Gene Tierney's Farmhouse and Other Troubles (1944) 🇺🇸

Gene Tierney |

November 12, 2021

Gene Tierney Has Her Troubles Too!

Here’s a gal who looks as if she hasn’t a care in the world. But when you read this very human story you’ll learn that a Hollywood beauty has problems even as you and I

by Elizabeth Wilson

Gene Tierney is a movie star after my own heart. First of all, she has a sense of humor that enables her to laugh at herself. And all I’ve got to say is heaven pity the family and friends of a star without a sense of humor. (And double pity the poor unfortunate writers who have to interview her!) Second of all Gene has a hearty appetite. None of that coy nibbling on a lettuce leaf or toying with a sliced tomato. I don’t know what Gene does to keep that gorgeous figure. I suspect that she doesn’t do a thing. But I know for a fact that she doesn’t spare the groceries.

Take for instance the time I had lunch with her recently at the Twentieth Century-Fox studios. Gene breezed in from the “Dragonwyck” set in a beautiful billowy dress with a tight bodice — and you know what a tight bodice does to a girl’s chest. “I could have taken the dress off and put on a robe,” said Gene tucking in her skirts under the small table, “but I wear it over here every day hoping that Mr. Perlberg will see me and exclaim, ‘Gene, I never realized it before — you’re Amber!’”

Every movie star in Hollywood, with the possible exception of Marjorie Main, is simply drooling to play the lead in Forever Amber. Which goes to prove something. As Gene is now the hottest star on the Twentieth Century lot since the release of “Laura,” and as that studio owns the movie rights of the book, she has a good chance of bagging Amber. “No one has asked me yet,” says Gene sadly. But to date no one has been approached — except the Hays Office.

Gene surveyed the wreck of a chilled artichoke and crab meat salad on my plate (I was never one to wait for a star — you can spend your life doing that) and decided she’d have one too. While she was waiting for it she polished off the basket of bread and a bowl of jelly, which is now being served in studios in lieu of butter. When she had stripped her artichoke and found practically nothing, as is the way with artichokes, she ordered ice cream. “I’m still hungry,” she said finishing the ice cream. “What can I have now?” Well, ice cream to a lunch or dinner is sort of like a period to a sentence. But that’s what I like about Gene. Delightfully unconventional. She ordered a bowl, a great big bowl, of soup. I rather like the idea of following the dessert course with the soup course. I’ve never seen it done before, but I’m for it.

I don’t know how you feel about it but it certainly makes me happier to know that movie stars are having their civilian problems these days too. Furnaces blow up in your face, waiters insult you, and repairmen are casual, in- different and inefficient — whether you happen to be a glamorous star or one of the common people. It’s some consolation anyway. While she dug into the bread and jelly Gene told me, with typical Tierney humor, all she’d been through lately.

When her husband, Oli Cassini, a first lieutenant in the U. S. Army, was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, Gene, like a good Army Wife, made a home for him there. They managed to find a small house in one of the new developments near the camp. It wasn’t much of a house to be sure, but after several months of hall bedrooms and bungalow courts, equipped with cockroaches and mice, it really looked like heaven. When Oli and Gene married, they bought a most attractive house high in the hills back of Hollywood, and had just about finished furnishing it when Oli volunteered. When she left for Kansas, she rented this house to some friends of some friends. Well, after she had furnished the Junction City, Kansas, house with knick-knacks she had picked up here and there in surrounding towns, her husband received orders to report to an Eastern camp. She decided to go to Washington to be with her in-laws while she had her baby. The night before they left Junction City, Gene auctioned off all her furniture to other Army wives. Oli hadn’t been in the East very long before he received orders to return to Fort Riley. After her little daughter was born, Gene again joined him there — but this time she couldn’t get any furniture for love or money. “All we had,” said Gene, “was a bed with bad springs, a card table with a rickety leg, a rocking chair and a stove. Not even an icebox. We had to keep our food cold by burying it in the snow.”

About that time the studio said fun’s fun and it was very sweet of Miss Tierney wanting to be an Army Wife — but what about her contract? So Gene, grumbling a bit, came back to Hollywood to star in the very successful “Laura.” She told the friends of friends who had her house that she’d like to get back in it but they said oh, heavens no! She finally managed to rent a house in the Cathay Circle section of Los Angeles. This is a “modest” neighborhood, not in the least movie starish, and the houses are small and close together. She brought the baby out from Washington, and the baby’s nurse, who is strictly New England.

“I had hardly gotten settled,” said Gene, “before my brother, his wife and baby decided to visit me. I rented a bed and a crib and put them up in the den. Then my cook wouldn’t stay unless she had her daughter with her, so I rented a bed for her. There were so many rented beds in that house it looked like a hospital.”

And as if life wasn’t hard enough stumbling over beds and struggling for food “in a half-witted moment I decided to give a party.” The tables were arranged in the back yard for a buffet supper, and the guests were being gay and chatty, when she suddenly looked up and saw all the kids in the neighborhood, of which there were plenty, lining the roofs of the garages on both sides of the yard. The kids started making faces at the guests, and the guests started making faces right back at the kids.

Well, the next thing was that the people who owned the house in the first place decided they wanted to move back in it. And of course they came to that decision the day Gene started work on “Dragonwyck.” There wasn’t any place for her to move — houses, apartments, hotel rooms even, being scarcer in Los Angeles now than hen’s teeth. So she just had to be firm with those friends of friends. Anyway, they moved out of her house, and she moved back into it. x\s she had rented it furnished she didn’t have anything to move except the baby’s furniture and trunks and silver and such — but just try and find anybody to move even that. She chose a Sunday to move because it was the only day she could get away from the studio. The movers promised to come early, but didn’t so she had to pay all the little boys in the neighborhood to help her pack everything possible into her car. When she arrived at her home in the hills she had to pull everything up the incline, piece by piece. In the house, she soon discovered, there was a shortage of towels (towels do wear out, eventually) and the blankets were still in Junction City — she had forgotten all about them! And to add to the horror of it all the nurse sat down on her bed the night they moved and it folded up under her like a house of cards. Plump, right on the floor she landed. Naturally nothing like that would ever have happened in New England. (“Three times I sent that bed to be repaired,” said Gene with a sigh, “and twice the repairman brought it back — only to have it collapse again. I don’t think he knew anything more about repairing than I had. But he didn’t fail to remind me that there was a war on.)

“When I arrived on the set Monday morning — I went to bed at three and had to get up at five — I certainly didn’t look like Vincent Price’s sweet young bride. I could easily have played Mrs. Dracula without makeup. But there was no rest for the weary when I finally dropped myself home that night.”

As soon as she dragged her tired body up the hill the nurse informed her that if she didn’t get some electric heaters for the nursery immediately that the baby would take pneumonia. So Gene phoned all over town. But you can’t buy electric heaters now. She recalled that she had seen some in the property department so she dashed back to the studio, and deliberately “borrowed” several. “I was so pleased with myself,” said Gene, “I plugged them in with a flourish, and every darned fuse in the house blew out. There were no lights, no Frigidaire, no radio, no stove, no clocks, no nothing. I just sat right down and bawled.”

When Gene and Oli bought this attractive old farmhouse, which is miles and miles away from everything, they thought it the most ideal spot in the world. Which it was. But like millions of other Americans they hadn’t figured on a war. This isolation, which was so beautiful and desirable before, is now a nightmare. No one wants to take the time or gas to drive to the Cassinis to deliver anything, or fix anything.

Two days after she moved back in her own home the furnace went on the blink. “After numerous phone calls I finally learned that there was only one man in Los Angeles who knew how to repair the model burner which I have. I finally persuaded him, for the sake of my poor freezing chee-ild, to come out and take a look at the furnace — I’m sure it was an Academy Award performance over the telephone. ‘That type burner,’ he said casually, ‘has been discontinued. It wasn’t a satisfactory model. Guess you’ll just have to buy a new one.’ When.^ Well, he just couldn’t say. There was a war on. or didn’t I know.”

But before she found out that the old furnace was now déclassé. Gene had two fires which added to the excitement.

Seems that the pipes were horizontal and the soot would collect and catch on fire. One time she called the fire department and it didn’t come at all. The next time she called they arrived with four fire engines.

“I couldn’t even get any sympathy out of anyone,” said Gene with a laugh. “I’d come on the set with circles down to my chin and my nerves twitching like Mexican jumping beans, and I’d tell the director, ‘I’ve got so many troubles I can’t keep my mind on my work — if I just had some water for a hot bath!’ You know what those heartless creatures on the set would say to me? They’d say so-and-so’s Frigidaire cracked up last night, so-and-so’s car broke down, so-and-so’s servants walked out, etc., etc. So finally I just accepted the fact that everybody has troubles these days and there’s no point in crying about it. A few days later the rains came and the roof leaked and no one would come and repair it — so I just sat up all night emptying dishpans and that beautiful silver punchbowl someone gave us for a wedding present.

“Remember how lovely the mountain-side and the gardens were two years ago? Well, you should see them now. I haven’t a gardener, naturally. And the place looks like an over-run jungle. Century plants have just about taken over the entire place.”

Just as soon as it began to get dark nurse would lock herself and the baby in the nursery, the cook would scurry home, and Gene would be left to her imagination. “I couldn’t sleep at night,” she said pathetically. “I kept hearing prowlers. Every time I’d read a newspaper I’d read about somebody being robbed and murdered, and I was sure it would be my time next. As soon as I got in bed I started hearing peculiar noises, even when I pulled the covers over my head I heard them. So I’d get up, turn the lights on all over the house, and go to the windows and proclaim in my most dramatic tones, ‘If anyone comes near this house I’ll shoot to kill.’ I didn’t have a gun, of course. One night I was positive I heard a burglar in the kitchen. I called the police department but they said I wasn’t in their district. I tried several others and finally found a policeman who said yes, he’d come over. Two hours later when he arrived (he’d gotten lost on the way) I was sitting in the middle of the living room, stiff as a corpse, but clutching a butcher knife. The next day I bought a gun. I think I aged twenty years in those few weeks before I finally found a night watchman.

Fortunately for Gene’s peace of mind, and Twentieth Century’s picture, Gene has happily turned over the responsibility of the butcher knife and the gun to the watchman. In fact, things are running much better all around now. Except that she looked out of the window one morning last week and couldn’t even see the century plants. “What a foggy day,” she said to herself. But when she stepped outside she discovered that the fog was steam — which was escaping from the hot water heater. Yes, the Cassinis will have to have a new hot water heater. Even as you and I.

Gene’s husband, the former Count Oleg Cassini, became an American citizen and is now in Uncle Sam’s service. They’re the proud parents of a little daughter, Daria.

Two strong new roles for Tierney: Above, with John Hodiak in “A Bell For Adano” and left, in the forthcoming 20th Century-Fox drama “Dragonwyck” Child in scene with Gene is Connie Marshall. Since “Laura,” Gene is Number One dramatic actress at 20th, with a row of good parts awaiting her. She may even get coveted lead in Forever Amber.

Source: Screenland, August 1945

Collection: Screenland Magazine, August 1944