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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #76

Dear Reader,

Fanning the flames of love…

Paul Robeson, singer, actor and activist, in Madrid, January 1938 in support of the Spanish anti-fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Picture: Yale Library.

In Operation Treasure, Eve discovers that Gestapo officer Hauptsturmführer Klaus Raab shares her love of painting. Raab enjoys crude nudes whereas Eve is a fan of the Barbizon School.

The Barbizon School of painters focused on Realism, which developed through the Romantic Movement. The School takes its name from the village of Barbizon, situated near the Forest of Fontainebleau where many of the artists gathered.

An example from the Barbizon School, Charles-Émile Jacque’s Shepherdess and Her Flock, 1878.

Today, 19 November 2020, would have been Gene Tierney’s 100th birthday. Here’s my article about the Hollywood star and mental health advocate.

https://hannah-howe.com/2017/09/13/gene-tierney/

On 20 November 1945, the Nuremberg trials began. Judges from America, Britain, France and the Soviet Union sought justice for millions killed during the Holocaust. Twenty-four Nazi political and military leaders stood trial and nineteen were found guilty when the tribunal concluded on 1 October 1946.

The phrase ¡No pasarán!, They shall not pass! is most closely associated with the Spanish Civil War. However, it was also used by a Frenchman, General Robert Nivelle, at the Battle of Verdun during the First World War, Ils ne passeront pas!

The art of cutting cheese.


My 4 x great grandfather, John Howe (yet another John), was baptised on 26 February 1786 in St Hilary, Glamorgan. Baptisms usually took place within a week of birth, so his birthday was around 19 February 1786. 

John’s parents were John Howe and Cecily Lewis, wealthy farmers. However, in 1799 the government introduced the first-ever income tax and that tax put a dent in the family’s finances. After over a hundred years of farming in St Hilary, they moved away. John moved ten miles west to St Brides.

A Victorian Gazetteer described St Brides as, ‘A parish in the Hundred of Ogmore, in the county of Glamorgan. It is situated on the coast of the Bristol Channel, at the mouth of the River Ogmore. A special interest attaches to it as one of the earliest seats of the native princes. It has still some vestiges of the ancient castle of Dyndryfan (Dunraven), the traditional residence of Caradoc (Caractacus), and considerable remains of Ogmore Castle, a fortress of equal antiquity. The church is ancient, and has some fine monuments of the Butler and Wyndham families. The Calvinistic Methodists have a chapel in the village. Along the coast are several large and curiously-formed caves, one of which, of great depth, is called the “Wind Hole.”’

St Brides was a larger parish than St Hilary and therefore offered John greater employment opportunities. However, the population of St Brides actually declined throughout the nineteenth century, from 914 in 1841 to 621 in 1891.

It’s interesting that this branch of my family, over hundreds of years, continued to move west, in John’s case six miles along the coast to Tythegston, where he met his bride-to-be, Christiana John, daughter of Evan John, 1755-1832 and Mary 1757-1837.

A topographical dictionary of 1833 stated that the population of Tythegston stood at 404. The parish contained good arable and pasture land along with coal, iron ore and clay for making bricks. The parish also contained a school for ‘the gratuitous instruction of poor children.’

Christiana was born on 31 December 1795 and baptised on 6 January 1796. Her name became popular in the Howe family and can be found in numerous generations. It would seem that unlike her husband, John, she did not receive a formal education because when the couple married she did not sign her name, applying an ‘x’ instead.

Christiana was pregnant when she married John on 17 April 1819, in Tythegston. She gave birth to Edward in St Brides on 22 July 1819. William, my 3 x great grandfather, followed on 14 September 1823, along with Mary in 1827, Evan in 1828, Thomas in 1831, Richard in 1833, Cecily in 1836 and, at the age of 43, John in 1839. Christiana’s husband, John, worked as a thatcher while she obviously had her hands full at home.

The introduction of the census in 1841 opened a window for genealogists by providing more details about our ancestors. That said, the 1841 census was basic with names, approximate ages and occupations. Places of birth were often confused or deliberately misrepresented (so a person could claim local poor relief) with places of residence. In contrast, the 1851 census was more detailed and reliable.

