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Schwab’s Drug Store: Where Lana Turner Was Not Discovered

Sweater girl: Lana Turner

Sweater girl: Lana Turner

In its five decades at the epicenter of the movie industry’s comings and goings on the Sunset Strip, Schwab’s Drug Store was a lot of things — a movie industry meeting place, restaurant, soda fountain, liquor store, tourist attraction and, oh yeah, a pharmacy.

But there was one thing Schwab’s was not. Despite the persistent myth otherwise, it was not where Lana Turner was discovered.

Here’s the myth: In January 1937, 16-year-old Judy Turner ditched high school to grab a Coke at Schwab’s. Mervyn Le Roy, the famous movie director, happened to be seated at the counter that day. He couldn’t help noticing the attractive young lady. Sure, she was wearing a tight sweater but what really got the director’s attention was Judy’s wholesome beauty. The director introduced himself and offered her a screen test. The test was boffo, and the studio offered her a contract on the spot. Judy changed her name to Lana and, after making a movie or two, she was Lana Turner, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald Dies in Sheilah Graham’s Apartment on Hayworth

F. Scott Fitzgerald

On the surface of it, it seems strange that F. Scott Fitzgerald died in an apartment off the Sunset Strip. But on Dec. 21, 1940, the shortest day of the year, Scott suffered a fatal heart attack in the apartment of the British-born gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham, at 1443 N. Hayworth Ave. [map], just south of Sunset Blvd.

What makes it strange is that, in his prime years, Scott and his wife Zelda were such a part of the East Coast literary set and were so closely associated with the Lost Generation of American exiles living in Paris during the 1920s — along with Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas — that, had his life played out like the plot of his novels, by rights he should have died in Greenwich Village or a Parisian garret.

But he died in Hollywood, in Miss Graham’s apartment — a fact which proved to be awkward, given the tenor of the times, because Scott and Sheilah had been in love and sharing digs for three years, even though Zelda Fitzgerald was still very much alive, though institutionalized with mental illness — and Zelda and Scott were still very much married.

F. Scott Fitzgerald came to Hollywood for the same reason many of his East Coast literary colleagues did. He was strapped for cash. In fact, his arrival in 1931 was his second run at success in the Movie Colony. He’d brought Zelda with him in 1927 when had been invited out to work on script for Constance Talmadge. United Artists rejected the script, however, and the Fitzgeralds returned east.

It was then that Zelda was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized in a sanitarium outside Asheville, N.C. Scott returned to Hollywood. In 1937, he moved into Villa #1 at the Garden of Allah Hotel. It was there that he worked on the script for the Rita Hayworth vehicle, “Red-Headed Woman.”

“He is famous even in Hollywood, where his meteoric arrivals and departures are discussed in film circles as avidly as they discuss themselves,” wrote Dorothy Spear in a 1933 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

In “A Taste of Hemlock,” published in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 19, 1965, Joseph Scott III described the Garden of Allah’s role as the epicenter for the movie colony’s cultural elite:

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