I know, I know, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly [and of course Elizabeth Taylor in her twenties and thirties] vie for most beautiful, or more recently Sharon Stone and Halle Berry [or say Keira Knightley], among others. But for me, the screen star who embodied the cliche "the camera loved her" was Gene Tierney. And these two movies brought that home conclusively.
Only twenty-one when she made them in the same year, 1942, they also surprise with the amazing range of her talent. In the black and white SON OF FURY with Tyrone Power she plays a girl from the South Pacific islands, a native who performs one of the most captivating hula dances ever filmed [and actually conveys the free spirited innocence of an islander, at least in Hollywood movies]. In THUNDER BIRDS with Foster Preston she plays a Southwest U.S. rancher's daughter, with her eyes even more stunning in technicolor.
The films are both lightweight Hollywood stories, but done with the usual classic Hollywood flair. SON OF FURY is an historical novel style adventure with Power playing a disenfranchised supposed bastard son of a nobleman, with a surprisingly physical and buff George Sanders as the villain and Francis Farmer, another screen beauty, as the beautiful blond noblewoman (with John Carradine and Elsa Lancaster and a very young Roddy McDowell turning in their usual magnetic character actor performances).
If you can accept the conceits and contrivances of the plot and old Hollywood studio filmmaking it's actually a pretty fun flick. But the main payoff is just watching Tierney on screen. The perfect antidote to recent worldly realities.
THUNDER BIRDS is a little less story driven and more of a chance for director William Wellman to show his usual aviator filming chops in the service of furthering the just begun war effort. Tierney again just stuns you with her screen presence. Foster does what he always did in movies and on TV, just played his more or less semi-macho self that somehow the ladies found charming and I always found kind of lame. But it's worth it to get to see Tierney, and in technicolor, rarely used in those days.
Thank God for works of art, not so much these films as Gene Tierney. And TCM's Robert Osborne for his always informative and so personal introductions and codas to so many classic flicks (like pointing out that this was the last film Francis Farmer made before all her well documented troubles began). A nice relief from the political jabbering, including my own.