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Gene Tierney

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Gene Tierney


Film actress


1.66 m

Gene Tierney with a serious face, short wavy hair, and wearing a white blouse with black lines.

Full Name
Gene Eliza Tierney

November 19, 1920 (
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.

St. Margaret's School (Waterbury, Connecticut)Unquowa School (Fairfield, Connecticut)Brillantmont International SchoolMiss Porter's School

Christina Cassini, Daria Cassini

W. Howard Lee (m. 1960–1981), Oleg Cassini (m. 1941–1952)

Movies and TV shows
Similar People
Hedy Lamarr, Lana Turner, Dana Andrews, Christina Cassini, Rita Hayworth

November 6, 1991 (aged 70) Houston, Texas, U.S.

Gene tierney rare 1979 tv interview

Gene Eliza Tierney (November 19, 1920 – November 6, 1991) was an American film and stage actress. Acclaimed as a great beauty, she became established as a leading lady. Tierney was best known for her portrayal of the title character in the film Laura (1944), and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven (1945).


Gene Tierney with a fierce look, short wavy hair, and wearing a white top with diamond accessory.

Tierney's other roles include Martha Strable Van Cleve in Heaven Can Wait (1943), Isabel Bradley Maturin in The Razor's Edge (1946), Lucy Muir in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Ann Sutton in Whirlpool (1949), Maggie Carleton McNulty in The Mating Season (1951), and Anne Scott in The Left Hand of God (1955).

Gene Tierney with a tight-lipped smile, short wavy hair, and wearing a black top.

Talk about entrances! Merely Enchanting! - Gene Tierney

Early life

Gene Tierney leaning on a couch, with a serious face, and wearing a black and white top.

Tierney was born on November 19, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Howard Sherwood Tierney and Belle Lavinia Taylor. She was named after a beloved uncle, who died young. She had an elder brother, Howard Sherwood “Butch” Tierney, Jr., and a younger sister, Patricia “Pat” Tierney. Their father was a successful insurance broker of Irish descent, their mother a former physical education instructor.

Gene Tierney with a tight-lipped smile, wavy short hair, wearing earrings, and a tube dress.

Tierney was raised in Westport, Connecticut and attended St. Margaret's School in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Unquowa School in Fairfield. She published her first poem, entitled "Night", in the school magazine and wrote poetry occasionally throughout her Life. Tierney played Jo in a student production of Little Women, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott.

Gene Tierney with a fierce look, black hair, wearing earrings, and a white fur top.

Tierney spent two years in Europe, attending Brillantmont International School in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she learned to speak fluent French. She returned to the U.S. in 1938 and attended Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut . On a family trip to the West Coast, she visited Warner Bros. studios, where a cousin worked as a producer of historical short films. Director Anatole Litvak, taken by the 17-year-old’s beauty, told her that she should become an actress. Warner Bros. wanted to sign her to a contract, but her parents advised against it because of the relatively low salary; they also wanted her in a higher social position.

Gene Tierney is smiling while her hand is on her arm and leg, with wavy short hair, wearing earrings, a pearl necklace, bracelet, and a black sleeveless dress with a plunging neckline.

Tierney's society debut occurred on September 24, 1938, when she was 17 years old. Soon bored with society life, she decided to pursue an acting career. Her father said, “If Gene is to be an actress, it should be in the legitimate theatre.” Tierney studied acting at a small Greenwich Village acting studio in New York with Broadway director and actor Benno Schneider. She became a protégée of Broadway producer-director George Abbott.


In Tierney's first role on Broadway, she carried a bucket of water across the stage in What a Life! (1938). A Variety magazine critic declared, "Miss Tierney is certainly the most beautiful water carrier I've ever seen!" She also worked as an understudy in The Primrose Path (1938).

The following year, she appeared in the role of Molly O'Day in the Broadway production Mrs. O'Brien Entertains (1939). The New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson wrote, "As an Irish maiden fresh from the old country, Gene Tierney in her first stage performance is very pretty and refreshingly modest." That same year, Tierney appeared as Peggy Carr in Ring Two (1939) to favorable reviews. Theater critic Richard Watts, Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune wrote, "I see no reason why Miss Tierney should not have an interesting theatrical career – that is, if cinema does not kidnap her away."

Tierney's father set up a corporation, Belle-Tier, to fund and promote her acting career. Columbia Pictures signed her to a six-month contract in 1939. She met Howard Hughes, who tried unsuccessfully to seduce her. From a well-to-do family herself, she was not impressed by his wealth. Hughes eventually became a lifelong friend.

