“Wealth, beauty, and fame are transient. When those are gone, little is left except the need to be useful.”
Date of Birth
19 November 1920, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death
6 November 1991, Houston, Texas, USA (Cause: Emphysema)
Gene Eliza Tierney
Facts and Trivia
She came from a privileged upbringing, went to a private school in Switzerland and spoke French, but her father was domineering, ‘overly strict’ and against her desires to become an actress. He took hold of her income when she started her career, upon her first marriage she found that he spent her entire savings when he suffered financial problems.
She was discovered while on a tour of Warner Bros and later when her father allowed, was signed by Darryl F. Zanuck from Twentieth Century Fox. She negotiated her salary and made sure her contract allowed her control over her teeth and hair- she didn’t want her appearance tampered with. Her first film was The Return of Frank James starring Henry Fonda, which was a hit, but Tierney’s performance was not well received by critics. Harvard Lampoon named her as “The Worst Female Discovery” of 1940.
She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her part as Ellen Brent in Leave Her to Heaven (1945). She lost the award to Joan Crawford for her role in Mildred Pierce, but the nomination greatly helped her career.
Upon seeing herself on screen for the first time, she was embarrassed by her voice complaining she “sounded like an angry Minnie Mouse”. She began smoking to lower her voice, but this later resulted in her contracting the fatal emphysema that caused her death.
She was linked romantically with Howard Hughes, John F. Kennedy (pre-presidency), Tyrone Power and Prince Aly Khan. She was married twice, first to Oleg Cassini (1941-1952) and then to Howard Lee, in 1960 until his death in 1981.He had previously been married to Hedy Lamarr.
She had two daughters with Cassini, Daria and Christina. Daria was born deaf, partially blind and mentally retarded because Gene had contracted Rubella during her one appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. Later a female officer confessed to Gene in person that she had broken her quarantine just to see Gene because she was such a fan.
She suffered from severe depression and bi-polar disorder, which caused bouts of confusion and suicidal tendencies for which she was hospitalised and administered with shock treatment. She said Humphrey Bogart could tell she was mentally unstable because he recognised the signs from his own sister. He helped her on the set of The Left Hand of God (1955) and encouraged her to get help.
She spent her retirement from full time acting from 1964 as a ‘housewife’ in Huston, Texas. She enjoyed this lifestyle with her husband, Howard Lee until his death, which resulted in her deep grief.
What to watch (my top recommendations)
Heaven can wait 1943
Leave her to Heaven 1945
The Ghost and Mrs Muir 1946
The Razor’s Edge 1946
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1947)
Also check out the A&E biography Gene Tierney- a Shattered Portrait. 1999