Lana Turner's story is the stuff of Hollywood legends. One afternoon in 1936, Turner skipped class at Hollywood High School to get a soda at a Sunset Boulevard soda fountain. While sitting at the counter, Turner was spotted by William Wilkerson, publisher of movie magazine The Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson approached Turner (then known as Julia Turner) asking if she'd like to be in pictures. This chance meeting led to a small role in the 1937 film, They Won't Forget. As the murder victim at the center of the plot, Turner wore a tight, fitted sweater. Though her on-screen appearance was brief, Turner was a hit. Audience response cards and fan mail begged for more of the "Sweater Girl," aka Lana Turner.
Throughout the 1930s and '40s, Turner starred in succession of films, including a highly praised performance in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Off-screen, Turner's personal life also had a cinematic arc. Turner reportedly enjoyed Hollywood nightlife, and was romantically linked with a succession of married and unmarried men. Turner's life both off and on the screen was well-covered in the press. The rate at which Turner switched romantic partners was considered somewhat scandalous, and MGM sometimes engaged in damage control regarding Turner's personal life. For example, when Turner slashed her wrist in the wake of her 1951 divorce from her third husband, the press reported that she cut herself in the shower. This type of misinformation campaign was not unique; studios frequently engaged in damage control to protect their assets, i.e. their film stars.
In 1952, Lana Turner starred in The Bad and the Beautiful. The ultimate Hollywood insider's film, The Bad and the Beautiful relates the story of successful but Machiavellian director Jonathan Shields. According to film buffs, both the characters and specific events in the film were inspired by members of the Hollywood elite. Told from the perspectives of a director, an actress and a writer who each worked closely with Shields, the film chronicles the downward spiral of their individual relationships with the director. Turner plays Georgia Lorrison, a young actress discovered by Shields. Their relationship turns romantic, but Shields throws Lorrison aside for a young, ambitious extra. Despite this romantic setback, Lorrison's career blossoms and she ultimately becomes an extremely successful film star.
At the premiere of her first film, Lorrison carries the clutch purse pictured above. Embellished with sequins, small shells and meandering embroidery, this zippered clutch was designed to shine on-screen. The film is in black and white, so this pale-pink clutch registers primarily as a handful of white sparkles. On the interior a label reads "John-Frederics/Made to Order." A New York based milliner, John-Frederics had worked with Hollywood at least once before, designing headwear for the 1939 film Gone With the Wind.
Though John-Frederics designed this clutch, The Bad and the Beautiful costume designer was Helen Rose. Born in Chicago, Rose began her costume design career making vaudeville costumes for 37 1/2 cents per hour. She eventually moved to Los Angeles and began working at MGM after Adrian's departure in 1943. Rose worked her way up, becoming head costumer at MGM by 1949. Her work on The Bad and the Beautiful earned Rose an Academy Award for best costumes in a black and white film. In her 1976 book "Just Make Them Beautiful", Rose described Lana Turner as "one of the most fastidious stars I ever worked with. At the end of a long, hard day of shooting, her clothes looked as though they had never been worn."1
1 Rose, Helen. "Just Make Them Beautiful": The Many Worlds of a Designing Woman. California: Dennis-Landman. 1976: 93-94.