After a cameraman advised Tierney to lose a little weight, she wrote Harper's Bazaar magazine for a diet, which she followed for the next 25 years. Tierney was initially offered the lead role in National Velvet, but production was delayed. When Columbia Pictures failed to find Tierney a project, she returned to Broadway and starred as Patricia Stanley to critical and commercial success in The Male Animal (1940). In The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson wrote, "Tierney blazes with animation in the best performance she has yet given". She was the toast of Broadway before her 20th birthday. The Male Animal was a hit, and Tierney was featured in Life magazine. She was also photographed by Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and Collier's Weekly.

Two weeks after The Male Animal opened, Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox, was rumored to have been in the audience. During the performance, he told an assistant to note Tierney's name. Later that night, Zanuck dropped by the Stork Club, where he saw a young lady on the dance floor. He told his assistant, "Forget the girl from the play. See if you can sign that one." It was Tierney. At first, Zanuck did not think she was the actress he had seen. Tierney was quoted (after the fact), saying: "I always had several different 'looks', a quality that proved useful in my career."

Film career

Tierney signed with 20th Century-Fox and her motion picture debut was in a supporting role as Eleanor Stone in Fritz Lang's Western The Return of Frank James (1940), opposite Henry Fonda.

A small role as Barbara Hall followed in Hudson's Bay (1941) with Paul Muni and she co-starred as Ellie Mae Lester in John Ford's comedy Tobacco Road (also 1941), and played the title role in Belle Starr, Zia in Sundown, and Victoria Charteris (Poppy Smith) in The Shanghai Gesture. She played Eve in Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942), as well as the dual role of Susan Miller (Linda Worthington) in Rouben Mamoulian's screwball comedy Rings on Her Fingers, and roles as Kay Saunders in Thunder Birds, and Miss Young in China Girl (all 1942).

Receiving top billing in Ernst Lubitsch's comedy Heaven Can Wait (1943), as Martha Strable Van Cleve, signaled an upward turn in Tierney's career. Tierney recalled during the production of Heaven Can Wait:

"Lubitsch was a tyrant on the set, the most demanding of directors. After one scene, which took from noon until five to get, I was almost in tears from listening to Lubitsch shout at me. The next day I sought him out, looked him in the eye, and said, 'Mr. Lubitsch, I'm willing to do my best but I just can't go on working on this picture if you're going to keep shouting at me.' 'I'm paid to shout at you', he bellowed. 'Yes', I said, 'and I'm paid to take it – but not enough.' After a tense pause, Lubitsch broke out laughing. From then on we got along famously."

Tierney starred in what became her best remembered role: the title role in Otto Preminger's film noir Laura (1944), opposite Dana Andrews. After playing Tina Tomasino in A Bell for Adano (1945), she played the jealous, narcissistic femme fatale Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), adapted from a best selling novel by Ben Ames Williams. Appearing with Cornel Wilde, Tierney won an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. This was 20th Century-Fox' most successful film of the 1940s. It was cited by director Martin Scorsese as one of his favorite films of all time, and he assessed Tierney as one of the most underrated actresses of the Golden Era.

Tierney then starred as Miranda Wells in Dragonwyck (1946), along with Walter Huston and Vincent Price. It was Joseph L. Mankiewicz' debut film as a director, In the same period, she starred as Isabel Bradley, opposite Tyrone Power, in The Razor's Edge (also 1946), an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel of the same name. Her performance was critically praised.

Tierney played Lucy Muir in Mankiewicz's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), opposite Rex Harrison. The following year, she co-starred again with Power, this time as Sara Farley in the successful screwball comedy That Wonderful Urge (1948). As the decade came to a close, Tierney reunited with Laura director Preminger to star as Ann Sutton in the classic film noir Whirlpool (1949), co-starring Richard Conte and José Ferrer. She appeared in two other film noirs: Jules Dassin's Night and the City, shot in London, and Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends (both 1950).

Tierney was loaned to Paramount Pictures, giving a comic turn as Maggie Carleton in Mitchell Leisen's ensemble farce, The Mating Season (1951), with John Lund, Thelma Ritter, and Miriam Hopkins. She gave a tender performance as Midge Sheridan in the Warner Bros. film, Close to My Heart (1951), with Ray Milland. The film is about a couple trying to adopt a child. Later in her career, she was reunited with Milland in Daughter of the Mind (1969).

