Luana Lee was a very pretty girl who was literary born into acting – she came from a theatrical family, was on the stage from the age of 2 and considered a very talented child actress. Then she came to Hollywood after high school, with hopes of continuing her lucky strike. Sadly nothing much happened, and her career was over in a few short years. Let’s learn more about her!
Luana Lee Mehlberg was born on October 11, 1935 in Pasadena, California, to Ernest Mehlberg and Dorothy Meilbeck. Luana was sadly not the first Luana Lee Mehlerg – her older sister with the same moniker was born on September 10, 1934, but died at only a month old on October 12, 1934. Her father, who was about 45 years old when Luana was born, was wed twice previously but had no children.
Luana’s parents had long experience as dramatic teachers in such well-known schools as the Meglin Kiddies. In 1938 the Mehlbergs left for Detroit, Michigan, to establish their own dramatic and dancing school. Both Ernest and Dorothy were Michigan natives so it was like a homecoming for them. Luana was thus just 3 when she made her theatrical debut as the Christ Child in a Christmas pageant.
Luana became her parent’s star pupils during some 10 years they conducted the dramatic school in Detroit, where she also attended elementary school. But Luana was fired with ambition to become a movie star and returned to California in 1949. From then on, things began to happen. Luana enrolled at Hollywood High School because she had heard how Lana Turner was once a pupil there and how other girls had gone on from there to film fame. After a year, she left to enter the Hollywood Professional School.
Before she left Hollywood High she was called to MGM for a bit role as Janet Leigh’s sister in “Rosika the’ Rose” and an episode in “It’s a’ Big Country”. She appeared in little theaters and summer stock. After graduating from Professional School she worked two weeks in a department store sportswear department. Then a friends of hers, who had become head dispatcher of MGM messengers, called Luana to fill a messenger vacancy.
While she was a messenger in MGM, a stroke of good luck happened. Producer Arthur Freed saw screen possibilities in her and arranged for Gene Kelly to star in a test with her and also ty directed it. A contract resulted for Luana who then was given roles in two musicals “It’s Always Fair Weather” and “Kismet”.
And her career started!
Luana appeared in seven MGM features. Her first three were prestigious, high-budget musicals – however, this was the end of the golden age of musicals, and the movies show. Gone were the days of American in PAris and Rinsing in the rain – things were happening that were not kind to the movie musical genre. As in most cases on this page, Luana was uncredited in all of her movies.
Anyway, Luana’s first movie was It’s Always Fair Weather, bit of a more mature musical, a spiritual successor to the immensely popular on the Town. Three soldiers meet again after some years of being apart and slowly start to realize they have nothing in common. Three tio was played by Gene Kelly, Michael Kidd and Dan Dailey. Interesting cinematography, great dancing, good music, a bit more sombre story than usual – its still a musical with no great depth, but it’s definitely not bad. Plus there is Cyd Charisse to look at 🙂
THe next musical, Kismet, is very well made but never achieved a level of fame like other musicals. This Baghdadian fable with grand wiziers, harem dancers and beggar kings was helmed by Vincente Minnelli and based on a stage play which was re-made into a Broadway musical. The movie oversimplifies some things but adds plenty of others for some colorful, oriental entertainment. The cast is singularly MGM 1950s bonanza – Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray, Vic Damone… Nope, they are not Kelly and Astaire, but they were all very good singers and dancers. Music is based on Russian composer Borodin’s work, so it’s an very good update to the 20th century.
Luana’s third musical was Meet Me in Las Vegas – basic plot with nothing special to recommend it (a gambler and ballerina get lucky in gambling under special circumstance), but with great dancing by the leads and some nice music. Plus Lena Horne! She was a dream!
Luana was then moved to other kinds of MGM movies. The first was The Fastest Gun Alive, a very interesting western with an unusually story, low budget, but superbly made, without a lost second. Glenn Ford, never a great actor, is actually very good as a timid shopkeeper with a secret history who’s coerced into robbing a bank. Broderick Crawford plays the bully who manhandles him, and he’s simply perfect in these larger-than-life roles. Then came These Wilder Years, a low-key drama with James Cagney and Babs Stanyck. It deals with some very serious issues, and doesn’t have a leading man/lady romance, which I find very refreshing!
Afterwards came The Opposite Sex, a tame remake of The Women, a so-so comedy with some good performances (Dolores Gray!), but overall nothing special. Her last movie was Raintree County, an interesting movie, and for more than one reason. However heavy handed and with a sloppy script, it’s worth seeing to see Liz Taylor and Monty Clift together again.
And that as it from Luana!
She is 5 feet 7 inches weighs 120 pounds and has blonde hair and hazel eyes. When she was under contract to MGM, she did as all starlets did – got themselves into the papers with engineered romances. In 1954 thus Luana had a studio backed relationship with young hopeful Russ Tamblyn.
Luana ended her contract to MGM and and began freelancing, with some success in the beginning, as she had been chosen out of 200 aspirants to appear in the musical version of “Seventeen” at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. However, other things started to occupy her mind and acting would soon slip into obscurity.
Yes, for all the hubaloo over her burning desire to act and how she was literary born a thespian, Luana gave acting and Hollywood up and in 1959 married George V. Clark in Las Vegas, Nevada. This proved to be the right choice for her – they remained happily married.
The couple had six children: Christoph, born on January 18, 1960, Matthew, born on December 4, 1961, Daniel, born on March 13, 1963, Johnathan, born on July 21, 1964, Jason, born on September 30, 1966, and Christia, born on August 10, 1968.
Luana and her family lived in Orange, California, and allegedly dabbed in pet care.
Luan Lee Clark is still alive today, as always, I hope she has a happy life!