Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

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.

76 comments:

azu said...

That's so horrible. What a poor woman! She was very beautiful. It's no wonder today's celebrities have dozens of bodyguards surrounding them.

It's also refreshing to see a natural beauty, unlike so many starlets of today.

-Azu

Liv said...

Wow, I had no idea, that's a terrible story! What a beauty she was.
And yet the whole time I'm thinking, of all the diseases you think you could potentially catch at a nightclub... Rubella? Really?
Damn.

Sarah said...

So sad :(
x

Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle... said...

Great story, Jenny. I have always admired Gene Tierney,a classy, old-fashioned movie star. I had no idea what a disaster her personal life had been, however. Poor woman. Her movies remain. What is your favorite one? I would love to watch one again over the next few days. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Julie @ ROJ Running said...

I saw the name and wondered if she was related to Maura from ER. I guess money and fame doesn't always buy happiness...wait we knew that already didn't we?

Angie said...

Thank you for sharing this! Watching the stars of today sensationalized with what is minuscule in comparison gives an even greater appreciation for the struggles this woman encountered over the course of her life. She was a true natural beauty.

socialitedreams said...

what, what a rollercoaster life! i loooove these features that you do, learn so much. she was extremely gorgeous, too bad life gave her the shaft the rest of the time

Gayatri said...

It's so tragic when young, successful people's lives are ruined because of little fault of their own. I wonder what happened to that crazy fan...

Gayatri

Stephanie said...

I've never heard of her before. I can always count on you to teach about new (old) stars. So many of their lives were filled with sadness and heartbreak... Sometimes I wonder if it's the lifestyle that destroys people, or it's the kind of person that's drawn to the lifestyle.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

An affair with JFK and I never heard of her either. I love the way you draw us into these stories. They're captivating, sad and so surreal.
xoRobyn

Jo said...

Thank you for sharing about Gene Tierney. I've never heard of her before and so I was drawn to her life story. I guess mainstream people only know about Audrey Hepburn.

Gene is beautiful. I love her classic look and her story is sad. Her fan probably should not have admitted to that fact at all. I would rather not know it if I were her. I do feel that at least the last part of her life was redeeming as she was happily living with her new husband in Texas and she did live up till 71 too.

Selma @ Crazy Little World Of Mine said...

What a beautiful person!!!

Ashley/ MILK TEETHS said...

whhhaaatt! I had no idea about her back story but that is so sad about her daughter! I also had no idea how dangerous Rubella could be? I guess that's why you have to get immunized for it, I suppose.

Diane said...

sad...not a happy ending though..
never knew about it before.
thanks for sharing hun.

and yeah thank you for that sweet compliment =)
glad to know you, and yeah i'm following you!
i'd be happy if you can follow too =)
let's keep in touch!
see you then!

Liezyl Gomez said...

shes beautiful. her story lives. thanks for sharing!

Audrey Allure said...

What a roller coaster! That must have been a whole lot to deal with & handle. Despite the horrible moments, at least she did get to experience some good ones.

Sarah said...

How awful :(. I've never heard of Gene Tierney before so thank you for sharing her story.

Sarah
xo

www.almostdelightful.com

Alexandria said...

Hot damn. Crazy story.

Shybiker said...

Nice profile. I'd heard of her but didn't know any of the details of her personal story. You told them in a very entertaining way.

TheGirlAtFirstAvenue said...

What a story...! Is it all just bad luck or fate? She was a beautiful woman!

StyleIDnet said...

Wow, so many ups and downs ... Maybe that is the price for glory, for some. sad story, I am sure she would have trade all her fame for a more tranquil life .....

http://styleidnet.blogspot.com/
http://styleidcloset.blogspot.com/

Aida said...

Gorgeous woman, sad story!


http://placequotehere.blogspot.com

Hannah said...

What a tragic story! Great blog. ♥

http://girlbehindascreen.blogspot.com/

Bonnie said...

She was absolutely gorgeous, but she lived such a tragic life. It's horrible when things go so wrong.
At least she was pretty, though ...

http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

p said...

Aww that's so sad, she was so pretty

Imogen said...

This is such a tragic and heartbreaking story. I don't know much about many Hollywood movie stars from that era but Gene Tierney is one whos story I do know. I saw a story about it once on the biography chanel. I just can't believe how the actions of one fan could lead to so many life changing consequences for Gene Tierney. I desperately wished she hadn't received all this bad luck. She was so incredibly beautiful too.

Arielle said...

I love this feature, what an interesting, yet tragic story. She is beautiful and was certainly dealt a rough hand. That's crazy. Thanks for sharing though!

-Arielle
www.humblepievintage.com

Olga said...

I didn't know anything about this beautiful and talented woman. The story is really sad. How many wonderful women didn't realize their own limits and perished in Hollywood.

Meri said...

It's so heartbreaking to read of mental illness or mental breakdowns. I've not heard her story before, but it makes me feel sad. Nice job on this story!

Kavery said...

She has lovely exotic features. The story sounded so familair till I realised there's an Agatha Christie novel with a similar plot!

A Heel in Mint said...

That's sad. SHe was beautiful!

xx
Heel in Mint
www.heelinmint.blogspot.com

Josie said...

What a tragic story. It's like one tragedy after another... Good gosh.
xo Josie
www.winksmilestyle.com

hello, Friday said...

Oh my. I would have never guessed.
http://hellofridaybypaik.blogspot.com/

creativefashionglee said...

Such a sad story. I can´t believe a very beautiful and gifted woman can end up wasted. But I´m glad she found peace with her last husband. Probably she found happiness too in simplier ways. :)

Francesca Giusti said...

love this post and also your blog! I follow u!
pass to my blog and if it likes you follow me back :D
xoxo
http://francescagiusti.blogspot.com/

Couture Carrie said...

Amazing (yet tragic) bio!
Love all these pics, especially that vintage swimsuit shot!

xoxox,
CC

Anna said...

What an incredibly sad and heartbreaking story. I am terrible with old actresses (minus Marilyn and a handful of others) so I had actually never heard of her before. I can't believe a sick fan was the cause of her childs retardation. What a story! :(

Anna xo

http://lifesshinyprettythings.blogspot.com/

Ivana said...

What a sad and horrible story! Such a beautiful womand and such a horrible destiny...

xx Ivana
Style in the City

Fabrizia said...

What a sad story!
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Cafe Fashionista said...

Wow! What a beauty; yet such a tragic existence. :(

The Blonde Duck said...

That's really depressing.

Diego R. Wyatt said...

What an incredibly tragic story. The smoking bit was really startling, especially since so many starlets still use that technique to this day. Also, contracting rubella from a fan is crazy!

Diego
www.howtozipyourfly.com

Movies on my Mind said...

I, at least most of the time, get an education every tiime I come on to this blog. Never known much about Gene Tierney, but now I can say I do. It's a pretty sad story. Weird how you never associate sad things with pretty people but this goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover.

Hey, I was very impressed you knew that Ron Howard was the guy behind Imagine. You seriously know your movies, huh. I always took you for simply some chick that likes her nail polish and shoes. Silly me, judging a book by its cover again.

Rachel said...

Wow! That's so terrible. I can't believe she smoked to change her voice. That's so crazy to me. And unfortunate that it was ultimately the cause of her death. She was so gorgeous!

amy b.s. said...

how interesting. and so sad. and i am loving that bathing suit!

Oh to Be a Muse said...

i love how you tell us all these great stories. reading this stuff is one of my favorite reasons for visiting your blog! :)

Kate S said...

Have you ever read the Agatha Christie story, "The Mirror Cracked From Side to Side"? It is almost exactly this story except it ends with a series of murders. Biographers have speculated for years that Christie used Gene Tierney's story as a basis for the plot. Well worth a reading if you haven't already, but Miss. Marple is always amazing.

Tights Lover said...

Wow, what a sad story. You have to consider yourself lucky to make it big the way she did, but she had such horrible luck at the same time!

...and you will be the first person I tell when I start my pencil blog :).