The 1841 census found John Howe in St Brides with his wife Christiana and three of their children, Thomas, Richard and John. 

In 1851, John was living in Ogmore in the parish of St Brides with Christiana and two of their children, Cecily and John. John senior was a thatcher, a decent trade that earned him £75 per annum, a good wage considering that labourers earned £40 and women £10 per annum. Living in Ogmore as a thatcher it’s almost certain that John worked on the roofs of these cottages in nearby Merthyr Mawr.

As we struggle with Covid, so our ancestors had to combat cholera. Between 1829 and 1851, cholera invaded many communities. The outbreak in 1848 claimed 52,000 lives in England and Wales. Over time, communities improved their sanitation, but the connection between good health and care of our environment is still a lesson we struggle to learn.

John died, aged 70 (some records incorrectly state 73) of ‘old age’ on 24 December 1856 and was buried two days later. His son, Richard, witnessed the death certificate with a cross. 

In 1861, Christiana was living with her daughter, Mary, also a widow, at the age of 34. Ten years later, Christiana was living alone next door to a miller, where her daughter Cecily was a servant. Her son, Evan, lived next door.

Christiana died on 10 July 1874 aged 78 of ‘cancer and general decay’. Her son Evan was present and he applied his mark on the death certificate. John and Christiana are buried together in St Brides churchyard. 

The Howe family, tight-knit and prosperous in St Brides and St Hilary, now dispersed to various parts of Glamorgan where they experienced mixed fortunes.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Sam Smith Mystery Series

The Muse #2

Welcome to The Muse, the latest news from bestselling author, Hannah Howe

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The opening chapter of The Devil and Ms Devlin finds Sam still working, against her will, from her office houseboat. However, when a Greek billionaire shows up wishing to hire Sam, does this mean a change of fortune?

The billionaire wants Sam to discover who is sending death threats to his lover, the superstar actress Dana Devlin, who after suffering emotional problems is making a comeback. However, the death threats are sent on postcards containing hearts, angels and flowers. What could this mean? Sam enters the glamorous world of movie making to uncover the truth, a truth clouded by murder, blackmail, fetishes and crooked business deals.

Meanwhile, Sam’s psychologist husband, Alan, encourages Dana to talk about her life, uncovering a closely guarded secret about her daughter and the root of her emotional problems.

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I’m researching a novel, which will be set in Bulgaria in 1944. My novel will be based on true events and the lives of two individuals, Ivan Danev, an eighteen year old resistance fighter imprisoned by the fascists, and Frank Thompson, a British officer who assisted the partisans. Along with biographies of Frank Thompson, Ivan Danev’s memoirs, Nest of Heroes, (pictured) will form the centrepiece of the story. The novel will also feature Ivan‘s sister, a young woman caught up in the conflict.

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Laura has started work on the French translation of Amour et Balles, Love and Bullets, book two in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. Our aim is to develop this series in French and explore the French book markets this year.

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A great start to the year for Tradimento, the Italian version of Betrayal, #2 on the Historical Fiction chart 🙂

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What a lovely review from a Canadian reader, for Sam’s Song 🙂

“Initially, I had a bit of trouble getting into the book, probably because the premise was not something I was familiar with, i.e. a rock star with a problem. Not a fan of rock music, or the lifestyle, it was the protagonist, Sam, that drew me in. Don’t you just love it when a book grows on you? Three-quarters of the way into the story I was routing for Sam and hoping she would make sound decisions. It takes a good writer to draw one into a story that is hard to put down, especially if it isn’t something you relate to.”

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Another wonderful review from Canada, for The Big Chill 🙂

“I love the Sam Smith series! She is feisty and funny and determined. Sam is shot in her office and as part of her recovery, she is not going to rest until she finds the person who did it. The list of potential suspects is unnervingly long. I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the last page, and now I’m a little sad it’s over. I highly recommend this series. They just keep getting better!”

