Some would say the path that actress Gene Tierney took from New York socialite to Houston socialite only incidentally included her time as a movie star in Hollywood. She was a stunningly beautiful woman with stunningly bad taste in men. In between exotic romances and nervous breakdowns she squeezed in a film career notable for a few great roles but even more so for the unfulfilled promise of what might have been if she had led a happier personal life.
Gene Tierney was born November 20, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York. Her father was a wealthy businessman who frowned upon Gene’s early artistic ambitions. Her ethereal beauty and privileged background seemed to ensure a life at the top of New York social circles. But after making her debut, her father allowed her to pursue a career in show business.
After a successful audition, Producer George Abbot cast her in the Broadway play “Mrs. O’Brien Entertains.” Columbia Pictures courted her and she had a studio contract before she was twenty. Moving to Hollywood, she discovered she was just one of hundreds of young starlets waiting for their big break. But while the parts didn’t come, her beauty did get noticed – by millionaire industrialist Howard Hughes. The two dated for a short time before Gene decided to head back to New York and the stage.
She scored a hit in the play “The Male Animal.” Again, her Broadway success led to a studio contract, this one with Twentieth Century Fox. Giving Hollywood a second chance, she began to get steady work. She appeared in “The Return of Frank James” (1940), “Tobacco Road” (1941), and “Heaven Can Wait” (1943). Then came her breakthrough as the star of Otto Preminger’s noir-classic “Laura” (1944). The film was a hit and Gene Tierney became a star. Excellent roles followed in “A Bell for Adano” (1945), “Dragonwyck (1946)”, “The Razor’s Edge” (1946), and “Leave Her to Heaven” (1946), the last film earning Gene her only Oscar® nomination.
Unfortunately, while Gene’s professional life was taking off her personal life was floundering. Her marriage to the fashion designer Oleg Cassini was marred by the tragedy of their daughter, Daria, who was born retarded. She had an affair with a young John F. Kennedy, who broke her heart by refusing to marry her. A remarriage to Cassini produced another daughter, Christina (born in 1948), but also another divorce.
In the 1950’s she had an affair with Prince Aly Khan (Rita Hayworth’s ex-husband), who broke off their relationship when his father threatened to disown him for dating another wacky actress. She suffered a nervous breakdown and spent a good part of the 1950’s in mental hospitals. Her 1961 marriage to Houston oilman W. Howard Lee gave her some well-deserved stability. For the rest of her life she acted occasionally on TV and became active in Houston charities, especially those involved with the mentally retarded. She died in Houston on November 6, 1991.
He may be best known to younger generations as Clayton Farlow on Dallas, but Howard Keel had a vast and impressive film career before settling down on Southfork. In more than thirty film roles throughout the 50s and 60s, Howard starred opposite some of Hollywood’s most notable legends.
Born Harry Clifford Leek in Gillespie, Illinois, Howard was working as a representative for Douglas Aircraft Corporation in Southern California when he was selected for a role in the Los Angeles Theatre Guild. He worked on Broadway in Carousel and Oklahoma before landing the role of Boke in the 1948 British thriller The Small Voice. He was 29. A role in 1950’s Pagan Love Song followed, but it was his role in the Oscar-winning Annie Get Your Gun that gained Howard real notice.
Obviously deciding film adaptations of popular musicals were a good idea, Howard chose as his next film 1951’s Show Boat. Playing Ava Gardner’s leading man, Howard helped the film become the second highest-grossing film of that year.
Thanks to a string of not-so-memorable films, Howard’s career treaded water for the next couple of years. In 1953 he redeemed himself, however, by starring in the Doris Day rendition of Calamity Jane. Equally successful was that year’s Kiss Me Kate, starring Howard and Kathryn Grayson. And in 1954, he co-starred with Jane Powell in the Academy Award-nominated Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
After 1959’s The Big Fisherman, the quality of film roles Howard was accepting began to decline. He chose more commercial films, mostly westerns and science fiction films, and as a result, his audience began to narrow. In 1968 he seemed to disappear altogether, possibly never to be resurrected, if it weren’t for a certain TV show that was looking for an opposing father figure.
