GENE TIERNEY was a girl with sculptured high cheekbones, full lips, a sultry air of glamor and exotic cat-like green eyes. She photographed gorgeously in Technicolor (as her studio soon found out), but it was in a couple of B&W classics that she really made her mark (LAURA and THE RAZOR'S EDGE).
She was the girl of everyone's dreams for awhile in the '40s, especially after she played the title role in LAURA, a sophisticated film noir co-starring her with tight-lipped detective DANA ANDREWS who seemed to be the perfect partner for her in a film noir sort of mystery. After LAURA, she was the toast of the town and Fox used her in some of her most widely known films--notably LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN in which her stunning beauty was fittingly captured in Technicolor and she had a role that gave her some acting to do. She received her first and only Oscar nomination, but from then on there were some hard knocks ahead.
The story of how an unknown woman with German measles at a military outpost left her barracks in order to see and shake hands with Gene during a personal appearance tour, became fodder for an Agatha Christie story in which the motive for murder was a woman who caused the actress to catch the disease and bear a mentally retarded child. Strange how sometimes art imitates life.
That and other unfortunate incidents involving a poor choice of men, gave way to severe mental illness requiring hospitalization and electric shock therapy which obliterated many things from Tierney's mind. Ironically, she was under contract to a studio that almost certainly must have considered her for the leading role in THE SNAKE PIT about a woman with a guilt complex who is committed to a state hospital and undergoes just such treatments.
Among the contributors, Oleg Cassini gives perhaps the frankest observations on his wife and his rocky marriage to her during the height of her career. But overall, it's a sad commentary on a woman who was too fragile to face the pressures of a Hollywood career and the fame and responsibilities that went with it, along with the heartbreaking pregnancy that resulted in a severely retarded child for which she felt guilt.
Interesting, informative and illuminating study of a movie star who should have had it all--but is fondly remembered today as one of Hollywood's loveliest legends.
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