The King of the clarinet, Artie Shaw, was a great hero the big band and swing jazz age. His off the chart talent, good looks, and sex drive made him the dream of every gossip columnist. He went through a pile of marriages, eight in total, including some of the biggest film stars of the day like Ava Gardner and Lana Turner. All while having a fair share of affairs with the likes of Betty Grable and World War II pinup beauty Rita Hayworth. Not surprisingly, two of his marriages were annulled and the others all ended in divorce.
Jane Cairns - Wife #1
(1932–33; annulled) While Artie Shaw’s career began to take off and his artistic skill grew, his personal life took on a life of its own. He first married Jane Cairns, a typist, in 1932 (this was the first of his eight wives). Very little is known about her and the picture here is not actually her because none seems to exist. Their marriage was annulled after only a year.
Margaret Allen - Wife #2
(1934–37 Divorced) Artie Shaw married again the following year to Margaret Allen. They started dating officially after his divorce from Jane and dated for 1 year prior to being wed. The marriage lasted for 3 years before ending in divorce in 1937. Again no picture is known to exist (this one is for fun, but I promise all the other photos are legit).
Artie Shaw Goes Hollywood
Tabloids in the 1940s were not much different than they are today. With Shaw’s rise in star power so his personal life became the gossip of the country. Following these failed non-celebrity marriages, and due to his subsequent non-stop stream of glamorous love affairs, Artie’s swim in the “fame” crowd received a lot of undesired attention in the scandal columns.
Lana Turner - Wife #3
(1940 Divorced) Actress Lana Turner (Julia Jean Turner: February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995) was Artie’s first famous wife. Lana worked in film, television, theater, and radio. She was famous as both a dramatic actress and a pin-up model. She became one of the highest-paid women in the film industry. As one of the all-time most glamorous film stars, during World War II, U.S. fighter planes would have her painted image on the noses, with the nickname “Tempest Turner.”
After 28-year-old big bandleader, Artie Shaw met Lana on the film set for “Dancing Co-ed,” eloped in Las Vegas In February 1940. Though they had just met and barely knew each other, after only one date they decided to get married. Turner felt “stirred by his eloquence,” and on the spot, the two went for it. This surprise wedding was a bonanza for the media and a nightmare for MGM film executives who had a lot invested in Lana Turner’s success and were not impressed with her “impulsive behavior.” While married to Artie, Lana starred in a drama We Who Are Young, where she plays a woman who marries their coworker against employer’s policy. Needless to say, the marriage did not last long, ending after only a few months. Soon after the divorce, Lana discovered she was pregnant. Shaw questioned whether he was indeed the father, so with the help of MGM she secretly aborted the baby. The press, of course, reported that she was being hospitalized for “exhaustion.”
Lana Turner was in many relationships of her own. Here are a few of the famous people that came in and out of her life:
- 1936: Wayne Morris, a fighter pilot hero in World War II.
- 1937: Ronald Reagan a studio-arranged romance,
- 1938: Mickey Rooney who claimed he was “her first” and further claimed to have impregnated her which resulted an abortion, though Lana disputed this vehemently.
- 1938: Greg Bautzer, attorney to the rich and the famous and notorious ‘ladies’ man’ became a serious relationship when she was just 17. Sadly he was two-timing her with Joan Crawford and Lana ended it.
- 1939-45: Robert Stack dated her many times between serious relationships as kind of ‘back-up’ boyfriend.
- 1940: Artie Shaw: Husaband #1 Immediately after an argument with Greg Bautzer, who had stood her up, Lana ran off to Vegas with Shaw. though she had told others that she didn’t particularly like him, he discussed his philosophy of life on the drive to Vegas, and she said she fell in love. That night they married only to divorce four months later, having discovered that they had nothing in common at all.
- 1941: Victor Mature and Lana dated right before the December ’41 attack on Pearl Harbor, but the romance was ill-fated due to his infatuation for Rita Hayworth.
- 1941: Tony Martin, the singer, had just divorced Alice Faye when he met Lana while working together on Ziegfeld Girl (1941). They were briefly engaged to be married but it just fizzled out and he went on to marry bombshell Cyd Charisse in 1948.
- 1941: Robert Taylor and Lana were filming Johnny Eager together and when the steamy love senes continued after the director yelled “cut” Barbara Stanwyck, Taylor’s wife, marched on to set to warn Lana to “back off.” Lana did, only after Taylor told her he was ready to leave his wife for her. Apparently, she just was not that into him.
