Gene Tierney (1920-1991)
- Rita Hayworth, Blood and Sand, 1940. Good thinking! Russell was high in the frame for Fox’s sexiest role of the year - the manipulative socialite vamp, Doña Sol, toying with Tyrone Power’s matador in the re-hash of Rudolph Valentino’s 1921 silent classic. Also considered: Lynn Bari, Betty Grable, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour, Carole Landis, Mona Maris, Maria Montez, Jane Russell. And Ava Gardner? Not synonymous with bullfighters until the 50s!
- Maureen O’Hara, How Green Was My Valley, 1940. Head Fox Darryl Zanuck 2. changed his mind about Ida Lupino as the Welsh girl in love with her mining village’s pastor - and turned to O’Hara for what New York Times critic Bosley Crowther hailed as “a stunning masterpiece.” Tierney went on into Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake, 1941, when the same Crowther roasted her over a spit. He spat : “Miss Tierney, whose talent for acting is open to serious doubt, benefits considerably in this picture by the fact that she doesn't have much to say.”
- Joan Bennett, Man Hunt, 1940. Bennett’s “English”accent was about as rank as Dick Van Dyke’s Cockney in Mary Poppins in a (thankfully) short role opposite Walter Pidgeon - on the run from Nazis in London after trying to kill Hitler in Bavaria, no less. Also seen for Jerry were Anne Baxter, Greer Garson, Virginia Gilmore. And the only real Londoner on the short list:Ida Lupino.
- Betty Field, King's Row, 1941. Studio boss Jack Warner refused to let Bette Davis play Cassie. Ida Lupino and Olivia De Havilland refused the ole.. The next short list included Tierney, Laraine Day, Katharine Hepburn, Marsha Hunt, Priscilla Lane, Joan Leslie, Adele Longmire, Susan Peters.
- Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette, 1943. Tierney, Mary Anderson, Anne Baxter, Linda Darnell, Lillian Gish, Beatrice Pearson, Ruth Quigley, Teresa Wright were all in the frame for the French girl who had a vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes in 1858. Finally, on December 9, 1942, Jones won “the plum role of the year” - which “introduced” her although she she had made two Republic movies under her real name, Phylis Isley. Now she was being shoved into stardom by her lover and future husband, Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick. (She was his very own Susan Alexander). To swing her the film, DOS offered to share her contract with Fox. Henry King directed tests by telling actresses to look beyond the camera at a shining light. Jones, said King, didn’t just look - she saw. Hence her Best Actress Oscar on March 2, 1944, although the film was not fully released until April 1945.
- Elizabeth Taylor, National Velvet, 1944. A trifle old, at 18, but Tierney won MGM’s Velvet Brown except when shooting was delayed, she accepted a Fox contract. Next favourites included Pat Arno, Alix De Kauffman, Katharine Hepburn. Oh, and Shirley Catlin… the future UK politician Baroness Shirley Williams. None matched Taylor’s sheer determination. When told she was too short in her test (directed by Fred Zinnemann!), Liz promised to put on three inches before shooting. And she did!
- Dorothy McGuire, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1945. Elia Kazan's directing debut. Fox bought Betty Smith's book in 1943 for Alice Faye’s first straight role. She developed cold feet and Tierney was Katie Nolan - until pregnant. Her daughter with dress designer Oleg Cassini was born severely retarded - causing Tierney's long battles with manic depression… the cause of her refusing so many movies.
- Anne Baxter, The Walls of Jericho, 1948. Too much was already tumbling down around her… Suspended by Fox, Tierney explained all to the Los Angeles Times… “There is certainly nothing personal in the issue that has arisen… I simply could not undertake the part… I did not believe it was right for me. I could not fathom the character of the girl although it was the lead in the picture. It was particularly difficult for me to refuse this role because John Stahl is the director and we have had such excellent association with Leave Her to Heaven. Nevertheless, I felt it would be a great mistake for me to appear in this new film.”
- Jeanne Crain, The Fan, 1948. Lady Windermere’s Fan, that is. By Oscar Wilde. Not that you’d know it from director Otto Preminger’s dullard take on Victorian London society manners and foibles. Crain replaced the pregnant Tierney as her ladyship. Wilde’s wit shone brighter in versions made over the years in Argentina, Germany, Hollywood (via Ernst Lubitsch, 1925), Mexico, and, of course, the UK… in 1916!
