Gene is the eldest of two daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Marshall. They live in Cos Cob, Connecticut and would be considered upper middle class.
From the age of two, Gene was an unusually beautiful child. Before that, it had been touch and go in the looks department, but at two years old, everything came together to form an unusually perfect face. It was all in the proportion of her features. As a baby, in the off times when she was not laughing or smiling, Gene appeared to have the cool appraising glance of an adult. This seeming sophistication, along with her vivid blue eyes and perfect heart shaped face, sometimes unnerved adults and made them think of carved religious figures. Being the first child, she instantly became the apple of her father's eye, and as she grew, he occasionally worried about her being able to handle the situations that her beauty was likely to create for her.
From very early on, she was what her parents considered a fanci-ful child, given to seeing fairies and spooks. During the summer months, she spent long afternoon and evening hours looking for traces of the wee-folk. Her belief in the supernatural was so strong that other children in the neighborhood believed because of her, and helped her hunt fairies at night. Her mother thought this charming and hid pennies under mushrooms in the yard to further convince her and her friends of the fairies' existence.
The dark side of this vivid imagination was a proclivity for nightmares and seeing shapes in the corners of her room at night. At such times, her father would be called to search the room for phantoms, and occasionally remain in a chair by her bed till she was again asleep. This fantasy life sustained her through many hours of solitary play, and when she learned to read, at age six, there were few stories too farfetched for her not to be absorbed in and believe. Gene grasped, from very early on, that little is impossible.
Her first movie matinee was a religious experience for her, and at some point that no one noticed, she stopped looking for tiny shimmering figures in the dark and started looking at enormous shimmering figures in the dark. From then on, Gene's favorite pastime was the movies --twice a week-- the limit her parents would allow. If they had permitted, she would have gone every day. At this point, the walls of her room sprouted photos of her favorite stars, and magazines collected in the corner that detailed the glamorous lives of her idols. Her mother understood the fascination and occasionally picked up a magazine from Gene's room and browsed through it herself. Gene's first movie had been the "Jazz Baby" and at home that evening she had painted her face black and made a surprise appearance at her mothers bridge party.
In school plays she was frequently asked to assume the lead. This was the result of both her looks and her willingness to perform. More than once her touching belief in the character she played had caused parents' eyes to mist and throats to catch. When she played Cinderella --in the third grade-- she was Cinderella for days before and after, and once embarrassed Bessie, their part-time maid, by scrubbing the floors in front of company. This ability to assume a role and believe it, no matter how fantastic, occasionally worried her father, even while it amused Mrs. Marshall. She had married young and harbored a not so secret fondness for show biz herself. If Dr. Marshall had not been so dead set against it, she probably would have been a stage mother, given Gene's looks and talents. As it was, she waited and watched.
In spite of Gene's active fantasy life, or perhaps because of it, Gene was a happy, normal young girl having her fair share of friends, and being popular in school. Her routine of school, movies twice a week, and church on Sunday, was the metronome of her passing school years. Boys in high school wanted to date Gene, but she considered them basically immature and refused any serious romantic involvement. Compared with the leading men of most movies, they seemed hopelessly naive to her. With her looks, she could have been the most popular girl in her class if she had worked at it-- even a little. But her defense against shyness was a cool detachment in social situations. This drove the boys crazy and made a few of the girls think she was stuck up. Once though, someone became her friend, they realized Gene's sweet nature and sly humor, which made her friends become her arch defenders and allies against her detractors.
Gene was a good student through high school, with average grades in the subjects she disliked and excellent grades in the subjects like literature and science that interested her. Home Economics was one of the subjects that she only tolerated. Home and hearth seemed to her an awful little to aspire to. What Gene had told no one, was a certainty she had long felt that her life was to be an extraordinary one. That the subdued lives of her family and friends were not to be an option for her. She felt sure that even had she wanted such a life, wheels where in motion the would prevent it.
Gene could feel, from miles away, the warmth of the lights in Times Square. Lights that trickled across side streets and down avenues to illuminate the dark corners of Manhattan. These were the same lights she saw twice a week at the Royale Theater where she went for her dream infusions. These were movie lights, names, titles, grand promises, and slick come-ons. Gene was a moth to these lights.
Upon graduation from high school, Gene struck a deal with her reluctant father and excited mother. Instead of the standard trip to Europe that her parents expected for her, her graduation gift would be six months in New York City to "find herself" before deciding on a college to attend. She fought long and hard with her father for this. A roommate, the daughter of a family friend, and a room at the Barbizon Hotel for Women were arranged for Gene. Also arranged, at her mother's suggestion, was an interview with the Chambers Model Agency. Her mother was a little in awe of the nerve her teenage daughter had leaving the nest for the big city. When the Chambers Agency accepted Gene on the spot, both mother and daughter were thrilled with just how quickly her nerve was paying off.
Being established in a proper hotel in a "nice" part of town, with an acceptable roommate, and a claim to a profession, went a small way in appeasing the fear Dr. Marshall had that his daughter would end up with white slavers. And in the following weeks, with Gene's budding modeling career and no disaster on the horizon, he relaxed and actually grew to admire his daughter's determination. His one real dread could not be blamed on her living in New York City. Gene would be a beauty wherever she went, Boise or Manhattan, and men were the same everywhere --or so he feared. At least these men would be Americans rather than the slick Europeans she would have met had she gone abroad. This was his small consolation.
It wasn't until Gene's second week in town that she put into motion her truest reasons for being there. She had read in the papers about a glamorous movie premiere the previous night at the Regent Movie Palace. Upon seeing the photos in the paper of the stars arriving arm in arm beneath the klieg lights, Gene decided to become a part, at last, of this choreographed mayhem. The next afternoon she went to the Regent Theater and applied for a job as an usherette. She didn't tell her parents right away, or the modeling agency, but kept this job as her secret. Her modeling assignments were sporadic. Gene was an orchid in a profession that more frequently used daisies. This didn't discourage her, but in fact gave her the time to work evenings at the Regent. There she showed people to their seats with her flashlight and directed ladies to the powder room at intermission.
Far from thinking of this as a menial job, she looked forward to slipping into her tailored, gold-braided uniform and patrolling the aisles and lobby of the Regent. And there, just inside, the curtains that divided dark from light, dreamers from the dream, Gene stood and watched the silver images that un-spooled on the screen. She waited for her invitation to join the party and with the next premiere held there, her invitation would come.
This Gene Biography was provided courtesy of the Plastic Princess Page.