Film Star Gene Tierney, Painted in Changi, Malaya, (March 1942)

Changi small sketch book p32

“Gene Tierney’s stage debut was inauspicious at best: she carried a pail of water across the stage in What a Life! (1938). Larger roles soon followed and influential critics like Brooks Atkinson from The New York Times took notice. Her real break came when she played Patricia Stanley in the Male Animal (1940). Her reviews were terrific and all of Broadway was at her feet.

One evening, Darryl F. Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century Fox studios, attended a performance of The Male Animal. He thought Tierney had movie star potential and soon she was on her way to Hollywood.

Tierney’s first movie was The Return of Frank James starring Henry Fonda and directed by Fritz Lang. The movie was a hit, but Tierney’s performance was panned. The Harvard Lampoon went so far as to call her “The Worst Female Discovery” of 1940. Tierney took that slight in stride, but she didn’t like the way her voice sounded. She said she sounded like an “angry Minnie Mouse.” Someone suggested she take up smoking cigarettes to lower the register of her voice. Smoking did lower her voice, but it would also contribute to health problems later in life.

Tierney may not have impressed the critics with her acting ability, but the public was enthralled with her beauty. As the new Hollywood “it girl,” Tierney made five movies in 1941, including Tobacco Road directed by John Ford, Sundown directed by Henry Hathaway, and The Shanghai Gesture directed by Joseph von Sternberg. The next year, Tierney starred in four movies, including Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake opposite Tyrone Power, Fox’s top male box office draw.

In 1943, Tierney starred in Heaven Can Wait with Don Ameche, directed by the legendary Ernst Lubitsch. The classic comedy filmed in Technicolor showcased Tierney’s radiant beauty.

She also starred in The Mark of Zoro (1940), and. Laura, based on a novel by Vera Caspary, a popular novelist and screenwriter, A Letter to Three Wives (1949).”