Wednesday, January 7, 2009
She led a textbook Movie Star life: fame, glamour, bi-polar disorder, suicide attempts, an aborted affair with Prince Aly Khan, a fling with JFK, marriage to Mrs. Kennedy's couturier -- Gene Tierney experienced it all, and then some. Moreover, she lived to tell about it, writing about her tumultuous life and battles with mental illness in a candid, dignified autobiography, Self Portrait (1979).
Tierney's truly astonishing beauty sometimes obscures her talent: she was not only nominated for an Academy Award, but she could (and did) play nearly every kind of character convincingly. She was the cool, detached beauty in Laura (1944); a barely-contained sociopath in Leave Her to Heaven (1945); a wistful widow in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947); and those are just her most famous trio of films. Add to her portrait gallery the deflowered Poppy in The Shanghai Gesture (1941), the titular Western heroine of Belle Starr (1941), and a B.C. babe in The Egyptian (1954), and you get some idea of Tierney's range.
Gene Tierney retired from films permanently in 1964, after a fire-breathing cameo in The Pleasure Seekers. Some critics decried this as a final curtain unworthy of a woman once named "the most beautiful woman in movie history" by Daryl Zanuck; personally, we'd love for our swan song to be in an Ann-Margret pseudo-musical where we get to have a powder room showdown (a la Helen Lawson) with Carol Lynley. But that's just us.