- Lucia Bosè, Cronaca di un amore (UK: Chronicle of a Love; US: Story of a Love Affair), Italy, 1949. For his first feature after seven shorts, future Italian maestro Michelangelo Antonioni wanted to match his leading man, Massimo Girotti, with Tierney. But he was unknown and “she wanted the moon!” Her delightful substitute (Miss Italy 1947) was 19 to Gene’s 30.
- Maureen O’Hara, The Forbidden Street (UK: Britannia Mews), 1948. The previous year’s Ghost and Mrs Muir couple, Tierney and Rex Harrison churned into O’Hara and a peculiarly (and so obviously) dubbed Dana Andrews (for the UK and Brtiish Commonwealth version). His dual role of both husbands was the sore thumb of the thriller.
- Linda Darnell, A Letter To Three Wives, 1948. Originally, Four Wives…Too long, snapped head Fox Darryl Zanuck. Kill one wife! (So Anne Baxter’s Martha never got Addie’s letter about running off with one of their spouses). Other potential wives were Tierney, Alice Faye, Dorothy McGuire, Maureen O’Hara, Gene Tierney.
- Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1949. Sword and sandals were not her thing, despite joining The Egyptian, 1954.
- Linda Darnell, The Secret of Convict Lake, 1951. The bigger secret was that Fox had planned the Western for Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell, not Tierney and Glenn Ford. Quite a shock to realise any films were actually planned for the dead-weight Andrews.
- Ava Gardner, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1951. Gene and Anne Francis were strong contenders for Cynthia Green. Ernest Hemingway told Ava he loathed the movie but loved her. And the hyena.
- Grace Kelly, Mogambo, 1952. No thank you, Tierney told MGM. She had no wish to take her two young daughters on lengthy locations in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Valerie Hobson, Monsieur Ripois, France-UK, 1953. Realisateur René Clémént’s charming movie became Hobson’s 50th and final film - on marrying UK politico John Profumo and we all know what happened next (the Profumo sex scandal of 1963). Tierney was simply not interested... She refused both it and the offered top billing above French heartthrob Gérard Philipe as the titular philanderer.
- Jean Simmons, The Egyptian, 1953. Seen for the female lead, Merit, Tierney was given the lesser role of of the pharaoh Akhenaton’s nasty sister, Baketamon. Marlon Brando was sued for $2m for quitting the film. He paid up by making (the much worse) Désirée. Or Daisy-Rae as he called the one that got away from Napoleon. And she was played by… Simmons!
- Maggie McNamara, Three Coins in the Fountain, 1953. Noting the opportunity missed by Paramount with Roman Holiday, Fox decided to shoot this Rome-com in colour and, for the first time outside the US, in CinemaScope. Tierney had been the earlier black-white choice for Maria. McNamara and, indeed. Louis Jourdan were totally miscast for their love story.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
- Olivia de Havilland, The Ambassador’s Daughter, 1955. Writer-producer-director Norman Krasna first chose Shelley Winters to be in love with a young GI in France. Then, Tierney was considered. De Havilland was a splendid substitute, light and funny for once, while poor John Forsythe seemed quite lost as her guy.
- Ava Gardner, The Sun Also Rises, 1957. After the Hays Office censors stopped Fox filming the hedonistic Hemingway book in 1933, Ann Harding picked up the rights and planed to produce a 1935 version and, of course, play Lady Brett Ashley. Allegedly, Howard Hawks also considered Hardy for Brett late 40s; he later chose Tierney - opposite Montgomery Clift as Jake. It took Fox a quarter-century to finally make the film and even then, producer Darryl F Zanuck had to promise not to use the word impotent. He did, anyway!
- Jane Wyman, Holiday for Lovers, 1958. The female roles seemed jinxed. Or was it just the lousy script ? Tierney was set for Mary, wed to her waspish Laura co-star Clton Webb! - and taking their teenager daughters on a South American holiday. Then, Tierney had an emotional breakdown (and had to return to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Texas). Joan Fontaine replaced her - and had her own breakdown. Head Fox Darryl Zanuck was having similar trouble with one of the daughters when he went for a real, trouble-free pro and Wyman made her first films for three years.
- Lana Turner, Peyton Place, 1961. Fox tried to find her another comeback opportunity.