Tag Archives: gene tierney

You Must Listen to You Must Remember This

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I have been told for months that I need to listen to Karina Longworth’s podcast You Must Remember This. “But,” I was warned, “you may be a little jealous. She covers a lot of your favorites.”

“Oh, I’m sure I”ll be fine,” I said smugly. “My podcast would be about people like Gloria Grahame.”

“She did it.”

Lauren Bacall, obviously.”

“Yes.”

“Kay Francis?”

“Oh, that was such a good episode!”  Continue reading

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What We Talk About When We Talk About David Niven’s First Wife

David Niven PrimmieAt a party thrown by Tyrone Power and wife Annabella, David Niven and his wife Primmie–who had just moved to America six weeks before and who had two children–were playing a game of sardines, aka hide and seek. The house had originally belonged to Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler; among the other couples at the party were Gene Tierney and Oleg Cassini and Rex Harrison and Lili Palmer (all of them destined for unhappy lives themselves).

In the dark, Primmie opened a door to what she thought was a powder room. As it turns out, it was the door to the cellar, and she fell backwards down a flight of very steep stairs. She died the next day, aged 28. Some say Niven never recovered.

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Leave Gene Tierney to Heaven

Despite some fervent proselytizing from no less than Martin Scorsese, 1945’s Leave Her to Heaven still lacks the cult following the film so richly deserves. Impossible to describe without using the word lurid, John Stahl’s film features more perverse activity than any number of more celebrated cult faves—including Nicholas Ray’s infamous Johnny Guitar.

To watch Leave Her to Heaven, even today, is to be left astounded that such a subversive movie could have been made in the ‘40s. Gene Tierney may be better known as the girl in the portrait in Laura, but she was never as good before or after as she is here, playing the literally insane-with-jealousy Ellen, a woman so possessive that her love for her father derails her parents’ marriage, who would rather watch her crippled young brother-in-law drown than share her new husband.

That scene has been widely acclaimed, with Tierney sitting absolutely motionless in a boat, eyes hidden behind sunglasses, watching as Danny sinks again and again into the water. But the whole film is filled with similar jaw-dropping scenes. Continue reading

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Gene Tierney

When it comes to celebrity memoirs, we are something of an expert. Rest assured—most of them are trash. But there are a few actresses (Gloria Swanson, Lana Turner) who transcend the genre. And beautiful, damaged Gene Tierney and her Self-Portrait is at the top of the list.

You probably know her as Laura. You should know her for her icy, Oscar-nominated turn as a sociopath in Leave Her to Heaven, where she raffishly sports the most glamorous pair of sunglasses you’ll ever see during a murder. What you probably don’t know is that she was in and out of mental institutions; that as part of her recovery she took a job at a department store, which the press found out about and had a field day; that she was married to Oleg Cassini; that she married Hedy LaMarr’s ex husband (Hedy’s memoir is nowhere near the same league as Self-Portrait); that she seriously dated John F. Kennedy; and that, most importantly, she gave birth to a “mentally retarded” daughter, in the language of the era. Continue reading

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