After Tierney appeared opposite Rory Calhoun as Teresa in Way of a Gaucho (1952), her contract at 20th Century-Fox expired. That same year, she starred as Dorothy Bradford in Plymouth Adventure, opposite Spencer Tracy at MGM. She and Tracy had a brief affair during this time. Tierney played Marya Lamarkina opposite Clark Gable in Never Let Me Go (1953), filmed in England.

Tierney remained in Europe to play Kay Barlow in United Artists' Personal Affair (1953). While in Europe, she began a romance with Prince Aly Khan, but their marriage plans met with fierce opposition from his father Aga Khan III. Early in 1953, Tierney returned to the U.S. to co-star in the film noir Black Widow (1954) as Iris Denver, with Ginger Rogers and Van Heflin.


Tierney had reportedly started smoking after a screening of her first movie to lower her voice, because she felt, "I sound like an angry Minnie Mouse." She subsequently became a heavy smoker.

With difficult events in her personal life, Tierney struggled for years with episodes of manic depression. In 1943, she gave birth to a daughter, Daria, who was deaf and mentally disabled, the result of a fan breaking a rubella quarantine and infecting the pregnant Tierney while she volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. In 1953, she suffered problems with concentration, which affected her film appearances. She dropped out of Mogambo and was replaced by Grace Kelly. While playing Anne Scott in The Left Hand of God (1955), opposite Humphrey Bogart, Tierney became ill. Bogart's sister Frances (known as Pat) had suffered from mental illness, so he showed Tierney great sympathy, feeding her lines during the production and encouraging her to seek help.

Tierney 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 shock treatments, intended to alleviate severe depression, Tierney fled the facility, but was caught and returned. She later became an outspoken opponent of shock treatment therapy, claiming it had destroyed significant portions of her memory.

In late December 1957, Tierney, from her mother's apartment in Manhattan, stepped onto a ledge 14 stories above ground and remained for about 20 minutes in what was considered a suicide attempt. Police were called, and afterwards Tierney's family arranged for her to be admitted to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. The following year, after treatment for depression, she was released. Afterwards, she worked as a sales girl in a local dress shop with hopes of integrating back into society, but she was recognized by a customer, resulting in sensational newspaper headlines.

Later in 1958, 20th Century-Fox offered Tierney a lead role in Holiday for Lovers (1959), but the stress upon her proved too great, so only days into production, she dropped out of the film and returned to Menninger for a time.


Tierney made a screen comeback in Advise and Consent (1962), co-starring with Franchot Tone. Soon afterwards, she played Albertine Prine in Toys in the Attic (1963), based on the play by Lillian Hellman. This was followed by the international production of Las cuatro noches de la luna llena, (Four Nights of the Full Moon - 1963), in which she starred with Dan Dailey. She received critical praise overall for her performances.

Tierney's career as a solid character actress seemed to be back on track as she played Jane Barton in The Pleasure Seekers (1964), but then she suddenly retired. She returned to star in the television movie Daughter of the Mind (1969) with Don Murray and Ray Milland. Her final performance was in the TV miniseries Scruples (1980).

Personal life

Tierney married two men: the first was Oleg Cassini, a costume and fashion designer, on June 1, 1941, with whom she eloped. Her parents opposed the marriage, as he was from a Russian-Italian family and born in France. She had two daughters, Antoinette Daria Cassini (October 15, 1943 – September 11, 2010) and Christina "Tina" Cassini (November 19, 1948 – March 31, 2015),

In June 1943, while pregnant with Daria, Tierney contracted rubella (German measles), likely from a fan ill with the disease. Daria was born prematurely in Washington, DC, weighing three pounds, two ounces (1.42 kg) and requiring a total blood transfusion. The rubella caused congenital damage: Daria was deaf, partially blind with cataracts, and severely mentally disabled. She was institutionalized for much of her life. This entire incident was inspiration for a plot point in the 1962 Agatha Christie novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.

Tierney's friend Howard Hughes paid for Daria's medical expenses, ensuring the girl received the best care. Tierney never forgot his acts of kindness.

Tierney and Cassini separated October 20, 1946, and entered into a property settlement agreement on November 10. Periodicals during this period record Tierney with Charles K. Feldman, including articles related to her "twosoming" with Feldman, her "current best beau". The divorce was to be finalized in March 1948, but they reconciled before then.

During their separation, Tierney met John F. Kennedy, a young World War II veteran, who was visiting the set of Dragonwyck in 1946. They began a romance that she ended the following year after Kennedy told her he could never marry her because of his political ambitions. In 1960, Tierney sent Kennedy a note of congratulations on his victory in the presidential election. During this time, newspapers documented Tierney's other romantic relationships, including Kirk Douglas.

