SUtS: Gene Tierney

Brandie’s choice: Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Airing at 8:00PM EST

She was one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the medium of film, but Gene Tierney’s talent extended far beyond her ethereal looks. Initially cast in comedies, she really made her name in film noir, beginning with her part as the intriguing portrait subject in Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944), perhaps her most iconic role. A year later, Tierney earned her only Academy Award nomination (for Best Actress) as the insanely jealous wife in my recommendation for today, Leave Her to Heaven.

In the film, Tierney plays Ellen Berent, who is mourning the recent death of her father when she meets handsome writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde). She immediately falls for him and marries him after breaking her engagement to another man (Vincent Price). But Ellen soon reveals the depths of her jealous nature, as she resents anyone or anything that takes her husband’s attention away from her–whether that be his polio-stricken brother (Darryl Hickman), her adopted sister (Jeanne Crain), or her unborn child …

As the unapologetically evil Ellen, Tierney alternately glows and glowers; she convincingly plays the provocative, frightening, homicidal woman with nary a glimmer of hesitation. Anyone who says that Tierney is nothing more than a pretty face need only watch her in this role. Her performance is nothing short of brilliant. Seriously, it’s hard to play someone who is bat-shit crazy and not have it turn into pure caricature.

The rest of the cast, headed by a surprisingly capable Wilde (yes, I was shocked; sorry, but I’ve never been a big fan), is just as effective. And the setting is really an essential part of the movie, gorgeously rendered on screen through the magic of Technicolor. Hands down, this is one of the best film noirs I’ve ever seen. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to miss this one.

Interesting tidbit: you know by now that I love my Shakespeare references, and the title of this film comes directly from one of my favorites: Hamlet, Act I, scene 5, line 86, in which the ghost of Hamlet’s father commands his son to take revenge on Claudius for his murder:

“But, howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!”

On a more serious note, Tierney had a rather sad life that belies the sophisticated, sometimes carefree characters which she specialized in playing. When Tierney was pregnant with her first child, Daria, in 1943, she contracted rubella after an appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. As a result of Tierney’s illness, Daria was born prematurely with severe developmental disabilities; she was also blind and deaf and required constant medical care. The tragedy sent Tierney spiraling into depression, and she was eventually diagnosed as bipolar. It also created problems in her marriage to fashion designer Oleg Cassini; the two separated and eventually divorced.

Years later, at a party, a fan approached Tierney and, after asking for an autograph, admitted that when she was enlisted in the women’s corps during World War II, she had been quarantined with rubella. Hearing that Tierney would be at the Canteen, however, this woman had broken quarantine because she wanted to meet her favorite star. And though, arguably, she could not have foreseen the consequences of her actions, this woman’s selfish foolishness caused her “favorite star” nothing but heartbreak and grief.

Incidentally, Agatha Christie would later use this tragic incident as the central plot of her 1962 novel The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side.

I’m somewhat sad that my favorite Tierney film of all, the wonderfully romantic The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), is not on TCM’s schedule. However, it runs on Fox Movie Channel quite often. A quick glance at the DirecTV guide shows it playing at 8:00AM EST on Monday, August 16th. And for the record, Laura is also playing this month on FMC, at 1:30PM EST on Saturday, August 21st. FMC plays movies uncut and commercial free, just like TCM (just wish they had a bigger selection of classics in their repertoire!), so this is a great opportunity to catch these excellent Tierney classics.

Carrie’s choice: That Wonderful Urge (1948)

Airing at 12:00AM EST

A remake of the film Love is News, this film is a basic comedy of errors. However, in proper classic film fashion, at least some of the errors are intentional. When a grocery store heiress (Tierney) finds out that a man talking to her is a reporter, she decides to take matters into her own hands and creates a story that they are actually a married couple. The problems escalate, landing them in jail, and under the guidance of the judge trying to sort out the mess.

How good is it as a remake? No idea. I haven’t seen this one. If you have time to see the original first, it could be a good experiment. Regardless, comedies of error are usually crowd-pleasers, and the plot sounds fun. If all goes well, I may see if I can see both (eventually) and write a comparison review (more eventually).

Conveniently available on double DVD

Interesting fact for this film: the lead actor in both remains the same. However, Tierney is not in Love is News.

So, you tell us- do you like both or one over the other?

2 thoughts on “SUtS: Gene Tierney

  1. I had DVR’ed your suggestion, Carrie, and watched it last night. It’s an utterly adorable movie. Screwball-lite, with great performances by Tierney and Power. I laughed quite a bit throughout, particularly when the two characters are thrown in jail for disorderly conduct. I want to see the original now, to see if Loretta Young (whom I adore) matches Tierney’s performance.

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