Here are 10 things you should know about Bruce Bennett, born 112 years ago today. He enjoyed a prolific career and is one of those faces that movie fans know, even if they can’t quite recall his name.
The lovely Gene Tierney was born 96 years ago today in Brooklyn, New York. Here are GT Did-You-Knows:
- Tierney’s childhood was one of privilege. Her father was a successful insurance broker, her mother a former teacher. She sometimes lived with her grandparents in Connecticut, attending St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Unquowa School in Fairfield. She later attended finishing schools in Switzerland and Farmington, CT.
- At 17, Tierney visited Los Angeles. Her striking beauty caught director Anatole Litvak‘s eye during a visit to the Warner Brothers studio (her cousin worked there) and she was offered a contract. Her parents urged her to turn it down, due to the low salary and the fact that they envisioned a more high-society path for her.
- Gene Tierney was a debutante, making her society debut in September 24, 1938, but society life didn’t interest her and she resolved to be an actress. She began theatrical studies and was a protégée of Broadway producer-director George Abbott.
- She made her Broadway debut in a small role in What a Life! (1938) that saw her carrying a bucket of water across the stage. A Variety reviewer wrote of her performance, “Miss Tierney is certainly the most beautiful water carrier I’ve ever seen!”
- Tierney went on to appear in a handful of other Broadway shows, garnering larger roles and positive reviews each time. In 1939, she signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures and was slated to star in National Velvet (1944), but when the picture was delayed, she returned to Broadway to star in The Male Animal, which was a big hit and led to a contract with 20 Century-Fox and her motion picture debut, in The Return of Frank James (1940), opposite Henry Fonda.
- Tierney wrote poetry throughout her life; she first saw one of poems published in her high school newspaper.
- Tierney struggled with manic depression throughout her adult life. While shooting The Left Hand of God (1955), her costar, Humphrey Bogart, whose sister had struggled with mental illness, urged her to seek medical help.
- Tierney spent time in various institutions and underwent multiple shock treatments against her will. She was thereafter an outspoken critic of shock treatment therapy.
- Tierney was married twice—to fashion designer Oleg Cassini and oil baron W. Howard Lee—and had romantic relationships with many other prominent men, among them John F. Kennedy, Prince Aly Khan and Tyrone Power.
- Tierney, who took up smoking to lower her voice—“I sounded like an angry Minnie Mouse,” she is reported to have said after seeing herself on screen for the first time—remained a heavy smoker throughout her life and died of emphysema in 1999.
Happy birthday, Gene Tierney, wherever you may be!
The seventh chapter from Hollywood Undressed, a 1931 memoir attributed to the assistant of masseuse and health guru Sylvia Ulback, a.k.a. Sylvia of Hollywood (but actually ghost-written for Sylvia by newspaper reporter and screenwriter James Whittaker), reveals the truth behind Sam Goldwyn‘s misbegotten and short-lived pairing of Ronald Colman and Constance Cummings.
A GALLANT EPISODE
HERBERT BRENNON [sic] fixed it up for the boss to handle Ronald Colman, and pretty near got Sylvia pinched.
Colman was living down in the Malibu Beach colony. Malibu is about the most unprivate community in the world. In the first place, the matchboard shacks are built so close together that when your neighbor takes off his shoes you call, “Come in.” But the movie people are used to getting in each other’s hair, and like it, all except Greta Garbo, who tries to stick to her own toothbrush. So the lateral propinquity, as you might call it, is not a drawback in Malibu. But the longitudinal propinquity—the nearness to sea water on the one side and an eternal automobile procession of fandom on the other side—sometimes creates trouble. You’re always finding a snail or a tourist in your oatmeal.
About the time that Sylvia went down to Malibu to look up Colman, there had just been an epidemic of peeping Toms and Thomasinas plaguing the colony. Of course, the ladies were bothered most. Fans with big goggle eyes on stems were emerging from behind the wall paper at all sorts of embarrassing moments. Believe it or not, films girls who would act in a De Mille production without thinking anything of it can get just as nervous as an Iowa schoolma’am about a funny scratching noise at the bathroom window.
But if you think it was only the girls that were bothered by peepers, you don’t know fandom. Every morning there was just as much excitement about the size-five footprints outside the boys’ windows as about the size-nines outside the girls’. The colony was all excited that Sunday morning when Sylvia reported at Colman’s shack for duty.
The boss walked in without knocking and got held up by an alarmed Filipino.
“Go ‘way, please,” he squealed, and shook a towel at her.
“Where’s Mr. Colman?” asked Sylvia with authority.
“In bed, please,” protested the Filipino, and got in front of Ronald’s door, where he prepared to die. “Go ‘way, lady!” he kept squealing.
“In bed?” said Sylvia imperturbably. “Good. That’s just where I want him. Let me by.”
“No ladies allowed,” quavered the Filipino, who was really frightened. “Be quiet! I call police!” And he got a desperate hold on the door knob of Ronald’s door and began to bleat.
His cries were answered by two men who popped out of guest-room doors. Sylvia recognized them as William Powell and Philip Strange, two cronies of Ronald’s. But they didn’t know her at all. Strange took charge of the situation in a calm, haughty British way.
“Come now, my good woman,” he remonstrated. “Tell us what you want.”
Sylvia got wise to what was eating them and amused herself by feeding their panic.
“I just want to rub Ronald Colman,” she begged, trying to put a strange glitter in her eyes. “Just let me rub him once!”
“Oh, now, tut, tut!” soothed Strange.
The Filipino began again: “Go ‘way, lady, go ‘way!”
And Colman put a sleepy head out at the door to inquire what was wrong.
“This woman wants to rub you,” Strange explained.
“Well, why not?” yawned Colman. “She’s my masseuse.”
Strutting into Ronald’s chamber, Sylvia stole a backward glance at the nonplussed trio in the living room. She got a distinct impression that Philip Strange ball well didn’t approve of such goings-on.
The boss still counted Colman among her steady clients when she got mixed up in the series of errors that turned out to be comedy but might have been tragedy, and that established Constance Cummings, the Broadway ingénue, as a newcomer in films.