By the time Howard joined Dallas as Clayton Farlow, it was already in its fourth season. Viewers were watching in droves and Howard’s role — to stand up to the vicious Ewings — would require an authority and confidence only a veteran actor could deliver. After a brief flirtation with Sue Ellen, Clayton became involved with the matriarch of the Ewing family, Miss Ellie. By the end of the series, the characters would marry.
After Dallas’ end in 1991, Howard appeared in the TV movie Hart to Hart: Home is Where the Heart Is and hosted both That’s Entertainment! III and The Making of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Keel died in 2004.
Robert Wagner proved to be more than just a pretty face. An enduring and versatile entertainer, he had many successful Hollywood incarnations: from awkward juvenile lead to bobby-sox idol to assured leading man to television star and finally back to captivating character actor. The Brylcreem Kid, as he was known in the early days, turned out to be a major talent.
Born February 10, 1930, in Detroit, Michigan, Robert Wagner was not supposed to become an actor. The son of a wealthy steel executive, Robert was supposed to follow in his father’s footsteps and achieve great things in the world of business. But Robert caught the acting bug instead, and moved to Los Angeles before he was twenty to pursue his dreams.
His good looks and easy going manner got him into films and soon he became a contract player for 20th Century Fox. One of his first notable roles was in a unique John Ford war comedy called “What Price Glory?” (1952) which put him on screen with the likes of James Cagney. The film was originally intended to be a musical, though the final cut only contained two songs. The Ford film got Wagner noticed and he quickly appeared in a slew of smaller roles in films like “With a Song in My Heart” (1952) and “Stars and Stripes Forever” (1952).
Wagner soon progressed to leading man status in films like “Prince Valiant” (1953). But while the roles were getting bigger, they weren’t very challenging, and Wagner still wasn’t taken very seriously as an actor. Woman-kind swooned over Wagner’s all-American looks and every bobby-soxer wished they could take him to their prom. In 1954, however, Wagner got the chance to cut his teeth on a more serious role and display his talent in Edward Dmytryk’s riveting western “Broken Lance.”
Wagner seemed well on his way to establishing himself as a serious actor with another lead role in the western “White Feather” (1955) and the crime drama “A Kiss Before Dying” (1956), when suddenly his personal life completely eclipsed his professional life. In 1956, he met the love of his life, Natalie Wood. In 1957, they married in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hollywood trumpeted their marriage as the most “glittering union of the 20th century.” The public could not hear enough about the two love-birds and were ecstatic when they made their first film together, “All the Fine Young Cannibals” (1960). The moroseness of the film, however, turned out to be prescient: While the two appeared to be the perfect couple, living the perfect life, they were actually living on the edge and running out of money.
The two were deeply in love, but professional and financial stress began to take its toll on their marriage. Wagner was being overshadowed by new male leads like Marlon Brando and Paul Newman, while Wood was placed on a fourteen month suspension by Warner Bros. for refusing to shoot a film in England. They couldn’t afford to upkeep their $150,000 mansion on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, they couldn’t live up to the shimmering facade the tabloids had created, they couldn’t get the work they wanted in Hollywood. They wound up divorcing in 1962.
Wagner was a wreck after the divorce and went to Europe to film “The Longest Day” (1962), in part to assuage his grief. On the rebound, he married his old friend Marion Marshall in 1963. Still unable to regain his leading man status, Wagner tried his hand at comedy in “The Pink Panther” (1963) and at mystery in “Harper” (1966) — in which he played a supporting role to the man who had contributed to edging him out of the spotlight: Paul Newman. Reluctantly, Wagner went into television to star in “It Takes a Thief” (1968). The new medium resurrected his career, and he went on to star in many TV movies and several TV series, including the one he is most known for, “Hart to Hart” (1979).
