Miss Tierney regrets . . .
by Elizabeth Farrington
Modern Screen | September 1947
She was a very pretty girl, but her slip showed at least an inch. She wore an old felt hat jammed over her honey-colored hair, and not a bit of makeup. She was walking very fast up Second Avenue, but not fast enough to lose the group of kids behind her.
They were arguing loudly among themselves.
“I tell you it couldn’t be her,” one of them announced. “Didn’t you ever see her in the movies? Gosh, she wears the grooviest clothes of anybody! She wouldn’t be found dead with her slip showing and no lipstick.”
“It is, too, her,” a pig-tailed blonde said stubbornly. “Nobody, but Gene Tierney could look that pretty with her slip showing and no makeup!”
Gene, overhearing, was torn between amusement and annoyance. This little procession behind her was apt to spoil what had seemed like a good scheme.
For weeks now she had been haunting the Second and Third Avenue antique shops. She was decorating her mother’s house in the country and an apartment in town for herself and her sister, Pat. It was great fun and she loved it, but there was a catch.
When you walk into an antique shop and are recognized as Gene Tierney of Hollywood, the prices jump like a kangaroo with a hotfoot. So a helpful friend suggested, “Go in disguise, Gene.”
It had worked in the first shop she went to. She had gotten some lovely antiques at a reasonable price. Then she had run into the kids as they came out of school and they had immediately begun this “is you or is you ain’t” routine.
Gene stopped suddenly before a dingy window crammed with a mad assortment of what looked to the uninitiated eye like junk. That heavenly brass fender! She couldn’t use it in the apartment – no fireplace – but it would be perfect for Mummy’s place in the country.
A bald little man in shirt sleeves told her the price was forty dollars.
“I’ll take it,” Gene said. Then suddenly the old felt hat caught on a lampshade and fell off. From outside the shop came a long whoop of recognition. The kids stormed the door like an armored division going into battle.
“Hey, Gene Tierney, how about an autograph?”
The bald little man stared at her and muttered to himself. By the time the kids had been disposed of, the price of the fender had gone up to $140.
“That’s what I said all along,” he insisted. And Gene, who doesn’t like being robbed any more than the rest of us, walked indignantly out of the shop.
She never tried the disguise again, but she was fairly lucky after that in getting things for the apartment. A set of delicate blue Wedgwood. An inlaid Hepplewhite table. A pair of charming old lamps for the bedroom she is to share with Pat.
This sharing a bedroom doesn’t always work too well with sisters as popular as Gene and Pat, who are usually dressing for their dates at the same time. But Gene has eliminated this hazard quite simply. The dressing table is seven feet long, with mirror to match, and two benches, one at either end. Plenty of drawer space, too.
prettily practical . . .
One reason Gene is such a good decorator is because she does have this combination of practicality and taste. Little Daria, Gene’s four-year-old, has a bedroom that’s a delightful Alice-in-Wonderland place of ruffled organdy and flowered wall-paper. It is also carefully situated where the child won’t be disturbed if her mother and aunt entertain at home.
“Mother” and “aunt” seem strange words to use in describing Gene and Pat, who both look like schoolgirls. Gene has a quiet little air of dignity, of course, when she’s in the public eye, but relaxing at home in the sweater and slacks she adores, she might be sixteen.
Not that she would want to be. She loves being twenty-five, with her newly acquired knowledge of the world and people. Some of this knowledge has come through tears and heart-ache, but you won’t find Gene complaining about that.
“I had a happy marriage,” she says soberly. “A really happy one. Not everyone has that. I’m sorry mine had to end, but I’m glad for what it taught me. I don’t regret any of it. And it has given me Daria.”
Daria is a small beauty who will one day be as lovely as her mother. The upper half of her face is like Gene’s in its bone structure, the lower half like Oleg’s.
Gene is a doting parent, but never to the point where it would be bad for Daria. She’s happy that Daria can be in Connecticut now with Gene’s brother’s family. They have a little girl, Michele, who’s almost the same age, and the two children play, battle, and giggle merrily together by the hours.
Soon she will be old enough to do some of the things that Gene remembers form her own childhood in Connecticut. Picnics on the beach with the wind in your hair, the sun baking you Indian brown, and Mummy saying “Well, maybe one more hardboiled egg won’t hurt you.” Simple things, like Gene’s simple tastes.
Actually, Gene’s only expensive taste is clothes. She dislikes orchid corsages – would much rather have flowers for her apartment. Particularly white flowers.
But she does like really elegant clothes. Elegant in the old-fashioned sense of the word, I mean. She buys good clothes – very good ones. Oleg Cassini still designs most of them.
clothes counsellor . . .
The whole family goes to Gene for advice on clothes and kindred matters. Pat, been living with her mother in new York until last year, when Mrs. Tierney decided to send her out to Gene on the Coast. Pat needed to reduce, but all suggestions to that effect had been greeted with “Oh, mother, don’t nag.”
Just before Christmas, Pat arrived in Hollywood. The first evening, Gene looked at her sister and said,
“You know what I’m going to give you for Christmas? A reducing course at the smartest place in town. It will make all the difference in the world in the way you look and feel.”
Pat took the reducing course and lost eighteen pounds. She emerged with a willowy figure which she wouldn’t trade for all the diamond earrings in the world.
Gene and Pat get along well together, although they’re quite different. Gene is romantic and a bit temperamental, like most good actresses. Pat is a solid, “feet-on-the-ground” type.
The girls double-date occasionally, but not often. The five years’ difference in their ages shows up in the men they go around with more than in any other way. Pat’s male friends seem a bit on the juvenile side to Gene.
One night they all went to an amusement park together. Ate popcorn, rode the ferris wheel, giggled through the “Fun House.” They came at last to the roller coaster.
“Come on, Gene,” one of the boys coaxed. “Ride with me on the coaster.”
“Look,” Gene spoke firmly. “When I was sixteen I had to go on a roller coaster to show I wasn’t afraid. Now I’ve proved it and I don’t ever have to go again. And I don’t intend to.”
Gene went to a debutante party with the younger set in Connecticut this summer, and was definitely a belle. She wasn’t quite sure before she went whether it was a good idea or not.
“I hope they won’t expect me to look all slinky and movie-star-ish,” she told her mother worriedly. “Because I just don’t.” She was wearing pale blue chiffon and looked about the right age to be a debutante herself. Gene danced herself into tatters that night, and the younger set adored her.
One of the happiest time Gene has had since her divorce was when she went to Bermuda with Pat and an old school friend and her husband. The friend is Mary Louise Bromson, who lives in Denmark. She and Gene were in school together in Switzerland, and hadn’t seen each other since. But the minute they got together again it was as if they had never been apart.
The Bromsons had rather a bad time during the war. They were working with the Danish Underground movement, and finally had to escape to Sweden in a small boat, just one jump ahead of the Nazis.
They went to stay with some friends in Sweden, and the third day they were there, something very funny happened. The woman they were visiting was telling them about an American movie she had seen.
“You must ago, Mary Louise. It’s very good. The name of it is Heaven Can Wait and there is a girl in it I think you will like. Her name is Gene Tierney.”
“It never occurred to me that it might be you, though,” she told Gene, that first night in New York. “We went to see the picture a few days later. Got there after it had begun and when we went in, you were on the screen. I’ve never been so excited!”
Gene hadn’t been on a bicycle in years, but the day after their arrival in Bermuda, Mary Louise said, “Let’s go bicycling. They tell me there’s a beautiful path along the shore.”
At first, gene was skeptical about her inexperience.
As it turned out – and it’s a tribute to the condition she keeps herself in – Gene had nothing worse than a few aching leg-muscles to show for the trip.
Gene loved the fishing, and had much better luck with it than Pat did. Pat would reel in her line and at the end of it would be a graceful thing of gold, striped in dark green, with fins like delicate green tissue paper.
“Pat, throw that beautiful fish back in the water this instant,” Gene would command. “That’s to be admired – not eaten.”
the one that got away . . .
Reluctantly, Pat would let her prize swim away. And in a minute Gene would hook a nice, plump, utilitarian fish in a subdued shade of gray, strictly for eating – which they did!
One day on the ship going back to new York, Gene and Mary Louise were sitting on deck, talking about life and love and all the things girls do talk about when they are “best friends.”
“Mary Louise, you’re always so calm and happy,” Gene said impulsively. “You’ve been that way ever since I’ve known you. Don’t you lose your temper sometimes or get depressed?”
“No, I don’t think I do. But I deserve no credit for it – it is the way I was born. I go along on a smooth, even plane. You, Gene, hit the depths occasionally but you also hit the heights.”
It’s true that Gene does get depressed sometimes. It was true during her marriage, and it has been true since her divorce It still seems strange now and then to be single again. But it does have its advantages. There’s a quotation that she found not long ago which she cut out of a magazine and stuck in the mirror over her dressing table. Something about “It takes an awfully good husband to make up for a life of independence.”
That doesn’t mean that she won’t marry again – far from it. But it does mean that for now she’s heart-whole (or as near it as one can be after the break-up of a happy marriage) and fancy-free, and saying “no” gently but firmly about marriage.
Right now she’s concerned with her career and her daughter and her home, which is enough to keep even Gene busy. She was a victim for a long while of an absolute jinx in the maid problem.
Then one day she was lunching with Faye and Elliott Roosevelt at “21.” They were all having a fine time, but the minute lunch was over, Gene prepared regretfully to leave.
“I’ve got to get home and do some plain and fancy vacuum cleaning,” she apologized. “I’m maidless again.”
“Gene, I’ll help you get a good maid,” Faye offered. And she went to work on it.
Gene was hardly back at her apartment when the telephone rang.
“Miss Tierney?” a brisk voice said. “This is Mrs. Roosevelt’s secretary speaking. I understand you are looking for a maid. We’ll send you one early on Thursday.”
It wasn’t a dream, either. The maid actually arrived and took over the household with brisk confidence. And Gene couldn’t be more grateful.
Come fall, she’ll be back on the Coast, of course, working on another picture to follow the very successful Ghost and Mrs. Muir. She’ll leave Daria either with Howard’s family, or with her mother, and the nurse. Pat works as Gene’s secretary now, so she will go along.
Gene has bought a five-room cottage, practically in the back yard of the studio. It’s a charming little place and much better suited to her needs than a large house would be. There’s plenty of room for her and Pat and Butch.
Butch is a police dog the approximate size of a horse, and Gene has had him for years. George Jean Nathan gave him to her originally, and he was owned before that by Sidney Kingsley, the playwright.
Since she has had him, friends and relatives have occasionally ventured to suggest that perhaps Butch might not be one hundred percent thoroughbred police dog. Gene has always denied this indignantly.
But when she came East with Butch this time, she confided in her mother. “His father was a police dog, all right – a real champion, Mummy. But it’s true – his mother was just an old dog that sort of hung around the stables. I don’t even know what she was.”
Mrs. Tierney laughed. “You’ve certainly stuck to your story for a long while.”
“I was a snob,” Gene said sadly. “But I’ve decided that a little proletarian blood mixed in with the thoroughbred makes dogs – and people too – a lot nicer to know.”
All of which is a minor, but interesting, indication that Gene makes up her own mind these days, and it’s strictly on the basis of common sense. She’ll do all right!