While filming for Personal Affair in Europe, she began a romance with Prince Aly Khan. They became engaged in 1952, while Khan was going through a divorce from Rita Hayworth. Their marriage plans, however, met with fierce opposition from his father, Aga Khan III.

Cassini later bequeathed $500,000 in trust to Daria and $1,000,000 to Christina. Cassini and Tierney remained friends until her death in November 1991.

In 1958, Tierney met Texas oil baron W. Howard Lee, who had been married to actress Hedy Lamarr since 1953. Lee and Lamarr divorced in 1960 after a long battle over alimony, then Lee and Tierney married in Aspen, Colorado, on July 11, 1960. They lived quietly in Houston, Texas, and Delray Beach, Florida until his death in 1981.

Despite her self-imposed exile in Texas, Tierney received work offers from Hollywood, prompting her to a comeback. She appeared in a November 1960 broadcast of "General Electric Theater" (CBS, 1953–1962), during which time she discovered that she was pregnant. Shortly after, 20th Century Fox announced Tierney would play the lead role in Return to Peyton Place, but she withdrew from the production after suffering a miscarriage.

Later years

Tierney's autobiography, Self-Portrait, in which she candidly discusses her life, career, and mental illness, was published in 1979.

Tierney's second husband, W. Howard Lee, died on February 17, 1981 after a long illness.

In 1986, Tierney was honored alongside actor Gregory Peck with the first Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain.

Tierney has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6125 Hollywood Boulevard.


Tierney died of emphysema on November 6, 1991 in Houston, thirteen days before her 71st birthday. She is interred in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston. Tierney was survived by her daughters Daria and Christina. Certain documents of Tierney's film-related material, personal papers, letters, etc., are held in the Wesleyan University Cinema Archives, to which scholars, media experts, and the public may have access.

By Tierney

  • "I don't think Howard [Hughes] could love anything that did not have a motor in it."
  • "Joe Schenck, a top 20th Century-Fox executive, once said to me that he really believed I had a future, and that was because I was the only girl who could survive so many bad pictures." —quoted in The RKO Girls
  • Filmography

