Taking a second look at love
by Fredda Dudley
Screenland | June 1954
Gene Tierney is back and every hostess in Hollywood is trying to elicit a dinner-guest acceptance from her. She’s more poised, lovelier, more glowing than ever.
I’ve known gene for eleven years, having met her for the first time in June, 1942. At that time Gene and her sister, Pat, were living in a tidy, glass-enclosed bird cage on a mountainside, amply chaperoned by a white German shepherd dog weighing some two ounces less than a Brahma bull. When he trotted across the room the house shuddered and shook. Eventually Gene gave this monster to the Tyrone Powers and they had to buy a twelve-room house surrounded by an acre of grounds, so that will give you some idea. There is a rumor that the dog had nothing to do with this purchase, but I doubt it.
This hound was a frustrated conversationalist. As we talked, he turned his head from side to side, tennis match style, fixing his concentration upon one speaker after the other. Then there came a ghastly moment when, after Gene had told a funny anecdote about her Hollywood experiences, the canine turned his head away from us and was extensively although neatly ill on the parquet floor.
Bear in mind that Gene was nineteen at the time, less than two years out of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn., not calculated by age or experience to manage a situation that would test the aplomb of any hostess.
Gene proved to be supremely equal to the occasion. Staring at her pet as if from a great distance, she told him, “So – you’re a critic? I have news for you. You make ME ill, too. Shell we withdraw to the den, everyone?”
Proud, somewhat secretive as all sensitive, intellectual souls must be, harking back to her New England and Swiss school days, knowing her own intensity and her tendency to go to extremes, but laughing at those extremes – that was Gene in those days.
When Oleg Cassini joined the army, Gene went along to Fort Riley with him and lived the life of the typical khaki wife of those days. She cooked, kept house, marketed, entertained the Colonel’s wife at tea, and bore her first daughter, Daria. After the war, Oleg tried to get a start in the designing business in Hollywood, found the going too rugged, and transferred his business activities to New York. Gene moved with him and commuted for picture work.
Then, after ten years of marriage, the Cassinis were divorced. Gene said then, among other pertinent things, “Marriage is a Cadillac: a wonderful way to move around the world, a proud and comfortable vehicle. Yet it isn’t essential. Sometimes it’s more sensible to walk where you’re going, or to take a bus. I shan’t marry again until I’m positive that a Cadillac answers my transportation problem.”
At about this time Hollywood itself revamped its transportation practice: it took to the air. Pictures were made in South America, in England, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy.
“Way Of A Gaucho” took Gene to South America where she discovered that French was, in many countries, the language spoken second to Spanish and Portuguese. Furthermore, the social life was more akin to that of Paris than it was to any other place in which Gene had lived. At a formal party one night she met a lithe, dark, vivid man who appeared to be supremely popular with the entire guest list, and who made it a point to turn those with whom he had started the evening as a stranger into friends.
Covertly, Gene studied him, thinking, “That gentleman is dangerous. He has, in abundance, that fatal and indescribable fascination that people call charm.”
He was the Prince Aly Khan.
He telephoned Gene several times after their first meeting and asked her to be his guest at dinner, at the races, at the theatre. Gene said no thank you, and after awhile the maid explained to the persuasive male voice with the British accent that Miss Tierney was not in, would not return until late.
Gene returned to Hollywood briefly, then moved on to England to make “Never Let Me Go” opposite Clark Gable. As Fate would have it, the Prince Aly Khan reached England approximately the same time. Again he asked for a series of dates; again he heard “no” with urbanity.
Gene completed that film role, and went to Pair to vacation. At a party one night she had reached a condition of monumental boredom when a friend, Liz Whitney, danced by in the arms of Prince Aly. Called Liz over her partner’s shoulder, “We can’t figure out why you won’t give this guy a date when we think he’s so terrific.”
What is a girl to do? Gene danced with Aly and agreed to see a play with him. After that initial evening there were trips to the tracks to watch Aly’s thoroughbreds run, and trips to the Irish ranch where the colts and fillies that will carry the racing colors of the Aga Khan are born, broken, and trained.
It was a breathless experience. Gene decided that it was time she polished her horseback riding form; she hadn’t ridden (except some in “Way Of A Gaucho” sequences) since school days “and even then I wasn’t the best rider in the world.”
Back in Paris, Gene and Aly spent long afternoons on the antique-hunting expeditions that Gene adores. During one of these shop-prowling experiences, Aly spotted an antique bracelet, with matching earrings that he brought, over protest, for Gene.
On Gene’s birthday, November 19, one of her gifts from Aly was a dazzling ring, consisting of a multi-carat center diamond surrounded by smaller stones. Gene began to wear it on the third finger of her RIGHT hand.
Even so, this awakened speculation as to whether Gene would become the third Princess Aly Khan. When reporters placed the question, both Gene and Aly smiled and said “No comment.” They had no comment in Paris or in London. Gene had no comment in New York, or upon her arrival via air in Hollywood.
At luncheon, just before Gene started work on “The Egyptian,” I asked her what she had missed most while she had been overseas. She thought about it for several moments before she said, head tipped to one side, “Actually, I don’t remember anything specific. New York seemed unchanged to me when I returned. Yes, there is a new building going up here and there, but the New York essence is unaltered. The same is true of Hollywood. I hadn’t been here two days before I felt I had never been away. Of course I’m just now seeing ‘From Here To Eternity’ and ‘Singin’ In The Rain,’ and I haven’t played Scrabble and I don’t know some of the great newcomers, like Marilyn Monroe or Terry Moore, or Robert Wagner, but essentially nothing has changed.”
She contemplated this observation quizzically. Then, with the abrupt sunshine of her blithe moods, she added, “But I’ll tell you what I began to miss the instant I settled in California: my beau!”
Will she marry him? When Gene gets ready for that important step, she will do it in her own time and under conditions of her choice. There are several considerations which might indicate a permanent “no” from Gene. First of all, she is fundamentally American, with the American girl’s independence of spirit and unassailable conviction that she is entitled to her husband’s first loyalty (no matter what his family ties) and to his respect for her status as a proud, intelligent, and competent human being.
In favor of the match are the facts that Gene was intensely happy during her school days in Europe (her formative years were spend in the midst of an ancient culture which she grew to love and understand); that she is a natural hostess, competent to preside over parties large or small with royal graciousness; that – unless all the usual indications are awry – she is deeply and sincerely in love; and that, as she said several years ago, marriage is a Cadillac, a wonderful way to move around the world.
Whichever way Gene may decide – during these months she is taking a thoughtful second look at love – all Hollywood is hopeful it will be the right decision for her.