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Sex Is Not Enough!—Lana Turner

When I was a teen-ager I was known as whistle-bait.

According to one writer, I possessed “the kind of figure men looked at twice, because they didn’t believe it the first time.”

I was physically precocious. Men found me attractive; boys considered me pleasant; and my ego found the combination completely satisfying.

More important still, my physical charms were responsible for my getting into motion pictures.

Back in 1937, when Billy Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, saw me sipping a coke in a drug store across from Hollywood Boulevard, he was not impressed by my mind. He felt that I had the kind of photogenic face and figure that belonged in motion pictures, and he insisted that I go see Zeppo Marx, an agent.

Zeppo thought I had possibilities, and turned me over to one of his assistants. For five months, we saw the casting director at every studio in town. They all turned me down, which was when the realization first started to dawn on me that sex or sex appeal isn’t enough.

The casting directors wanted to know if I could sing, if I could dance; what sort of dramatic training I’d had; what pictures I’d played in. Had I ever been in summer stock?

“Sure, you have loads of sex appeal,” one casting man agreed, “but so have a million other girls.”

Fortunately for me, Mervyn LeRoy at that point in his life and mine, needed a young girl for one scene in a picture called They Won’t Forget.

This girl was to be a high-school girl dressed in a tight sweater. She was to walk down the steps of her high school, the camera panning with her, revealing her every curve. Later on, she was to be ravaged and murdered.

Mervyn gave me the part. I had the physical endowments to play it.

The role was a small bit, but from that point on I became typed. Lana Turner Ines came synonymous with sex.

AM neither anti-Freudian nor a debunker of sex. But I should like to go on record as saying that sex isn’t everything in life, and that a girl who has only sex appeal to offer won’t keep a man very long.

As a matter of fact, she won’t keep a screen career very long, either. The best quality for longevity on the screen is talent. There is no other substitute.

I found that out during the making of Love Finds Andy Hardy, Dancing Co-ed, Ziegfeld Girl, Johnny Eager, Honky Tonk, and all the rest of the pictures that went to make up my apprenticeship.

I have also learned from my three marriages that there is infinitely more to love than physical attraction; love is basically a state of mind.

Every day I receive dozens of letters from young girls who are sick at heart because they lack beauty or sex appeal.

I’m not going to get into trouble by naming names, but here in Hollywood there are many actresses who have neither beauty nor high sex quotients. What they have most of all is personality.

Beauty without personality, sex appeal without substance, are tempting come-ons that upon examination, fade into nothingness.

I know, because in my time I have dated some of the most handsome men this world has to offer. Sex appeal oozed from them. They were built like Apollos, but they were about as interesting as laundry lists.

I remember one young actor I dated when I was single, largely because his studio thought the publicity might do him some good. Wed go dancing at a night club, and he’d keep asking, “How do I look?” When he wasn’t worried about his looks, he was either running a comb

through his hair or grimacing to attract the attention of other patrons. He suffered from a Narcissus complex, spoke only about himself, and while occasionally, he stumbled over the truth about himself, he always recovered and rambled on as if nothing had happened.

On the other hand, take a man like Spencer Tracy. Spence isn’t the most handsome guy in the world, and maybe he doesn’t exude sex—but what a personality! What warmth! What interest! What kindness! What gentleness!

These are qualities that last longer than sex, because a positive correlation exists between sex and passion, and passion as everyone knows, fades with the years. But personality, warmth and gentility are enhanced by time.

These are the traits most young girls should cultivate. These are the traits I try to cultivate in Cheryl, my own daughter.

Sex appeal is important, sure. But as any married couple will testify, it takes more than sex to hold a marriage together.

It takes children, mutuality of purpose, self-sacrifice, understanding, a sense of humor, and the ability to put up with little idiosyncrasies.

I, for example, have more than my share. For some strange reason, I feel frightened at large social gatherings. Put me in a room with more than 10 or 12 people, and I’m uneasy. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. Invariably, the last thing I say to my husband before we step into a crowded room is, “Darling, don’t leave me.”

Bob understands my uneasiness and puts up with it. By the same token, I understand his love for deep-sea fishing. As a result, I’ve become a deep-sea fisherwoman myself. A few years ago down in the Bahamas, I pulled in a tuna that weighed more than 300 pounds. When I was a girl, you couldn’t get me to go fishing for love or money.

I believe that a realization of the relative importance of sex is a part of growing up. When a girl is young, sex appeal is probably the most vital thing in life to her. She imagines that her face and figure are her paramount enticements. Boys, she will tell you, are not interested in her scholarly attainments, her athletic ability, or her knowledge of languages.

That, at least, is what I used to think. I know now that I was wrong. I know now that if I’d had the proper dramatic training to go with my physical endowments, my motion picture career would have progressed at a faster rate than it did.

Boys are interested in anything a smart girl wants them to be interested in. Girls with brains and personality marry men of stability and good will. Girls who offer nothing but beauty and sex usually wind up in the divorce courts.

I am not running sex down. I agree that it is an underlying motive in all human conduct, but I happen to feel that too much emphasis has been put upon it not only where I, personally, have been concerned, but in our day-to-day living.

Only recently, I read a book entitled, “The Folklore of Sex,” in which the author said: “The American public will not take a work of fiction to its heart if the story does not imply that unconventional sex behavior is the nastiest and tastiest business imaginable.”

Much the same thing has been said about motion pictures. I just don’t believe it.

Sex alone will sell nothing.

Sex appeal is helpful in gaining entry either into a man’s consciousness or a man’s business, but sex alone will never capture any man’s heart permanently.

Some of you will undoubtedly say that ever since Adam, men have been interested in sex, and that around your particular neighborhood that still holds true.

Maybe so, but it’s been my experience that men fall hardest and quickest for girls who are pleasant, cheerful, witty, and good-natured.

You’ve all read a good deal about Marlene Dietrich, how even though she’s past 50 she still has men pursuing her every Tuesday and Thursday. The reason Marlene is so attractive to men is because she’s good-natured. She’s always been good-natured even in the days when her legs were featured more than her wit.

Myrna Dell, a young actress who was recently married, is another Hollywood girl who always had plenty of beaux. And for that same reason, too. She knew how to swap gags with the boys and remain feminine in the process.

Janet Leigh, before she was married to Tony Curtis, was popular with most of the young Hollywood eligibles, because she, too, is sweet, perennially cheerful, and the possessor of a wonderful sense of humor.

Ann Sheridan and Ava Gardner are two more cases in point. Each of these girls offers charm, personality, and good humor before sex appeal.

Ive seen Ava walking around Hollywood in glasses and blue jeans, looking as simple and plain and unrecognized as the girl next door. Despite her sex appeal—and it’s considerable—men go for Ava because she has a mind like lightning, quick and flashing.

Even in Hollywood where sex supposedly is all-important, it has always taken a backseat to talent.

Give any casting director or producer the choice between an intelligent, not-so-pretty girl who can act, and a pretty, not-so-intelligent girl who can’t—and the talent will always win.

Debbie Reynolds, Mitzi Gaynor, Pier Angeli, Leslie Caron—all of today’s newcomers are young girls who have specialized talent.

It’s not that sex has gone out of fashion, because it definitely hasn’t. It’s just that here in Hollywood, we’ve come to realize that the trouble with sex appeal is it’s only skin-deep.

For lasting happiness, a girl needs something much more solid and enduring than that.



(Lana Turner can be seen in MGM’s Mr. Imperium.—Ed.)



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