Her best remembered role is in the title role in Otto Preminger’s film noir Laura (1944), opposite Dana Andrews.
The Return of Frank James
Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake
Rings on Her Fingers
A Bell for Adano
Leave Her to Heaven
The Iron Curtain
That Wonderful Urge
Night and the City
The Mating Season
On the Riviera
The Secret of Convict Lake
Close to My Heart
Way of a Gaucho
Never Let Me Go
The Left Hand of God
Toys in the Attic
Las cuatro noches de la luna llena / Four Nights of the Full Moon
The Pleasure Seekers
Gene 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.
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.
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.
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.
After two years doing bit parts on Broadway, Columbia Pictures signed her to a six-month contract in 1939.
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). 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.
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.
Gene Tierney married 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).