In the mid-1940s, Gloria Grahame was the talk of town, and for all the right reasons.
The actress had her start in theater, but her talent and hard-work helped her land major roles in some of the biggest films at the time.
She made her silver screen debut in the 1944 film in Blonde Fever, then two years later, she appeared in It’s a Wonderful Life as the flirtatious Violet Bick.
By her third film, Crossfire (1947), she was in the running for the coveted Oscar.
Film noir siren
Despite her critically-acclaimed performances and the box-office success of the films she starred in, MGM Studios decided to end Gloria’s contract. They weren’t convinced that she had what it took to become a successful star.
Little did they know that they were making one of the biggest mistakes ever.
Gloria’s contract was moved to RKO Studios and 1947, and she set out to prove MGM wrong.
In the years that followed, her talent and timeless beauty was enough to earn her roles in a number of classic movies alongside famous leading men like Humphrey Bogart.
Her short, but stellar cameo in the 1950 film The Bad and the Beautiful earned her an Oscar. She held the record for the shortest performance to win an Academy Award, until Beatrice Straight beat her record in 1977.
Gloria also appeared in numerous television shows throughout the 60s, including The Fugitive, The Outer Limits, and Burke’s Law.
Still, her accomplishments aren’t what people remember the most about the notorious film noir siren.
Gloria’s career was filled with scandal early on, and by the late 70s, her star began to fade.
Gloria’s fall from grace happened fast, and frankly, she had no one but herself to blame.
She went from starring in big productions like Oklahoma! and living in a lavish mansion next to Humphrey Bogart, to sleeping in cheap hotels while waiting for callbacks for stage roles in London.
Not so lucky in love
It was her messy and tumultous love life that triggered her downfall.
In 1946, Gloria filed for divorce from her first husband, actor Stanley Clements, after less than a year of marriage.
During their separation, the couple worked out their problems and decided to get back together. However, their toxic relationship once again came to an end, after Gloria filed for an annulment in 1948, citing that Stanley was physically abusive.
The same day that the annulment was finalized, Gloria, who was four months pregnant with her first child, Timothy, got married for the second time.
This time she said “I do” to director Nicholas Ray, best known for his work on Rebel Without A Cause.
Nicholas later admitted that he was “infatuated by her [Gloria], but I didn’t like her very much.”
Their marriage was rocky, but things took a turn for the worse when Nicholas walked in on Gloria in bed with his 13-year-old son, Tony.
Of course, they were headed for a divorce after the unthinkable incident took place, but the reason why they broke up wouldn’t be made public for another decade.
Two failed marriages weren’t enough to stop Gloria from tying the knot again. She married producer Cy Howard in 1954, and they welcomed a daughter, Marianne Paulette, two years later.
Just like her previous relationships, Gloria’s marriage was unhappy, and she filed for divorce twice, citing “mental cruelty” as a reason. It was finalized in 1957.
Gloria appeared to have been enjoying being single in the years that followed.
But in 1962, it was revealed that she had secretly gotten married for the fourth and final time in a secret ceremony in Mexico.
The part that had everyone baffled was that her groom was none other than her stepson Tony.
As you can imagine, the actress received massive backlash when the public finally learned about her affair with Tony when he was a minor.
Gloria was quick to defend herself, saying: “I married Nicholas Ray, the director. People yawned. Later on I married his son and from the press’s reaction you’d have thought I was committing incest or robbing the cradle.”
She carried herself with confidence in front of the cameras, but in private, she was going through hell.
Dealing with depression
According to reports, the way the public handled the news of her relationship with Tony resulted in Gloria suffering a major breakdown.
The Human Desire star was also involved in a custody battle with Cy, and everything just became too much for her to handle.
She reportedly had to undergo electric shock therapy to treat her depression.
Despite everything, she managed to come out on top and make her marriage work for a while. In fact, her marriage to Tony lasted longer than any of her other ones.
During their 14-year union, they had two sons, Anthony Jr. and James.
Personally, things were looking up for Gloria and Tony, but when it came to her reputation and career, both took a huge hit.
Gloria eventually broke things off with Tony, and their divorced was finalized in 1974. The actress never faced any form of legal punishment for seducing a minor.
A few years later, she left Hollywood behind in pursuit of theater roles in London, England. That’s when she met and fell in love with actor Peter Turner.
A final shot at love
Gloria, who wasn’t a stranger to controversy, began another May-December romance with Peter, who was 30 years younger.
At the time, it was unsual and frowned upon for a young man to be involved with a woman much older than him.
However, society’s taboos did not faze Gloria or Peter.
“First friends and then lovers, we were an unlikely couple, and not just because she was almost 30 years older than me and had been married four times,” Peter said.
The couple became closer as time passed, and before long, Peter was flying across the pond with his belongings and moving into Gloria’s New York City apartment.
But, soon after making the big move, Gloria began to display bizarre behavior. She would disappear for days at a time without explanation, and that not only worried Peter, it also frustrated him.
He returned home, and did not communicate with the actress for a year.
Then came the unexpected phone call.
In 1981, Peter received a call from a theater in Lancaster informing him that Gloria had collapsed and was rushed to a hospital.
Upon reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend, he learned that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that is why she had been so distant.
Gloria was initially diagnosed in 1974, but after undergoing radiation, and making some lifestyle changes, she went into remission.
Unfortunately, the cancer returned in 1980, but this time around, she refused to seek out treatment. Despite her failing health, she continued to work, until she no longer could.
After her collapse, the hospital offered to perform surgery on her, but she refused. Instead she asked to spend her last days with Peter’s family in Liverpool.
“So began the sad six days in which Gloria lay dying upstairs in my parents’ house while I defied her wishes and contacted her eldest children and let them know that they needed to come as soon as possible,” Peter told The Sun.
Her children flew her back to New York City, where she was admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital. She died just a few hours after arrival at the age of 57.
Her remains were interred at the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetry in Chatsworth, Los Angeles.
Gloria’s life story, including the scandalous affair that rocked Hollywood, was retold in the 2017 film Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, starring Annette Bening and Jamie Bell.
“There is something unique about her and, God knows, about her personal life,” said Annette. “Looking at this connection she had with Peter, I’ve ended up thinking he must have been the gentlest, most loving, accepting person that she probably had ever been with.”
Even at the very end, Gloria chose to follow her heart, and spend her final moments with those she loved most.
For Peter, now 64 years old, that’s something he admired about Gloria. He told Closer Weekly that even after all that Gloria went through, she still chose love.
“It [the scandal] affected her big time, and I don’t think it’s anything she ever got over,” said Turner. “But she was brave, courageous, and continued trying to work as an actress… The idea of love meant a lot to her. She wrote me a lovely letter that said, ‘In this life, when we die, it’s only loving that’s important.’”
As for his relationship with Gloria, he said that he has no regrets at all.
“It was the most wonderful relationship,” he explained. “It changed my life enormously and resonates with me even now.”
Decades after her death, Gloria Grahame is still talked about, but it’s for all the wrong reasons.