Classic Hollywood #49 – Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney with hat

There is a lot that can be written about Gene Tierney (1920-1991), but I’ll keep it brief because her life has been well documented and Gene wrote her autobiography Self Portrait in 1979 which candidly told of her many ups and downs.

One thing most film aficionados agree on is that Gene Tierney was one of the most beautiful stars to ever grace the silver screen. During the height of her film career in the 1940s she adorned the covers of hundreds of magazines. She wasn’t just beautiful, she was stunningly drop dead gorgeous.

But even a beauty like Gene Tierney felt her face was flawed. The one thing she was quite self-conscious of was her teeth.

In a 1948 interview with Hearst syndicated columnist Sally Young, Gene revealed she was quite unhappy with her front teeth because they protruded slightly. “I’d talk out of the side of my mouth in order not to show my teeth,” she said.

Gene said she had tried all sorts of weird effects with lipstick, broadening her lips with huge splotches of color that would overshadow her teeth. That just made things worse. She went to dentists to straighten her teeth, but no one would touch them. “One dentist,” Gene said, “actually tried to convince me that my teeth were rather an appealing beauty flaw, far more attractive than detrimental to my looks.”

Gene continued, “While in my heart I’ve never been able to agree with him, I have been able to take a calmer view of the matter. I decided for one thing to quit battling Nature. It took me quite some time to quit this silly habit of talking out of the side of my mouth. Sometimes I slip and still do it a little.”

In fact Gene’s contract with her studio, 20th Century Fox ,stipulated that she must not do anything about changing her “flaw” which they considered an asset.

After a while Gene was able to accept her unique feature and she wisely concluded that, “My experience has not changed my looks and it has taught me not to try to be what I am not.”

Gene Tierney in Tobacco Road 1941However it wasn’t just her beauty that made her a movie star; Gene Tierney could act.

The quintessential role that Gene Tierney is identified with is Otto Preminger’s 1944 film noir masterpiece, Laura, in which Gene plays the title role.  If you have never seen it, please do, it is a movie that you will never forget. What is interesting about Laura is that Gene Tierney’s performance is rather staid. The two male leads played by Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb are the ones that carry the story.

To see Gene Tierney at her best there are two films that are highly worth viewing. The first is Leave Her to Heaven (1945) where Gene plays a diabolical woman who will let nothing stand in the way in possessing what she wants. Her performance is in this role is riveting and convincing.

The other film that captures a different side of Gene Tierney’s acting ability is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). It is a time transcending love story with co-star Rex Harrison that is elegantly played against the turn-of-the-century backdrop of the English shore. Gene plays Mrs. Muir as strong, introspective, independent, determined and thoughtful. In scenes with long silences Gene’s feelings are conveyed through her eyes and body language. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is well told and one of the more underrated films of all-time.

Excluding TV appearances, Gene only had a 24 year film career from 1940-1964. In making just 37 movies she made an everlasting impression.

3 thoughts on “Classic Hollywood #49 – Gene Tierney

  1. E. R.

    You guys — it’s her left hand moving to grasp her hat. Her left arm comes down from the shoulder (imagine that), her forearm bends up slightly and her hand is angled toward the camera so you don’t see her wrist. The hat is being held in her right hand, and her left hand is captured in mid-motion as it grabs the brim, hence the blur. There’s no one else and no stitching together of photos.

  2. Sebo Gnortz

    Strange photo. Does Gene have fingers growing out of her upper arm? Obviously two photos combined, but not very well.


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