to her jaw gone.

“Darling,” Lana had told her, “let’s both think of and work for the day when you’ll be free, and the authorities will let you leave this place and come and live with me. I’ll do everything I can to bring that day closer. And you, too, Cheryl—obey the rules here, and work hard, because that’s the only way we can win what we want.”

Thinking about Cheryl and their future together, Lana smiled.

Suddenly, her smile turned to terror when Fred lifted a threatening fist in the act of delivering a blow at a Hollywood columnist who had stopped by to chat. Only the intercession of another guest kept Fred from delivering the blow. “How dare you,” Fred had stormed at the columnist, “print an editorial criticizing Lana for her upbringing of Cheryl?”

Lana, heartsick, slumped in her chair, sobbing, back in a nightmare. In her mind’s eye she saw black headlines like all the others that had blackened her reputation.

Poor Cheryl . . . She’d given Cheryl her word, only the other day, that she’d work hard for her release. This fracas would only make things worse for her child who lived behind a high wall.

To the newspapermen present she said in a frantic voice, “I don’t want any more headlines. Please don’t print this. Please.”

The newspapermen replied, “Sorry, Lana, but this is news.”

Lana, groping for something with which to wipe her eyes, reached for a napkin. She forgot her glamour, her beauty, at that moment. She sobbed to Fred, “Why did you do it?”

He looked numbly at her. “Because I love you, honey,” he said. “I won’t have anyone attacking your personal life.”

If it hadn’t been for the great love that Lana and Fred had for each other, that episode might have ended their love story.

Because in five minutes, the man she loved had almost undone the job Lana had been trying to achieve for months of giving the world the portrait of a woman who could and would stay out of scandalous headlines.

AFTER THE PARTY, in the quiet of her home, they talked together. She said to him, “Fred, we can’t go on together if more episodes like tonight’s are going to happen. I won’t have anyone keep from me the one thing I’m trying to achieve—winning liberty and a good life for my daughter.

“If you’re going to be hot-headed and slug people who malign me, we’ll have to stop seeing each other. Too much is at stake. I love you, Fred, but. . . .” 

“I understand,” he told her. “I wanted to do everything I could to help you, but I guess losing my temper didn’t accomplish anything. Honey, I promise you I won’t ever lose my head again around you.”

That evening Lana realized the greatness of Fred’s love. He was a man with a man’s deep wish to protect the woman he loved. His natural instinct was to punch in the nose anyone who criticized her. But she had made him realize she wasn’t just any woman; she was a woman with a child lost in a jungle, a woman who had to bring her lost child safely home and who couldn’t afford headlines.

Lana continued to see Fred, and every other Sunday she would leave her lovely home on top of a hill in Beverly Hills, get behind the wheel of her Cadillac and make the long, sad drive to El Retiro to see Cheryl. Between the hours of one and three, on alternate Sundays, Lana was allowed to visit with Cheryl. Mother and daughter would sit on a wooden bench under an olive tree and talk. The talks were accomplishing a great deal. Lana was getting closer to her daughter; Cheryl, warming to the great love and devotion of her mother—a love and devotion she had once doubted—softened. She grew less bitter, more amenable to the rules of the school. She would never run away, she promised Lana. She had no need to now. She was beginning to see a future ahead.

It was a happy day for both Lana and Cheryl when the juvenile authorities made their first big concession.

Lana heard about it from the probation officer. “Your daughter will be allowed to go home with you one weekend a month.”

Tears sprang to Lana’s eyes. To be able to, finally, have her girl home, even for such a short time. The officer smiled gently and said, “I don’t blame you for being happy. I wonder if you realize exactly what this does mean. It means that Cheryl is making progress. This is a big step forward for your girl—being allowed to go home once a month. She herself earned this privilege. We don’t give it lightly.”

It was a happy Lana who drove to El Retiro on a Friday after that to pick up Cheryl. On the drive home, she and Cheryl chatted gaily. To herself, Lana thought. Thank God for this. Some day—maybe not too far away—my baby can come home with me for more than a weekend. Maybe forever.

There was a quiet celebration at home, but you couldn’t miss the joy in the faces. Lana’s mother was there. And Fred came over. Fred, looking stable, serene and ready to meet all problems.

After dinner, they sat before a fire. It was a moment of relaxation and confidences. “I’m trying to talk your mother into marrying me,” Fred said with the candor that Cheryl loves. Too many people have treated Cheryl as though she were a juvenile delinquent. She appreciates it when someone treats her as an adult.

“When your mother marries me,” he went on, “our home will be your home. In fact, I hope we’ll be able to offer you such a good, wholesome home, the authorities will let you leave the school and live with us.”

SUDDENLY, FOR THE FIRST TIME in her life, it seemed to Cheryl that there was a man in her mother’s life (outside of her father, Steve Crane, whom she loves) to whom she was also an important personality. The hostility and insecurity she’d known began to vanish.

She and Fred chatted easily. She asked him about the creatures she loves so much, some of the horses on Fred’s fourteen-acre breeding farm in Chino, a pleasant, wooded country outside of Los Angeles.

“How is my favorite, Rowena?” she asked. “And Pasha? Has he bred yet?”

Life came into Cheryl’s impassive face. Before her confinement to El Retiro, Cheryl had spent many pleasant weekends at the Circle May ranch, where there are over one-hundred and sixty horses which Fred keeps for breeding purposes. Cheryl and Fred had always gotten along well. He knew how to talk to teenagers. He has two teenagers of his own by a previous marriage, who often stay at the ranch.

Gazing into the fire brought back a memory—Cheryl thought back to the weekend when she and her mother and several other guests had stayed at the ranch. In the middle of the night, there’d been a knock on her door. It was Fred.

“There’s something going on in the stables that you’ll want to see, Cheryl. Come on down.”

Cheryl had slipped into jeans and T-shirt and sped down to the stables. Her eyes widened at the sight. A foal was being born. It was the first time she’d ever seen a foaling. The ranch foreman, who was helping the mare, let Cheryl stroke the frightened animal to comfort her. It was dawn when Cheryl looked up, her eyes shining. It had been quite the most wonderful night of her life.

TONIGHT WAS A GOOD NIGHT, also. She could see the warm looks exchanged between her mother and Fred. There was love there, and she could feel lots of it directed toward her as well. Cheryl asked Fred, “Fred, when can I come out to your ranch again?”

“We’ll plan it for a weekend you can come home. There’s lots going on at the ranch now. Rowena is waiting for you. So is your room. Everything is waiting for you.”

Lana watched Cheryl and Fred. Cheryl looked happier, her eyes no longer haunted, her face no longer strained. This was the way she’d dreamed of her daughter looking, young and carefree, anxious to go to the ranch, close to nature and normality.

The weekend at home over, Lana drove Cheryl back over the long road that led to El Retiro. Cheryl started to hum softly. Finally she spoke, “Mother, I’ve had a wonderful time being home with you. And I think Fred is a darling. Some day I want to go to the ranch and go horseback riding and do lots of things around the ranch. It will be such fun. We could have such a wonderful life, couldn’t we?”

“Some day it will happen. It really will, darling. Just be patient,” said Lana.

The future did seem brighter. Fred was like some secure haven.

She knew now that they wouldn’t have to wait any longer to marry. She would tell him that the first thing when she got home. The very first thing.


Lana’s latest picture will be BY LOVE POSSESSED, United Artists.



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