Saturday, November 5, 2011
Fairytale Gone Wrong: Gene Tierney
Gene Tierney was born on Nov. 19, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, to a wealthy family. She spent her childhood in boarding schools, which included a prominent finishing school in Switzerland.
During a family vacation in Los Angeles, a movie director advised the 17-year-old beauty to consider acting. Bored with high society life, Gene decided to take his advice.
After a couple years, she became the toast of Broadway. During one of her performances in 1941, Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox was in the audience. He declared her the most beautiful women in the world and demanded she sign a contract with his movie studio.
It wasn't long before Gene became a well-known movie star.
But soon her life began to unravel. She had fallen in love with Oleg Cassini, a struggling fashion designer. Her father and the movie studio warned her to stay away from the Russian, who they deemed a fortune-hunter.
But it was not Oleg who was after Gene's money.
Soon after the love-struck couple eloped in Las Vegas, Gene discovered her own father had squandered all her hard-earned money behind her back. Gene was devastated and never spoke to her father again.
If that wasn't enough, while pregnant with her first child, Gene mysteriously contracted rubella (German measles) at a nightclub. As a result, her daughter was born with severe mental retardation. Gene was heartbroken. It put a massive strain on her marriage.
Gene tried to save her marriage, but depression had overcome her. Her despair drove her straight into the arms of a young, single John F. Kennedy. But that romance fizzled, leaving Gene right back where she started.
Gene soon received news that changed her life forever. A female fan came forward and admitted a couple years before, she had snuck out of a quarantine while sick with rubella, because she had heard Gene, her favorite movie star, was going to be at a popular night club. The excited fan had hugged Gene, thus, passing along the disease, which had ultimately destroyed Gene's unborn child at the time. The fan felt awful and apologized, but it was too late.
Gene had a nervous breakdown. The shocking revelation, mixed with her failed marriage and heartbreak over her mentally retarded daughter, was too much for the young woman to handle. It became impossible for her to work anymore. The 33-year-old allowed herself to be committed to an asylum in Connecticut.
Sadly, the movie star became a victim of shock therapy, a cruel and unusual treatment used for mental patients in the 1950s. After 27 shock treatments, Gene tried to escape the asylum, but was caught.
In 1957, Gene tried to commit suicide, but was saved and sent to a mental health facility in Kansas. While she was recovering, Gene worked as a salesgirl in a department store in Topeka, which caused a media sensation when a customer recognized her.
A year after Gene was released from the institute, she married Texas oil baron, Howard Lee. She loved living in Texas and had a very happy and peaceful life with her new husband.
Unfortunately, irony was the result of her death.
When Gene had been in her early 20s, she had started smoking to make her voice lower and more seductive, because she hadn't liked the way her high-pitched voice sounded on the big screen.
In 1991, shortly before her 71st birthday, she ended up dying from the smoking-related illness, emphysema.