- 1941-45: Gene Krupa: Lana was a lover of good music, and this was one of the things for a short while that had attracted her to Artie Shaw. Friends of hers were convinced that she would have married (of the Benny Goodman orchestra) drummer Gene Krupa except for his marijuana habit.
During World War II she dated a long list of other famous musicians.
- 1942: George Montgomery and Lana were an pretty serious only a year before he got hitched to singer Dinah Shore.
- 1942: Frank Sinatra and Lana were lovers even while he was still married to Nancy and again after he was married to Ava Gardner.
- 1942: Stephen Crane Husband #2 dated Lana briefly and they quickly wed. However, Stephen was still married to his first wife at the time, though a divorce was in process. Pregnant at the time and not wanting her child to be illegitimate, they annulled the marriage and got remarried as soon as his first divorce was final in July 1943, only to divorce in August 1944.
- 1944: Turhan Bey, the Austrian actor dated Lana for a time, but his mommy didn’t approve so he was “forced” to end the relationship. Fifty years after this cowardly act, at a party, he bumped into Lana and told her that she “was the love of his life.” (too little too late for that Momma’s boy).
- 1946: Tyrone Power fresh off divorce with Annabella became romantically entangled with Lana. he knocked her up and she desperately wanted to be his wife. He did not want a kid so she promised to get an abortion. While he was out on a 12-week tour she was seeing Sinatra and he had fallen in love with Linda Christian whom he went on to marry. Lana was devastated, and always claimed that Tyrone Power, was the love of her life. Sigh.
- 1947: Peter Lawford was in love with Turner, and though they spent time together dating and whatnot, it was pretty much a one-way street.
- 1948: J. “Bob” Topping Jr. Husband #3: Lana married the millionaire after he showered her with bling. They took off on a luxurious 5-month long honeymoon and Lana loved her new lifestyle of the super-rich and famous until she lost their baby and divorced him in 1952.
- 1951: Fernando Lamas: A hot-tempered man who was her co-star in The Merry Widow and Lana’s lover for a season. It all came apart at a memorable party. Take notes, cause this is the ultimate musical chair event. Ben Gage and his wife Esther Williams along with Lex Barker and his wife Arlene Dahl were sitting at a Marion Davies party table with Fernando and Lana. Barker asked Lana to dance and the jealous Fernando took offense and a violent altercation ensued. That ended the relationship between Lamas and Lana but started a whole nother thing: Lana ended up marrying Barker and Lamas married Esther Williams and Arlene Dahl (not at the same time! I know it is weird but not that weird!)
- 1952: Lex Barker Husband #4 and the drama continues. Barker and Lana dated for a year before getting married in 1952. On the heels of suffering the loss of another baby, Lana’s mother informed her that Lana’s daughter, Cheryl (the child from Crane: Husband #2) was being sexually abused by Barker. Lana immediately kicks Barker out of the house without explaining why. Barker yells, “Whatever your daughter told you, it’s a lie!” Cheryl the daughter had not been mentioned as a cause for the eviction… you be the judge!
- 1955: Richard Burton claimed that when they worked on The Rains of Ranchipur together, he seduced Lana.
- 1958: Sean Connery and Lana were rumored to have an off screen “connection” While making Another Time, Another Place in London. Lana’s boyfriend at the time, Johnny Stompanato, believed the rumor and showed up on set to challenge Sean Connery to a fight. The Scotsman knocked Johnny out with a single punch.
- 1958: Johnny Stompanato: In ‘57 Lana started a relationship with a guy called Johnny Steele. Only later, after being deeply involved with him did she learn his real name, Johnny Stompanato. Johnny was mobster Mickey Cohen’s bodyguard and Johnny was big trouble. He hit Lana regularly. On Easter in 1958, in Lana’s bedroom, he was stabbed to death. Cheryl (Lana’s daughter)was booked for his murder but the court deemed it ‘justifiable homicide’ and she went free. Many believe that Cheryl took “the rap” for her mom and quite possibly she did.
- 1959: Fred May Husband #5: A seemingly amiable guy, Fred, and Lana lived together a year prior to marrying in ‘60. Everything seemed great, they were getting along well… maybe too well. They divorced in’62 and no one could figure out why the marriage didn’t last. Poor Fred died two years later (probably of a broken heart).
- 1965: Robert Eaton Husband #6: Ten years the junior to Lana when they married. Her friends warned her that he was a gold digger, of course, she did not heed their warning. Well, at least not until she came home from shooting a film and found him with another woman! They divorced in 1969.
