Celeb Flashback: Gene Tierney – Sultry Star of Stage, Film

Gene Tierney was raised in a world of wealth and privilege. Her dark eyes and remarkable beauty thrilled and enchanted theater-goers, but she was also a deeply troubled woman who suffered from mental illness for many years.

Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney Studies Acting

In 1938, Tierney attended Miss Porter’s School, a college preparatory school in Connecticut. On vacation, she visited the Warner Bros. Studios and was offered a contract, but she was only seventeen and her parent’s turned it down because of the low salary. She decided to study acting at a Greenwich Village acting studio in New York. She appeared on Broadway and received favorable reviews from Variety and The New York Times. Her father started a corporation—Belle-Tier– solely to support her acting career.

Gene Tierney is Offered Contracts from Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox

In 1939, Columbia Pictures offered Tierney a six month contract, but failed to assign her a project, so she returned to Broadway. In 1940, she was cast as Patricia Stanley in The Male Animal and was an instant hit. She was featured in Life Magazine, photographed by Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Collier’s Weekly, and caught the eye of Darryl F. Zanuck who offered her a contract with 20th Century Fox, and she wisely accepted. Shortly after signing she was cast as Eleanor Stone in The Return of Frank James with Henry Fonda. The following year she appeared as Barbara Hall in Hudson’s Bay; as Ellie Mae Lester in John Ford’s Tobacco Road; as Belle Starr in Belle Starr; as Zia in Sundown and as Victoria Charteris in The Shanghai Gesture.

Gene Tierney Becomes a Hollywood Star

In 1943, Tierney was cast as Martha Strable, the lead in the comedy Heaven Can Wait. The film was nominated for three Oscars, and increased her popularity considerably. The following year, Tierney appeared in one of her most famous roles as Laura Hunt, co-starring with Dana Andrews in Otto Preminger’s mystery Laura. Laura was nominated for five Oscars. Gene Tierney’s intense performance deserved an Academy Award, but was sadly neglected. However, in 1945 she starred as Ellen Berent Harland in the mystery drama Leave Her to Heaven and she was finally nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. In 1946 she thrilled the critics with her performance as Isabel Bradley in The Razor’s Edge. She co-starred in this film with Tyrone Power and it was believed that Tierney and Power had a brief affair. In 1947, Tierney played Lucy Muir in the comedy drama The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and this was also believed to be one of her greatest performances.

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