Sunday, 23 August 2009

Gene Tierney

"The woman with the Mona Lisa smile who left us haunting images of her presence on screen forever remembered as 'the face in the misty light.'" Neil Doyle

With my obsession and passion for old films, I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon not only a semi decent old film on Film 4 this Sunday afternoon, but that the female holding the staring role was an actress who's name I'd somehow failed to have come across before. Her penetrating stare and wavy deep brown curls jumped from the blackness of the screen , enchanting me into the movie. Watching Laura - an American noir film released in 1944 is plotted around the hunt for the murderer of Laura Hunt - a highly glamorous and beautiful advertising executive, I was welcomed into the dark allure and the glamour of the face of Gene Tierney.

Hereby starting an afternoon in search of drawing out any possible information regarding his starlet. Born in New York into a privileged family, Gene Tierney (1920-1991) was told by Ukrainian Director Anatole Litvak, to become an actress after a visit to the Warner Brothers Studios at the age of seventeen. Nevertheless due to her parents dissatisfaction at her projected contracted studio wage, Tierney instead became a society D├ębutante. It was only after growing tried of high society that she chose to start her acting career against her fathers wishes.

Ranted 71st in Premiere Magazine's 100 Sexiest Movie Stars of All Time, Tierney began her career with a run of Broadway shows starting with 1938's What a Life! Signing with 20th Century Fox in 1940, Tierney made her movie debut in the western The Return of Frank James. With numerous leading roles under her silk stockings, the noir film Laura became her most famous leading role. Moreover, like Betty Grable she became a famous pin up girl during World War II for the American army.

While appearing in 37 films, her personal life came to overshadow her talents, her life many believe became the narrative within Agatha Christie's thriller The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side. Married twice, after contracting Rubella from a fan during her pregnancy, her first daughter was born prematurely with severe mental and physical disabilities. It this is event which is rumoured to have triggered Tierney's bipolar disease, which during the 1953 filming of The Left Hand of God with Humphrey Bogart, Tierney was forced to face her problems. Admitted for severe treatment, she was subjected to 27 shock treatments - a procedure she spoke out radically against, blaming it for her significant memory loss.

While many critise her persona for her aloof and cold acting mannerisms, her unspoken, unknown problems calls through her eyes, they are dark, enchanting yet dangerous, although her often stares at us so directly they are glazed and hidden. A troubled and tortured mind this radiates through into her brooding melancholy roles heightening them through her personalised troubled life.

"Life is a little like a message in a bottle, to be carried by the winds and the tides." Gene Tierney

Selected Filmography: The Return of Frank James (1940), Tobacco Road (1941), Bella Starr (1941), Sundown (1941), The Shanghi Gesture (1941), China Girl (1942), Laura (1944), Dragonwyck (1946), The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947), That Wonderful Urge (1948), Whirlpool (1949), Night and City (1950), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), Black Widow (1954), The Left Hand of God (1955), See Imbd for more films.


  1. Fantastic post on a fantastic actress....

  2. Utterly adore Gene - wasnt she so mesmerizing and beautiful? A totally captivating woman who really did endure alot of heartache (Hollywood frowned upon her first marriage and made it a bit of a nightmare for her, her father let her down in a big way financially and emotionally, then the pain of her daughters disability that was caused from her - Gene - assisting at the Hollywood Cafe during the second world war where she caught Rubella - I doubt I would have been able to cope with the (undeserved)guilt of that either. We Mum's tend to crucify ourselves a bit !!) Really enjoyed your post on this remarkable and stunning woman !