No Film Career For My Sister!
by Muriel Reed
Hollywood | December 1942
She’s more of a hoyden than her sister Gene, but aside from that, sixteen-year-old Pat Tierney is the image of her. She has the same broad cheekbones, the same wide-set, teasing blue eyes, the same full mouth and the same exotic facial cast that have made Gene one of the most arresting girl in pictures. “And her legs,” raves Gene proudly. “Long and slim. Like exclamation points.”
So it was no wonder that when Pat came to Hollywood recently to visit gene, producers and agents who saw her wanted to clamp her directly into pictures. “If one Tierney is such a box-office wow,” they panted, chasing Pat with contract and fountain pen, “think of what two Tierney’s can do!”
But to everyone’s amazement, Gene’s kid sister smiled and said “No.” It was an unexpected reaction because Pat has always looked up to Gene and admired her. She is as normal as any of the sixteen-year-old girls at Miss Porter’s school, where she is a student, and whoever heard of an American youngster who didn’t want to be a movie star?
There was a reason in back of Pat’s refusal to take up any one of the film deals handed her on a platter. And that was a heart-to-heart talk between the two sisters one evening in Gene’s bedroom.
“Pat and I are very close,” explained Gene, “and because she is my one and only sister, I don’t want her to have her heart broken. That’s why I don’t think she should accept the movie offers right now. I told her why. I’ve been in Hollywood almost three years; I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve also been pretty lucky. But by being a star I’ve sacrificed some of the ordinary things that bring happiness. I’d like to spare Pat a few of my experiences.
“When I first came to Hollywood I had a six months’ contract with a studio that brought me here before they had a part ready for me. I collected my paycheck but with that my picture work ended. I never saw a camera, a dressing room or a script. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for I wasn’t ready for pictures yet. If I had been cast in a film, I would have shown myself at my worst. Either Hollywood would have dropped me or assigned me to minor roles that would do me no good.
“So I returned to New York, received more coaching and stage experience, and when 20th Century-Fox signed me I started on a better footing. There were definite pictures in mind for me and a solid buildup that has done my career a world of good.
“I told Pat if she accepted a film bid now because people were attracted by her pretty face, she would be in a vulnerable spot. There are many girls in pictures today who continue year after year in unimportant parts because they began before they were ready. They took the first thing offered them. I wouldn’t want Pat to be just another pretty face in pictures. If she is to have a career at all, she must aim for the top.”
Gene continued seriously, “I steered her toward the idea of finishing school in the East first. After that if she knows in her heart that she wants to be an actress and is willing to make the necessary sacrificed for it, then it would be better for her to try the theater first, make a name and come to Hollywood as an actress of some experience.
“Right now Pat is going through a transitory period in her life. Only a few months ago she was a happy-go-lucky youngster interested in dogs and sports, then suddenly she was changing into a young lady. Like most girls her age she is more interested in fun than in settling down. I doubt that at this stage she is ready for the work and self-discipline that a movie job entails. I wouldn’t want her to jump into pictures because she’s misled by the easy life and the glamour. She should know before she starts that it’s the toughest work laid out for any woman. It means staying home and going to bed early when you’ve been invited to a wonderful party. It means doing a swim scene in a sarong on a very cold day. It means acting cheerful even if you’re bluer than a Gershwin rhapsody. It means having everything you say or do cut into tiny molecules and blown up beyond all proportions. All these things have happened to me and you have to develop a certain immunity to them or they can make life miserable.
“When I got married, what should have been a private affair turned into a situation that was laid bare for everyone to see and talk about. My father’s objections became news for public gossip and many facts were exaggerated and colored. This hurt me terribly.
“I think Pat should wait until she can accept this sort of thing before venturing on a career. She’s young and impressionable and I wouldn’t want her to be hurt. She’s just beginning to go to parties and have fun, and it’s all too new and thrilling to her to give up for the business of acting.
“I didn’t try to paint the picture black, however. There are many rewards that come with picture work – a beautiful home, fame, attention, and the feeling that you’re important to a production. Every star-struck girl knows the bright side of a film career; few know the serious business that goes on behind the stage sets.
“There’s a distinct advantage that Pat has over me. When I broke the new at home that I wanted to be an actress, it created a furor. That wasn’t what my family had planned for me. Now that I am an actress, and my family sees that it hasn’t spoiled me, their disapproval has vanished and I’ve paved the way for Pat.
“If Pat should decide to go into pictures, I’d want to set her right about a few more things. I think she should change her name so that she wouldn’t risk the danger of living in the shadow of a sister who started first. There’s a great physical resemblance between us and to accentuate that further with the same family name would be bad for Pat. Joan Fontaine might never have been taken seriously if she had kept the De Havilland name. it would have identified her forever as Olivia’s kid sister.
“Pat and I are not the same type inside. I’m an open book – emotional and enthusiastic. Pat’s feelings are more deeply hidden and when they come to the surface they’re astounding. She read St. Joan to me the other evening and she was magnificent. She has tremendous possibilities but she can ruin her chance if she starts now. That’s why I talked my sister out of a career for the present.”