    Scruples (TV Mini Series) as
    Harriet Toppingham
    - Episode #1.3 (1980) - Harriet Toppingham
    - Episode #1.2 (1980) - Harriet Toppingham
    - Episode #1.1 (1980) - Harriet Toppingham
    Daughter of the Mind (TV Movie) as
    Lenore Constable
    The F.B.I. (TV Series) as
    Faye Simpson
    - Conspiracy of Silence (1969) - Faye Simpson
    The Pleasure Seekers as
    Jane Barton
    Four Nights of the Full Moon
    Toys in the Attic as
    Albertine Prine / Lily's mpther
    Advise & Consent as
    Dolly Harrison
    General Electric Theater (TV Series) as
    Ellen Galloway
    - Journey to a Wedding (1960) - Ellen Galloway
    The Left Hand of God as
    Anne 'Scotty' Scott
    Black Widow as
    Iris Denver
    The Egyptian as
    Personal Affair as
    Kay Barlow
    Never Let Me Go as
    Marya Lamarkina
    Plymouth Adventure as
    Dorothy Bradford
    Way of a Gaucho as
    Teresa Chavez
    Close to My Heart as
    Midge Sheridan
    The Secret of Convict Lake as
    Marcia Stoddard
    On the Riviera as
    Lili Duran
    The Mating Season as
    Maggie Carleton
    Where the Sidewalk Ends as
    Morgan Taylor
    Night and the City as
    Mary Bristol
    Whirlpool as
    Ann Sutton
    That Wonderful Urge as
    Sara Farley
    The Iron Curtain as
    Anna Gouzenko
    The Ghost and Mrs. Muir as
    Lucy Muir
    The Razor's Edge as
    Isabel Bradley
    Dragonwyck as
    Miranda Wells
    Leave Her to Heaven as
    Ellen Berent Harland
    A Bell for Adano as
    Tina Tomasino
    Laura as
    Laura Hunt
    Heaven Can Wait as
    Martha Strabel Van Cleve
    China Girl as
    Miss Haoli Young
    Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air as
    Kay Saunders
    Rings on Her Fingers as
    Susan Miller / Linda Worthington
    Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake as
    The Shanghai Gesture as
    Sundown as
    Belle Starr as
    Belle Shirley / Belle Starr
    Tobacco Road as
    Ellie May
    Hudson's Bay as
    Barbara Hall
    The Return of Frank James as
    Eleanor Stone
    The Left Hand of God (performer: "A LOAF OF BREAD")
    The Mating Season (performer: "Je n'en Connais pas la Fin")
    Night and the City (performer: "Here's to Champagne" - uncredited)
    Dragonwyck (performer: "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls" - uncredited)
    Rings on Her Fingers (performer: "Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet" - uncredited)
    Sarasvati (4ème partie de la Tétralogie Les Chemins Cinétiques) (dedicated to)
    Dieter & Andreas (Short) (grateful acknowledgment)
    Your Choice for the Film Awards (TV Special) as
    Self - Surprise Guest 39th Anniversary of 'Laura'
    The Mike Douglas Show (TV Series) as
    Self - Guest
    - Episode #18.124 (1979) - Self - Guest
    - Episode #13.183 (1974) - Self - Guest
    The Merv Griffin Show (TV Series) as
    - Episode dated 14 April 1979 (1979) - Self
    The Arthur Murray Party (TV Series) as
    Self - Guest
    - Janet Blair, Gene Tierney, Paul Hartman, Rod Alexander, Dagmar, Eddie Albert & Margo, The Everly Brothers (1957) - Self - Guest
    - Gene Tierney, Errol Flynn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Montgomery, Ben Blue, Arnold Stang, Enzo Stuarti (1957) - Self - Guest
    - Episode #5.26 (1954) - Self - Guest
    What's My Line? (TV Series) as
    Self - Mystery Guest
    - Gene Tierney (1957) - Self - Mystery Guest
    The 26th Annual Academy Awards (TV Special) as
    Self - Presenter
    The Ed Sullivan Show (TV Series) as
    - Episode #6.33 (1953) - Self
    Archive Footage
    Hollywood Celebrity (Documentary) (post-production) as
    Beautiful Like a Poem (Documentary short) as
    Gene Tierney A Forgotten Star (Documentary)
    Compression (TV Series documentary)
    - Compression China Girl de Henry Hathaway (2015)
    - Compression Close to my Heart de William Keighley (2015)
    - Compression Hudson's Bay de Irving Pichel (2015)
    - Compression the Secret of Convict Lake de Michael Gordon (2015)
    - Compression Plymouth Adventure de Clarence Brown (2015)
    - Compression the Iron Curtain de William A. Wellman (2015)
    - Compression That Wonderful Urge de Robert B. Sinclair (2015)
    - Compression On the Riviera de Walter Lang (2015)
    - Compression Personal Affair de Anthony Pelissier (2015)
    - Compression Thunder Birds de William A. Wellman (2015)
    - Compression the Mating Season de Mitchell Leisen (2015)
    And the Oscar Goes to... (TV Movie documentary) as
    Catalogue of Ships (Documentary) as
    Lucy Muir
    Private Screenings (TV Series) as
    Ellen Berent Harland
    - Child Stars (2006) - Ellen Berent Harland (uncredited)
    Screen Goddesses (TV Series documentary) as
    - Gene Tierney (2006) - Self
    The Naked Archaeologist (TV Series documentary) as
    - Who Invented the Alphabet? (2005) - Baketamon
    Gene Tierney, une vie de tourments (Documentary short) as
    E! Mysteries & Scandals (TV Series documentary) as
    - Gene Tierney (1999) - Self
    Biography (TV Series documentary) as
    Self / Martha
    - Don Ameche: Hollywood's Class Act (1999) - Martha (uncredited)
    - Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait (1999) - Self
    - Vincent Price: The Versatile Villain (1997)
    - John F. Kennedy: A Personal Story (1996) - Self
    E! True Hollywood Story (TV Series documentary) as
    - The Kennedys: Power, Seduction and Hollywood (1998) - Self
    Twentieth Century Fox: The First 50 Years (TV Movie documentary) as
    Baketamon (uncredited)
    Century of Cinema (TV Series documentary) as
    Ellen Berent Harland
    - A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995) - Ellen Berent Harland (uncredited)
    Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker (Documentary) as
    Laura Hunt (uncredited)
    Étoiles et toiles (TV Series documentary)
    - Gene Tierney (1986)
    AFI Life Achievement Award (TV Series) as
    Susan Miller / Linda Worthington
    - AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Henry Fonda (1978) - Susan Miller / Linda Worthington (uncredited)
    The Love Goddesses (Documentary) as
    The Costume Designer (Short) as


    Gene Tierney Wikipedia

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