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" Final Resting Place of Gene Tierney"
19th November 1920 - 6th November 1991
Glenwood Cemetery, Houston, Texas.
She was born Gene Eliza Tierney in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Howard Sherwood Tierney and Belle Lavina Taylor. Her elder brother was Howard Sherwood "Butch" Tierney, Jr., and her younger sister was Patricia "Pat" Tierney. Her father was a prosperous insurance broker; her mother a former gym teacher.
Gene attended St. Margaret School, Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Unquowa School in Bridgeport. Along with her studies, she learned horseback riding. Her first poem, titled Night, was published in the school magazine, and writing verse became an occasional pastime during the rest of her life. She then spent two years in Europe and attended the finishing school Brillantmont in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she learned to speak fluent French. She returned to the U.S. in 1938 and attended Farmington School. On a trip to the West Coast, she visited Warner Bros. and was told by Anatole Litvak she should become an actress. Her coming out party as a debutante was September 24, but she soon became bored with society life and decided to pursue a career in acting. Warners wanted to sign her to a contract, but her parents advised against it because of the low salary.
Broadway & modeling
In her first part on Broadway, she carried a bucket of water across the stage in What a Life (1939). That same year, she appeared in the role as Molly O'Day in the Broadway production Mrs. O'Brien Entertains, and also played Peggy Carr in Ring Two.
Tierney also worked as a photographic model in New York. Photos of her appeared in Life, Harper's Bazaar and Collier's Weekly.
Her father set up a corporation, Belle-Tier, to fund and promote her career (he went on to steal all of her money), and Columbia offered her a six-month contract, which she signed. She also met Howard Hughes, who tried unsuccessfully to seduce her, before becoming a lifelong friend. A cameraman advised her to lose a little weight, saying "a thinner face is more seductive." She then wrote to Harper's Bazaar for a slimming diet, which she followed for the next twenty years. The studio failed to find her a project, however, so she returned to New York and starred as Patricia Stanley in The Male Animal (1940) on Broadway.
Tierney was offered the lead in MGM's National Velvet, but when the production was delayed she signed with 20th Century Fox. Her motion picture debut was in the starring role as Eleanor Stone in Fritz Lang's Western The Return of Frank James (1940) opposite Henry Fonda. A small role as Barbara Hall in Hudson's Bay followed, released that same year. 1941 was a busy year for the actress, as she starred in the role as Ellie May Lester in John Ford's drama Tobacco Road, the title role in Belle Starr, as Zia in Sundown, and as Victoria Charteris AKA Poppy Smith in The Shanghai Gesture. In 1942, she played Eva in Son of Fury, the dual role as Susan Miller and Linda Worthington in Rings on Her Fingers, the role as Kay Saunders in Thunder Birds, and Miss Young in China Girl. A supporting role in Ernst Lubitsch's classic 1943 comedy Heaven Can Wait, in which she played the dual role as Martha Strabel and Van Cleve, signaled an upward turn in Tierney's career as her popularity increased. In 1944, she starred in what became her most famous role as the intended murder victim, Laura Hunt, in Otto Preminger's masterful mystery Laura. After playing Tina Tomasino in A Bell for Adano (1945), she played the jealous, narcissistic femme fatale Ellen Berent Harland, opposite Cornel Wilde, in the film version of the best-selling book Leave Her to Heaven - a performance that won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Tierney starred in the role as Miranda Wells in Dragonwyck (1946). That same year, she played Isabel Bradley opposite Tyrone Power, with John Payne, Anne Baxter, and Clifton Webb, in The Razor's Edge, an adaptation of Somerset Maugham's novel. She followed that with her role as Lucy Muir in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) opposite Rex Harrison, with George Sanders, Anna Lee, and Natalie Wood.
Marriages, children & affair
Tierney had two husbands, costume and fashion designer Oleg Cassini (married July 11, 1941, divorced February 28, 1952), and Texas oilman W. Howard Lee (married July 11, 1960 until his death on February 17, 1981). She and Cassini had two daughters, Antoinette Daria Cassini (born October 15, 1943) and Christina "Tina" Cassini (born November 19, 1948).