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I’ve never been drawn to fame, fortune, glamour or celebrity. This book explains why. It tells the story of many beautiful, extremely rich and privileged people. The common thread is the sad and vacuous nature of their lives. When Gene Tierney suffered a mental breakdown and couldn’t remember her lines, the only person who tried to help her was a common maid. Gene Tierney had hired the maid to look after her daughter. Instead, she looked after the movie star. As Gene Tierney candidly admits, she had ‘everything’, a glamorous existence, while the maid had ‘nothing‘, except the happier life.

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Ann's War Mom’s Favorite Reads Sam Smith Mystery Series Saving Grace The Muse

The Muse #1

The Muse

#1

The Devil and Ms Devlin eBook Cover

The Devil and Ms Devlin, Sam Smith Mystery Series book fifteen, will be published on Easter Sunday. The book will be available for pre-order from 21st January 2019.

A lovely quote from Gene Tierney, discovered while researching her life and career, “A romantic picks the rose and is careless with the thorns.”

My books have sold well in France over Christmas with several making the top 💯. Also, a lovely review for Secrets and Lies, in French.

Beaucoup de plaisir à lire cette série qui n’a guère de prétention autre que de distraire le lecteur avec des personnages attachants et des histoires variées. C’est un roman policier variante eau de rose (l’harlequin du polar) qui fait passer un bon moment sur une plage ce qui n’a rien de méprisable, les bons moments sont toujours bons à prendre!

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I’ve read so many excellent books this year, it’s impossible to pick a favourite. However, if forced to nominate one I would select A Study of Household Spirits of Eastern Europe. Check it out. It’s truly delightful.
https://www.amazon.com/Household-Spirits-Eastern-Europe-Creatures-ebook/dp/B07H7V5KX6/

I love movies from the 1940s through to the 1970s. I also love Dana Andrews as an actor. Therefore, I was delighted to receive a DVD of Fallen Angel for Christmas. I’m sure this movie will influence a novel I’m researching. Set in 1948, my novel will feature one of the characters from my Ann’s War series and will have a noir feel, similar to The Third Man.

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One of the highlights of the past year has been working with my team of talented translators. In particular, I would like to send Christmas greetings to: Cristina, Anita, Tais, Irene, Laura D, Luc, Zachary, Laura N, Minea, Jill, Silvia, Eva and Christina. Thank you. I look forward to working with you again in the new year.

I’m co-founder and co-editor of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Lots of great seasonal content in our December magazine. It’s FREE. Check it out 🙂

 

Categories
Biography Movies Psychology

Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney

Through her looks and life story, Gene Tierney has provided the inspiration for two of my characters – Ann Morgan in my 1944-5 Ann Morgan Mystery Series and Dana Devlin in my forthcoming Sam Smith Mystery Series novel, The Devil and Ms Devlin. Therefore, in appreciation of Gene Tierney’s life and career, I decided to write this article.

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Born on the 19th November 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, to a wealthy insurance broker and a socialite mother, Gene Tierney enjoyed a privileged upbringing, an upbringing that included exclusive schools, extensive travel and glamorous parties. Aged seventeen, she met Anatole Litvak, an influential Hollywood director, and he invited the debutante to make a screen test for Warner Brothers. Impressed by her looks and potential, the studio offered her a contract. However, her parents were not pleased.

Obeying her parents, Gene Tierney returned to Connecticut where she endured a mind-numbing season of debutante parties. At the close of the season, she informed her parents of her desire to carve out a career as an actress. On this occasion, her parents offered their support. Her father, Howard, secured mentoring and schooling, and he formed a company, to assist Gene in her ambitions.

Gene Tierney’s early theatre performances attracted the attention of Warner Brothers who, once again, offered her a contract. However, she turned them down; instead, she signed a six month deal with Columbia.

With Gene Tierney’s star on the rise, eccentric movie mogul Howard Hughes entered the picture. He was besotted with her beauty. However, as she later pointed out, “Cars, furs and gems were not my weakness.” And she rebuffed Hughes.

Despite the rebuff, Howard Hughes remained friends with Gene Tierney, one of many influential and powerful people she encountered during her life. At this stage, she was a contract actress with a major studio, reduced to roles dependant on her looks, rather than her acting ability. Then she caught the eye of Darryl Zanuck, of Twentieth Century Fox. Later, Zanuck stated that Gene Tierney was, “the most beautiful woman in movie history.”

In 1940, Gene Tierney played Eleanor Stone in The Return of Frank James. The reviews for the movie, and Gene’s performance, were unkind. Indeed, Gene endured a number of unfavourable reviews throughout her career, and while some of those reviews were merited, you have to wonder if jealousy, over her looks and privileged upbringing, was also at play.

Also in 1940, Gene Tierney’s private life changed direction. She met fashion designer Oleg Cassini and within months the couple were married. Once again, her parents were not pleased and a rift developed within the family. Over time, that rift widened until Gene was cut off financially, and from Connecticut high society.

Stressed, and enduring a string of dubious movies and poor reviews, Gene fell ill. Nevertheless, she remained in Hollywood and continued to work, landing the lead role in the 1943 movie, Heaven Can Wait.

In June 1943, a pregnant Gene Tierney contracted rubella. On the 14th October 1943, she went into premature labour and soon after her daughter, Daria, was born. Tragically, the rubella affected Daria’s development and she suffered from a number of impediments.

With professional help, Gene Tierney and Oleg Cassini raised Daria at their Hollywood home. While adjusting to her maternal responsibilities, Gene landed the title role in Laura, in 1944, arguably the highpoint of her acting career. Although the film received mixed reviews – a consistent thread throughout Gene’s career – it did well at the box office, netting over a million dollars, and now is regarded as a cinema classic. As Vincent Price, one of her co-stars in Laura, said, “No one but Gene Tierney could have played Laura. There was no other actress around with her particular combination of beauty, breeding and mystery.”

The success of Laura should have brought Gene Tierney great happiness. However, Oleg Cassini could not cope with his daughter’s disability and, in 1946, he walked out of the family home.

Before that, in 1945, Gene Tierney starred in Leave Her to Heaven, and received an Oscar nomination for her performance. In 1946, she co-starred with Vincent Price in Dragonwyck and during the filming she met J.F. Kennedy. A relationship developed, but was not pursued because of J.F.K.’s political ambitions.

In 1947, Gene Tierney made The Ghost and Mrs Muir. However, unhappy with her personal life, she decided to leave Hollywood and returned to Connecticut. In 1948, while constantly crying tears for Daria, Gene went through a whirlwind of emotions with Oleg Cassini – they divorced, Gene became pregnant, she gave birth to a second daughter, Christina, on the 19th November 1948 her 28th birthday, and later remarried Cassini.

Unable to cope with Daria’s health problems, Gene bowed to Oleg’s insistence and placed her daughter in an institution. At this point, Gene’s health faltered and she slipped into deep depression. Mood swings ensued. A lack of understanding from the medical profession and the stigma from an uncaring society added to Gene’s problems. She threw herself into her work and later wrote, “As long as I was playing someone else, everything was fine. It was when I had to be myself that the problems began.” She added, with great insight, “Depression is only a temporary thing. I’ve often thought that if people who committed suicide could wake up the next morning they’d ask themselves, ‘Now why in the world did I do that?’”

In the early 1950s, Gene divorced Oleg Cassini for a second time. Her career, personal life and health were in crisis.

In 1955, while working with Humphrey Bogart on The Left Hand of God, Bogart noted that Gene had problems. He alerted the executives at Fox studios, but they dismissed his concerns in flippant fashion. As Gene Tierney later wrote, “It was the fashion at the time, still is, to feel that all actors are neurotic, or they would not be actors.”

On set, Gene continued to work to a high standard, while at home she struggled to cope with the basic tasks of life. In despair, Gene entered a sanatorium. Within the sanatorium, she received electroconvulsive-therapy, a degrading and barbaric practice, now considered inappropriate by many mental health professionals.