While Wagner’s professional life was once again thriving by the late sixties, his personal life was not. He was still desperately in love with Natalie Wood, though he was still married to his second wife and Wood was newly married to British producer Richard Gregson. Each had a daughter. Wagner was divorced again in 1970, and one fated day, in 1971, Natalie and Robert ran into one another in a restaurant. The years of hardship and strife disappeared; the old magic was back. Wood divorced Gregson and the two love birds re-married in 1972 on their yacht, The Splendour.
Their second marriage really was picture perfect. The two were overjoyed to be reunited, and raised their children together happily. They made three television movies together during this time: “The Affair” (1973), “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1976), and “Hart to Hart” (1979). Then, in 1981, tragedy struck and Wagner’s life was shattered again. Under mysterious circumstances, Wood slipped from the deck of The Splendour and drowned. Wagner was inconsolable and spent the next ten years trying to lose himself in his work, and raising Natalie’s and his daughters alone.
Wagner eventually remarried to Jill St. John, though to this day he finds it difficult to talk about his wife Natalie Wood’s death.
Shirley Jones burst onto the screen in Oklahoma, with a voice and a fresh-faced beauty that inspired a generation of men to daydream about taking her out in a surrey with a fringe on top.
Her role in “Carousel” and her Oscar®-winning turn in “Elmer Gantry” cemented Jones’s status as a star. On June 5, 1962, a parade featuring Shirley Jones and Robert Preston in “The Music Man” composer Meredith Wilson’s hometown of Mason City, Iowa, attracted a crowd of 125,000 people!
After having made so many classic films, it’s ironic that Shirley Jones is so well-known as a mother in a TV sitcom. Real movie fans know better.
THIS JUST IN
Within These Walls: Prison Cat (ITV 13 Sep 1975, with Sally Sanders)
In Prison Cat, pregnant Poppy Hall is distraught when her boyfriend breaks it off. Prison officer Worth decides to try...
Scorpion: Who Let the Dog Out (‘Cause Now It’s Stuck in a Cistern) (CBS Dec 11 2017 with Max Phyo)
Who Let the Dog Out (‘Cause Now It’s Stuck in a Cistern): As Team Scorpion anxiously awaits the verdict of...
The Bachelor: Countdown to Arie Special (ABC Dec 11, 2017 with Arie Luyendyk Jr)
Get the Lowdown on New Bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr., and the women who will pursue him. Join Chris Harrison for...
Look Back in Anger (Woodfall 1959, Richard Burton, Claire Bloom)
Influential British kitchen-sink” drama Look Back in Anger, directed in gritty black and white by Tony Richardson (Tom Jones) and...
Three Coins in the Fountain (TCF 1954, Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire)
In handsomely photographed romance Three Coins in the Fountain, three American women (Jean Peters, Dorothy McGuire, Maggie McNamara) pin their...
9JKL: Set Visit (CBS Dec 11, 2017 with Michael Showalter)
Set Visit: After Harry and Judy visit Josh on the set of his new movie, he is horrified when the...
Valor: Stay Frosty (The CW Dec 11, 2017 with Nigel Thatch)
Stay Frosty: The Shadow Raiders are sent out on a mission which, if successful, could mean a dire outcome for...
More to View
TV1 week ago
My Christmas Prince (Lifetime 2017, Alexis Knapp, Callum Alexander)
Previews7 days ago
How To Spend It Well At Christmas With Phillip Schofield Episode 2 (ITV 5 Dec 2017)
Previews2 weeks ago
Great Canal Journeys: Portugal Premieres Thurs 30 Nov on Channel 4
Previews3 weeks ago
Ugly House To Lovely House With George Clarke: Heathfield, East Sussex (Channel 4 23 Nov 2017)
TV2 days ago
Runaway Christmas Bride (ION 2017, Cindy Busny, Travis Milne)
Episodes2 weeks ago
American Housewife: Gala Auction (ABC 29 Nov 2017, with Julia Butters)
Previews2 weeks ago
Jamie And Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast: Joanna Lumley (Channel 4 1 Dec 2017)
Previews2 weeks ago
How To Spend It Well at Christmas with Phillip Schofield Premieres Tues 28 Nov on ITV