Born into a repressive family in Connecticut, Gene Tierney achieved the impossible dream of most would-be performers when she landed a major Broadway role in THE MALE ANIMAL before her twentieth year had elapsed. Catching the attention of movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck, she was rapidly signed to a long-term contract at Twentieth Century- Fox and rapidly ascended the ladder to stardom by the early Forties.
Highly attractive as a screen presence, with a desire to perpetually improve herself, Tierney shared the screen with most of Fox's leading males including Randolph Scott, Tyrone Power, and Henry Fonda. The world, it seemed, was her oyster.
In private, however, Tierney's life was far more complicated. She married the designer Oleg Cassini - who forged out a movie career in his own right as a costume designer - and together they produced their first child. What Tierney did not know is that during her pregnancy she had come into contact with a fan who had German measles, as a result, Tierney's daughter was born with mental issues, as well as being half-blind and deaf. The couple tried to look after her, but the task eventually proved too, and the daughter was eventually confined permanently to an institution.
The experience profoundly affected Tierney. Although she later produced another child with no problems, her mind became more and more disturbed. Things were not helped by Cassini's infidelities. By the end of the Forties Tierney was still a major star, but on the verge of cracking up mentally. In the middle of the next decade she was confined to a variety of sanatoriums, where she received electric shock therapy as well as less extreme forms of cure.
She managed to find another husband, the tycoon Howard Lee, and the two of them lived quietly in Houston, Texas - Tierney having given up her career by the mid-Sixties. She enjoyed living the quotidian life of a homemaker, an experience she had never previously savored. She died aged seventy in 1991 of emphysema.
With reminiscences from Cassini, her daughter, sister, and others (including Richard Widmark), this was an unusually intimate portrait of a screen legend, focusing more on her off-screen personality.
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