“Let’s drink to Gloria. Let’s drink to life.”
Peter Turner, an actor and former lover of film noir star Gloria Grahame, authored an account of her last days, Films Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. Gloria Grahame’s film career was hampered by personal scandal–including four marriages, an affair with her stepson (who became husband number 4), and nasty custody battles. In the 70s, Gloria traveled to England, performing plays, and it’s here that she met Turner. Their relationship moved to New York and to California, but when they broke up, Turner moved back to England.
On September 29th 1981, Turner received a phone call. Gloria was ill in a hotel in Lancaster. Turner, along with family members, collected Gloria from the hotel and took her to the family home in Liverpool. Gloria had been diagnosed with a huge stomach tumour the year before (earlier breast cancer metastasized to the stomach), but she rejected surgery, insisted she didn’t have cancer and traveled to England to perform on stage. Once in England, a doctor drained fluid from her stomach. Although no one was aware of it, this action perforated her bowel. Gloria was dying. The Turner family nursed Gloria in their home until some of her children arrived to take her back to New York.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is grim reading, and Gloria Grahame fans know how the story ends. Author Turner is not a professional writer, but the book is well written and Turner is obviously very comfortable with his style and his tale. Turner juxtaposes Gloria’s last days with memories of their relationship in happier times, and for the most part, the transitions back and forth are smooth. The most interesting parts of the book, however, are the details about Gloria–her taste in clothes, her health obsession, habits etc. The book pays homage to Gloria–an amazing actress, and a tremendously brave and tough person. Fans of Gloria Grahame will want to read this book as a companion piece to her biography Suicide Blonde by Vincent Curcio.