In the 1930s, Hollywood High School was known for having the potential to launch the careers of young aspiring actors and actresses.
One student who was able to turn this potential into reality was Lana Turner.
The Hollywood Reporter’s founder, Billy Wilkerson, discovered the 16-year-old while she was skipping typing class to grab a Coke with friends at a local malt shop.
Wilkerson was intrigued by Turner’s stunning beauty and self-possession, and asked the cafe manager to introduce them.
Turner was initially hesitant to meet with Wilkerson, but agreed after some persuasion. She reportedly told the manager, “Well, if you say so. But stay close.”
Despite the common belief that this encounter took place at Schwab’s Pharmacy, it actually happened at a different establishment.
Wilkerson then arranged for a meeting between Turner and her mother at his office and soon afterwards, he sent a recommendation note to agent Zeppo Marx, leading to the start of Turner’s career in Hollywood.
By 1938, Turner had signed a contract with director Mervyn LeRoy for $100 per week, which is equivalent to about $1,700 today.
According to her daughter, Cheryl Crane, Turner’s ambition at the age of 16 was to become a dress designer, but her outgoing personality made her a perfect fit for the role of a movie star.
Turner went on to become one of the most iconic actresses of the 1940s and 1950s. She starred in films such as “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Johnny Eager,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and “Peyton Place.”
She was also known for her scandalous personal life, including several high-profile relationships and marriages.
Despite her tumultuous personal life, Turner’s talent and beauty made her a beloved figure in Hollywood.
She received numerous awards and accolades throughout her career, including an Academy Award nomination for her role in “Peyton Place.”
Turner’s legacy continues to live on in the film industry, with many modern actresses citing her as an inspiration.
Her story of being discovered while skipping school serves as a reminder of the serendipity and opportunities that can arise in Hollywood.