Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gene Tierney

I know very little about Gene Tierney's film career, but I recently read her autobiography and just had to say something.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Gene is her total lack of pretention. People usually say that about Ava Gardner, but in my opinion, it is far more true of Gene. Ava Gardner lacked inhibitions. There is a difference.

If I were to describe Gene, I would say she was down to earth, self-possessed, modest without being self-effacing, self-aware, refreshingly self-accepting, and a very genuine human being. Apppearance-wise, she reminds me of a plumper, brunette Grace Kelly, but without her hint of affectation (don't kill me for that one).

That, to me, is what most people leave out when they talk about Tierney--her admirable personal qualities. Not only does she come actoss as level-headed, she seems as though it never occured to her to be any other way. You would not usually think that of a person who suffered from mental illness.

Gene Tierney's account of her struggle with what was most likely bipolar disorder is the heart of her book. Aside from taking up most of the pages writing about it, the descriptions of her delusions are scary and probably very enlightening as to what an ill person suffers from. (I say probably because in spite of what some people think, I am perfectly sane myself and can't know for sure.) Gene relates how she was convinced people were trying to poison her, the guilt she felt about her daughter;s retardation, and her experiences in mental institutuions. One incident was particularly disturbing to read. Gene willing put herself in the hopeless cases ward of one hospital after she thought she heard the patients there making animal noises. She decided she had to teach them more dignified behavior, got herself admitted, and found out a few weeks later that the sounds had come from a nearby zoo.

Gene Tierney is also renowned as a great beauty, and while I disagree somewhat with that assertion, she does claim she wore no makeup in her films after Laura. To look like that without makeup...well, that certainly says something right there about the way she looked.


Alexis said...

Your analysis is very poignant. I agree whole heartedly with your statement about Ava Gardner...
How was the book itself? What was it called?
I read or heard somewhere that Gene Tierney had a number of molars removed to help her cheekbones look the way they did. Crazy!
Have you seen Leave Her to Heaven? That movie is DARK but awesome! Jeanne Craine, Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in a super envious drama--oh yeah!

Thanks for the post--it was well done.

Merriam said...

Thank you for your kind comment! The book was called Self-Portrait, and it was absolutely amazing. It's a very quick read and it is focused far more on her personal life than her career, which I prefer.

Had her molars removed?? Wow, that's certainly an extreme to go to for, um, hollow cheeks! I'm afraid I haven't really seen all of any of Gene's films, at least that I can remember, which bothers me a lot since I want to very much! Thank you for the recommendation. I've heard that is one of her best performances.

Anonymous said...

Note: Do not believe everything you "hear". Gene never had any teeth pulled for "hollow cheek bones". In fact, she was one of the ONLY actresses during this time to totally dictate her own appearance. No dyed hair, no shaved eyebrows, no plucked hairline, no hair cuts. And certainly NO pulled molars. She wouldn't even have her slight overbite corrected as she felt that it was part of her "not quite perfect" looks. Read her book "Self-Portrait" and I suggest doing some in-depth research before you make assumptions about her teeth, or lack thereof. She died in 1980 of COPD (also called emphasema)due to smoking all her life to lower her voice. It worked but at a cost. Her 1st daughter was born with severe health problems due to Gene contracting Rubella (German Measles) while she made her ONE appearance at the Hollywood Canteen during WWII. It was found out later at a tennis party that there was a woman who ditched isolation (she had Rubella) to "meet her favorite movie star and give her a kiss". Little did this woman know what she ultimately caused to happen to Gene and her baby girl.
Gene was married to Oleg Cassini, engaged to a prince, and married Hedy Lamars ex-husband, an oil tycoon, and lived in Texas. She is buried next to him there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments about Gene Tierney.

While I've also heard generally good things about Miss Tierney, despite her mental illness, there is one notable exception.
You should rent the DVD 'Leave Her To Heaven'. It is a haunting, sad, yet wonderful film.
But, on the DVD commentary by Darryl Hickman, who is probably the sole surviving actor from this movie, he says that Miss Tierney made it especially difficult for him and Cornel Wilde during the production of this film. Hickman concludes that he is still baffled by her odd behavior, but he feels that perhaps she did it to get 'into character'.

Anonymous said...

To my eyes Gene Eliza Tierney is the most naturally
beautiful woman I have ever seen.