In the spring of 1957, Gene Tierney contemplated suicide. In New York, she walked on to the ledge of her mother’s 14th floor high-rise apartment. She later wrote, “I felt serene…totally without fear.” However, she didn’t jump because vanity took hold. She confessed, “I thought of what I’d look like when I hit the ground – like a scrambled egg. That didn’t appeal to me.”

More treatment followed, but thankfully treatment of a saner, helpful variety. Gene entered the Menninger Clinic in Kansas. There, in an atmosphere of peace and quiet, she was encouraged to talk. With support, she developed skills and coping strategies, until she reached the stage where she felt more in control of her illness. Today, even though drugs and other treatments are available, talking often remains the best cure.

While on holiday in 1958, Gene met W. Howard Lee, a Texas oilman. A year later, she resumed her acting career in Holiday for Lovers, but the strain proved too much, and she dropped the part. However, on the 11th July 1960, she did marry W. Howard Lee and stated, “The only time I was really happy was in my childhood – and now.”

After continued treatment at the Menninger Clinic, small acting roles followed, along with greater insight into Gene’s problems. She later wrote, “If you break an arm or a leg it takes months for it to really heal, and years for it to be the same again. So you can imagine the problems with a broken mind.” And, “More than anything, I learned that the mind is the most beautiful part of the body and I am grateful to have mine back.”

In 1962, Gene suffered a miscarriage. Bouts of depression and periods of mania followed, but when they faded she was able to reflect on them with humour, often joking with her new husband.

Although not reaching the heights of Laura, Gene appeared in movies and television series, until 1969 when she quit Hollywood and television for good.

W. Howard Lee died in February 1981, and from that point on, after years in the spotlight, Gene Tierney decided to live a life of seclusion.

Gene died on the 6th November 1991, of emphysema, a condition brought on through chain-smoking; at the start of her acting career, and showing no regard for the individual, the studio suggested that Gene should take up smoking, to make her voice huskier.

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Gene Tierney wrote, “Wealth, beauty and fame are transient. When those are gone, little is left except the need to be useful.” And she served that statement well by writing her autobiography, Self-Portrait, in 1979. Through her frank and honest account of her life, Gene Tierney helped to break down the stigma of mental illness, and along with her numerous movies, that stands as her greatest legacy.

Further reading: Self-Portrait – Gene Tierney with Mickey Herskowitz.

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Portrait-Gene-Tierney/dp/0883261529

 

Categories
Movies Novels

Laura

Starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb, Laura is a romantic detective story with an original plot. It is also one of my favourite films. The film was released in 1944 with a storyline adapted from Vera Caspary’s (1899 – 1987) novel.

The plot centres on hard-boiled detective Mark McPherson and his attempts to solve the murder of Laura Hunt, whose face has been rendered unrecognisable after a shotgun blast. The suspects are wealthy snobs who annoy McPherson as much as he annoys them. Apart from their wealth, the one thing these suspects have in common is that they all loved Laura.

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As the story develops McPherson gets to know Laura and, captivated by her portrait, he falls in love with her, her apparent demise notwithstanding. The film has been placed in the noir bracket, and the shotgun blast and McPherson’s growing obsession with a corpse might justify that category, though the stamp of a traditional noir film is the stereotypically bad girl using the man who falls in love with her, and that doesn’t happen in Laura.

With a brilliant and credible twist, Vera Caspary turns McPherson – and the story – upside down and we head off in a new direction. The assortment of eccentric and intriguing characters hold your attention throughout and you feel a strong empathy for McPherson as he tries to solve the murder.

The author, Vera Caspary, was a career-minded ‘modern’ woman who showed great determination to succeed in a male-dominated profession. She wrote twenty-one novels and several screenplays and received a Screen Writers Guild Award in 1957. She also held strong political views and was hounded by the McCarthy witch-hunts. But to her great credit she rose above all that and forged a successful career.

A favourite line from the film: McPherson is asked, “Have you ever been in love?” He replies laconically, “A dame in Washington Heights once got a fox fur out of me.”

YouTube clip showing the trailer for Laura http://youtu.be/u6f8jRplej8

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