Husband Oleg Cassini called Tierney “a wonderful girl” who was “battered by destiny…Gene Tierney


Werts wrote: “How many film fans even know that Saturday’s kickoff honoree, Gene Tierney, is a woman?”

If they don’t know she’s a woman, it’s high time they know she played Laura, one of the most famous characters from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

By the way, Tierney’s co-star was Dana Andrews, a fine actor with a startling gift for portraying vulnerability. (Check him in “The Best Years of Our Lives,” airing Tuesday as part of TCM’s salute to Teresa Wright)

The TCM festival celebrates legends such as Fred Astaire (Aug. 5), Katharine Hepburn (Aug. 7), Joan Crawford (Aug. 10), Vivien Leigh (Aug. 18), John Wayne (Aug. 19), Ingrid Bergman (Aug. 28) and Gary Cooper (Aug. 30). But it also spotlights lesser-known performers such as Mae Clarke (Aug. 20) and Virginia Bruce (Aug. 25).

Gene Tierney was one of Hollywood’s great beauties and a gifted actress. Her life was a haunting mix of success and tragedy.

In a 1999 “A&E Biography,” former husband Oleg Cassini called Tierney “a wonderful girl” who was “battered by destiny.”

In that program, composer David Raksin said Tierney inspired him to write the haunting “Laura” theme, one of the most enduring in film history. And film historian Jeanine Basinger said: “The stress she was feeling in her personal life adds to the portraits we have.”

Those films include “Heaven Can Wait” from 1943, “Leave Her to Heaven” (her only Oscar nomination), “The Razor’s Edge” (1946 version) and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.” Glenn Close’s character in “Fatal Attraction” could learn a few things from Tierney’s dastardly character in “Leave Her to Heaven.”

That A&E program was called “Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait.” It explained that the actress learned her father had gone through her savings, she gave birth to a disabled child after being exposed to German measles by a fan, and she suffered a severe mental breakdown in the 1950s. She found help at the Menninger Clinic and discussed her problems frankly in her 1979 book, “Self-Portrait.”

The woman who inspired the theme to “Laura” is someone you should know.


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