Monday, November 19, 2007
November 19: Gene Tierney (1920-1991)
What did actresses Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965) and Gene Tierney have in common, besides being considered among the great beauties of their generation? Both November birthdays. Both were directed by Otto Preminger in well-known roles (Carmen Jones, and Laura, respectively). Both women, in 1943, had daughters born with significant developmental disabilities. And both women's later lives were emotionally tumultuous. These latter two facts are often linked in brief biographies, whether or not they should be, just because that's the easy story. In fact, the pressures and temptations and health issues they faced were sure more a part of the general dysfunction of Hollywood life, with or without their daughters' disabilities.
I wonder if they ever knew each other--if they ever knew how much they had in common?
Gene Tierney (1920-1991) described her lifelong experience of bipolar disorder in her 1979 autobiography. She was institutionalized on and off through her thirties--not unlike yet another Hollywood beauty, Frances Farmer (1913-1970), had been a decade earlier. In her autobiography, she declared, "I have been subjected to electric shock treatments that deadened my brain, stole chunks of time from my memory, and left me feeling brutalized....Pieces of my life just disappeared." Tierney married her second husband in 1960, and more or less retired from making movies. She died in 1991, from emphysema (she had begun smoking at the beginning of her career, to lower her voice for film roles).