- 1969: Ronald Dante Husband #7 What could go wrong when you marry a long-haired Biker dude who works as a nightclub hypnotist? I think this is the one that broke that camels back. After Ronald, she never married again. At first, he made her feel young (or is that what he wanted her to think?) but like all the other jerks in her life, he ended up breaking her heart and stealing her money, which led to their divorce (duh) in1972.
Betty Kern - Wife #4
(1941–1943 Divorced) Elizabeth Jane “Betty” Kern Miller was the daughter of songwriter Jerome Kern. son Steven Kern (by Betty Kern) Though Artie was busy with the music of Second Chorus in 1940 which earned him two Academy Award nominations, He was not too busy to get married. The couple had one son, Steven. But since we are only halfway through our list of Artie Saw wives you already know that the relationship couldn’t last.
Ava Lavinia Gardner - Wife #5
(1945-1946 Divorced) Shaw tried marriage with yet another actress and singer, Ava Gardner. They were divorced in less than a year. Ava was married first to Mickey Rooney, but because he was a “serial adulterer,” Ava divorced him in 1943. Her second attempt at marriage with Artie Shaw was equally brief. Gardner’s last marriage (from 1951 to 1957) was to crooner/singer Frank Sinatra. In her autobiography, she said that Frank was the love of her life. The Sinatra/Gardner marriage was not easy. Gardner would run to confided in Artie Shaw (ex-husband #2 and ex-wife #5), “With him (Sinatra), it’s impossible… It’s like being with a woman. He’s so gentle. It’s as though he thinks I’ll break, as though I’m a piece of Dresden china, and he’s gonna hurt me.”
Other significant lovers in her life:
Gardner appeared many films including:
Kathleen Winsor - Wife #6
(1946–48; Annulled) Seemingly eager to supply the gossip columnists with more non-stop celebrity drama, Artie Shaw married novelist Kathleen Winsor. Kathleen had risen to fame for her first work, published in 1944 the historical novel Forever Amber; a 972-page long book that had been edited down to one-fifth of its original manuscript. It was widely criticized for its glaring sexual references. 14 U.S. states called it pornography and banned it. But as they say ‘any publicity is good publicity.’ the movie rights were purchased within a month and Forever Amber became one of the top-selling American novels that year, selling over 100,000 copies in the first week and going on to sell over 3 million copies.
Becoming a celebrity with the success of Forever Amber, Kathleen didn’t want to go back to her first husband Herwig and they divorced in 1946. Only 10 days later, she married clarinetist, Artie Shaw. this is all the odder since just two years before he had scolded Ava Gardner (his then-wife #5) for reading the “trashy novel” Forever Amber. In 1948, two years after it began, the marriage to Artie ended. Winsor went on to marry Arnold Krakower, her divorce attorney. That marriage also ended in divorce. Finally in 1953 with Kathleen’s fourth marriage to Paul A. Porter the marriage lasted “till death do you part.”
Doris Dowling - Wife #7
(1952–56 Divorce) Artie Shaw married actress Doris Dowling. She had started as a Broadway chorus girl but traveled to join her sister Constance in Hollywood and begin a career in film. After marrying Artie they had a son, Jonathan, before divorcing in 1956. That same year, Dowling married Robert F. Blumofe, a film executive. That marriage ended in 1959. The following year, 1960, She married Leonard Kaufman, they remained married until her death in 2004.
Evelyn Louise Keyes - Wife #8
She was first married to Barton Oliver Bainbridge Sr. in 1938 until his suicide in 1940. She later would write of the personal sacrifice she made by having an abortion right before the filming of Gone with the Wind, and that the abortion had made her unable to bear children. After that, she married and then divorced director Charles Vidor. Evelyn tried again with actor and director John Huston. When big bandleader Artie Shaw walked into her life I think both of them were ready to settle down a bit and for 28 years they remained married.
Artie Shaw's other partners
So Now that we have gone through Artie Shaw’s spouses, it is time to look at some of his other partners. This fully falls in the realm of gossip and the “he said-she said” world.
Clearly, as brilliant as a clarinetist Artie Shaw was, he needed relationship counseling. Artie was a charmer and a player, but was he anyone you would want to live with? I think the vote is pretty unanimous… no. Both Ava Gardner and Lana Turner describe Shaw as having been extremely emotionally abusive. His incessant verbal abuse and controlling nature drove Lana to a nervous breakdown, after which Turner divorced him.