Cassini served as a a second lieutenant in the Army in World War II, and Tierney was accorded the honor of pinning the regulation gold bars on his uniform. In June 1943, while pregnant with her first daughter, she came down with German measles, contracted during a USO tour. The baby, Daria, was born prematurely in Washington, D.C., weighing only 3 pounds, 2 ounces, and requiring a total blood transfusion. Because of Tierney's exposure to German measles, Daria was also deaf, partially blind with cataracts, and severely retarded. Tierney's grief over the tragedy led to many years of depression and bi-polar disorder. Tierney separated from Oleg Cassini, challenged by the marital stress of Daria's condition, but they later reconciled and had a second daughter, Tina. During her marriage to Cassini, Tierney had a romance with actor Tyrone Power (her co-star in The Razor's Edge). That came to an end in the spring of 1946. During the filming of Dragonwyck, she met the young John F. Kennedy, who was visiting the set that day. They began an affair that ended the following year when Kennedy told her he could never marry her because of his political ambitions. (In 1960 Tierney sent him a note of congratulations on his election victory -- although she later admitted that she had actually voted for Richard Nixon because she thought that he would make a better president).
Career, affair & mental breakdown
Tierney gave memorable performances in two classic film noirs, Jules Dassin's Night and the City and Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends (both in 1950). After playing the character of "Teresa" opposite Rory Calhoun in Way of a Gaucho (1952), which was filmed on location in Argentina, her contract at 20th Century Fox expired. That same year, she starred as Dorothy Bradford in Plymouth Adventure opposite Spencer Tracy at MGM, which was followed by her role as Marya Lamarkina Sutherland opposite Clark Gable in Never Let Me Go (1953). She remained at the studio to play Kay Barlow in Personal Affair, which was released that same year. While Tierney was in Europe, she began an affair with the charismatic Prince Aly Khan, but their marriage plans met with fierce opposition from his father, the Aga Khan. She returned to the U.S., where she played Iris Denver in Black Widow (1954), about a woman murderer co-starring Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, George Raft, with Peggy Ann Garner. While playing Anne Scott in The Left Hand of God (1955) opposite Humphrey Bogart, Tierney's long string of personal troubles finally took their toll. She said that Bogart could tell that she was mentally unstable. Worried about her mental health, she consulted a psychiatrist, and was admitted to Harkness Pavilion in New York. Later she went to the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut . After some 27 brutal shock treatments, she attempted to flee, but was caught and reinstitutionalized. (She was an outspoken opponent of shock treatment therapy claiming that it had destroyed large chunks of her memory). In 1957, Tierney was seen by a neighbor as she was about to jump from a ledge. The police were called and she was admitted to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, on December 25. She was released from Menninger the following year, after a treatment that included, in its final stages, working as a sales girl in a large department store (where she was recognized by a customer, resulting in sensational newspaper headlines). 20th Century Fox offered her a lead role in Holiday for Lovers, but the stress proved too great. Days into production, she was forced to drop out of the film and was readmitted to Menninger.
Years after the tragedy surrounding her daughter Daria's birth, Tierney learned from a fan who approached her for an autograph that the woman had sneaked out of quarantine while sick with German measles to meet her during her USO tour in 1943. In her autobiography, Tierney related that after the woman had recounted her story she just stared at her silently, then turned and walked away; she wrote that while she did not remember her first meeting with the woman, after that second meeting she would remember her for the rest of her life. In 1958 she met Texas oil baron Howard Lee; they were married in Aspen in 1960 and moved to Houston. Tierney loved life in Texas with Lee and became an expert bridge player. In 1962, 20th Century Fox announced she would play the lead role in Return to Peyton Place, but she became pregnant and dropped out of the project. (She later miscarried the baby). Her comeback to the screen was as Dolly Harrison in Advise and Consent (1962) co-starring Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Henry Fonda, Walter Pidgeon, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Peter Lawford, and Burgess Meredith. A year later she played Albertine Prine in Toys in the Attic starring Dean Martin and Geraldine Page. Tierney played Jane Barton in The Pleasure Seekers (1964) starring Ann-Margret, Anthony Franciosa, and Carol Lynley, then again retired. She played Lenore Constable, however, in the television movie Daughter of the Mind (1969) with Don Murray and Ray Milland.
Her autobiography, Self-Portrait, in which she candidly discussed her life, career and mental illness, was published in 1979. Tierney's final show business performance was as Harriet Toppingham in the TV mini-series Scruples (1980) starring Lindsay Wagner. In 1981 she was widowed by the death of Howard Lee after a long and supportive marriage.
Tierney died at age 70 of emphysema in Houston, Texas, and is interred, beside Lee, in Section E-1 of Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood.