Nick Name: The Get Girl
Birthday: November 19, 1920
Died At Age: 70
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Gene Eliza Tierney
Born in: Brooklyn, New York City
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: Oleg Cassini (m. 1941–1952), W. Howard Lee (m. 1960–1981)
father: Howard Sherwood Tierney
mother: Belle Lavina Taylor
children: Christina Cassini, Daria Cassini
Died on: November 6, 1991
place of death: Houston, Texas, United States
City: New York City
U.S. State: New Yorkers
Gene Tierney was an American film and stage actress best known for her role as an enigmatic murder victim in the film ‘Laura.’ Her portrayal of a selfish and bitter woman in ‘Leave Her to Heaven’ was another one of her popular roles which earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. The daughter of a wealthy insurance broker, she enjoyed a privileged childhood and was educated at the finest schools in Connecticut and Switzerland. Her foray into acting happened by chance. While on a visit to Warner Bros. Studios during a family trip, her luminous beauty got noticed by director Anatole Litvak who suggested that she become an actress. Excited by the suggestion, she studied acting at a small Greenwich Village acting studio in New York with Broadway director and actor Benno Schneider. She soon ventured into Broadway and impressed the critics and audiences alike with her beauty and talent. After several years on the stage, her impressive career led her to the silver screen and she made her debut opposite Henry Fonda in Fox's 1940 Western ‘The Return of Frank James.’ A successful film career followed though health problems and a troubled personal life overshadowed the later years of her career.
Childhood & Early Life
Gene Tierney was born on November 19, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. to Howard Sherwood Tierney and Belle Lavina Taylor. Her father was a successful insurance broker while her mother was a former physical education instructor. She had one brother and one sister.
Hailing from a wealthy family, she enjoyed a privileged childhood. Tierney attended St. Margaret's School in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Unquowa School in Fairfield before moving to Europe to study at the Brillantmont International School in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Upon her return to the U.S. in 1938, she enrolled at Miss Porter's School. As a student she loved to write poems and would write poetry occasionally throughout her life.
While visiting the West Coast with her family, she went to the Warner Bros. Studios where a cousin worked. There she got noticed by the director Anatole Litvak who suggested that she consider becoming an actress.
Even though her parents were initially against the idea, young Gene persisted and studied acting at a small Greenwich Village acting studio in New York with Broadway director and actor Benno Schneider.
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She made her Broadway debut in ‘What a Life!’ (1938) and played the role of Molly O'Day in the Broadway production ‘Mrs. O'Brien Entertains’ (1939). Her flawless beauty and youthful appeal caught the fancy of the critics and audience alike.
Even though her parents were initially against an acting career, they began to support her eventually. After several years on the stage, she decided to venture into films and her father set up a corporation, Belle-Tier, to fund and promote her acting career.
She made her first film appearance as Eleanor Stone in Fritz Lang's western ‘The Return of Frank James’ (1940), opposite Henry Fonda. Other roles followed in quick succession and she acted in ‘Hudson's Bay’ (1941),’Tobacco Road’ (1941), ‘Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake’ (1942), Rings on Her Fingers (1942), and ‘China Girl’ (1942).
In 1944, she played the title role in ‘Laura’ opposite Dana Andrews. Her portrayal of a mysterious murder victim cemented her position as a superstar in Hollywood. Her role of a vicious and narcissistic woman, Ellen Berent, in ‘Leave Her to Heaven’ (1945) further strengthened her image as a character actress.
Her string of successful films continued throughout the late 1940s with diverse roles in ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ (1947), ‘That Wonderful Urge’ (1948), ‘Whirlpool’ (1949), ‘Night and the City’ (1950), and ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ (1950).
Married and divorced by now, she struggled with problems in her personal life which affected her mental well-being. Her health issues affected her film appearances and her career was no longer as prolific in the 1950s as it had once been.
Tierney played Maggie Carleton in Mitchell Leisen's ensemble farce, ’The Mating Season’ (1951) and portrayed Midge Sheridan in the Warner Bros. film, ‘Close to My Heart’ the same year with Ray Milland. Her increasing health problems forced her to stay away from acting for a few years.
She attempted a come-back in the 1960s and made sporadic film and television appearances before retiring for good in 1980.
Gene Tierney played a beautiful and highly successful advertising executive, Laura Hunt, in the film ‘Laura.’ Her character, which is believed to have been murdered, reappears mysteriously causing much chaos. The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 1999.
Her performance as Ellen Berent Harland in ‘Leave Her to Heaven’ earned her an Oscar nomination as Best Actress. Her portrayal of an evil and manipulative woman was well received by the critics and audience alike.
Awards & Achievements
Tierney was honored alongside actor Gregory Peck with the first Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain in 1986.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6125 Hollywood Boulevard.
Personal Life & Legacy
As a young woman she fell in love with Oleg Cassini, a costume and fashion designer who hailed from a Russian-Italian family. Her parents were opposed to the match so she eloped with him and got married in 1941. The couple had two daughters, of who one was severely mentally disabled.The marriage did not last long and ended in a divorce in 1948.
After a string of affairs with several prominent men, she remarried Texas oil baron, W. Howard Lee, in 1960. This marriage lasted till Lee’s death in 1981.
Her personal life was in stark contrast to her glittering film career. Struggling with the pressure of raising a mentally challenged daughter, Tierney suffered for years with episodes of manic depression. She was also a heavy smoker. She died of emphysema on November 6, 1991, shortly before her 71st birthday.