Venus Loves Virgo said...

BEAUTIFULLY written. I love Gene Tierney and watch an oldie every time TCM airs one. It's sad about her life as I didn't know all this info. You actually reminded me of my Gene doll collection I have stashed somewhere that I had forgotten. XOXO

Coté Writes said...

What a fascinating (albeit tragic) life this starlet led, and I must admit I didn't know any of this. Thank you so much for so eloquently sharing this story, Jennifer! The photos accompanying the story of Gene's life are also fabulous; I particularly like the ones where she's posing with disembodied doll/mannequin hands and faces. Wishing you a lovely start to the week, my dear! -Coté

Alison said...

I have an eyebrow fetish (not in a creepy way) and hers are gorgeous.

Punctuation Mark said...

these people have such tragic lives... it always amazes me that they are so unhappy!

Bree said...

Oh gosh, so tragic. She had everything and then she lost everything. :/

P.S. I think it's so sweet that your first kiss with your bf was during Happy Feet. <3

Lots of love, B
http://vivalabreee.blogspot.com/
Tweet me: Viva_La_Breee

Cafe Fashionista said...

Congratulations Jennifer! You're the winner of the Fabulous on a Budget Giveaway! Stop by Cafe Fashionista to find out how to claim your prize! :)

SassyUptownChic said...

WHAT a story Jennifer! So tragic. It just shows you can have everything and then nothing. The father and that lady spreading disease need to be KICKED!!! Thanks for sharing this. She was a beautiful woman who fell victim to some crazy circumstances. ((HUG))
http://sassyuptownchic.blogspot.com/

AdamAlexMommy said...

thanks for this post. it's terrible... :)

fabulousjunk said...

Jesus... can't a girl get a break? Think you have it bad, read Gene Tierney's biography. What a case of bad luck. Seriously. Great post by the way :)

becks
http://fabulous-junk.blogspot.com

BlueVanilla said...

These are my fave kind of post from you! I learn something everytime! You pick the most interesting...
xx

Hot Pink Day
Shop Blue Vanilla

Kavery said...

Just popped in to say 'thanks' for your sweet comment. Made my day, no wait, make that my week!

fhenny said...

she is soo pretty! but what a life she had :(

xoxo
style frontier

aki! said...

Wow. You have the most interesting stories about beautiful people.

this free bird said...

So THAT'S what you get for becoming bored with 'the high society life'. What a nightmare!

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

What a strange and tragic story. I'm never letting any random stranger hug me!

xoxo,
Chic 'n Cheap Living

love jenny xoxo said...

such a beautiful woman with such a sad story... I'm surprised no one has made a movie about it.

XOXO

Miksu said...

It's so nice to read about people I've never heard of before! Love these posts :)

She was really beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this tribute to the most natural beauty of
film history.
For those who haven't seen her films check out
"The Ghost & Mrs.Muir "and "Leave Her To Heaven"
I believe you will agree with me.

Anonymous said...

From anonymous again.
I forgot to Include her movie "Laura"which made her famous.
To add to the story of Mr.Zanuck seeing her on Broadway and wanting to sign her he later went to
a nightclub ,saw another woman dancing and said,
forget Gene Tierney ,I want this one signed.He had to be convinced he had just seen Gene for the second
time.

Fran@Broken Cookies Don't Count said...

This is fascinating. I've always loved "Laura" but I've never heard this about Gene Tierney. I recently saw "Leave Her To Heaven," the movie the photos you used come from. It was such a good movie. I don't think she got the credit she deserved as an actress.

Anonymous said...

In my mind,the most beautiful woman who ever lived.
I pray she found the peace she deservedly earned.Such
memories she left us.God bless Gene Eliza Tierney.

keyla said...

good Lord, she is beyond any beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt,Gene Eliza Tierney is the most beautiful woman we'll ever see.

Velvet Dreams said...

Sad. :(

The Grande Dame said...

I love these doomed starlet posts. So, according to your quiz, I'm Gene Tierney. I'll solve half my future problems right now by deciding never to have children. :) Also, I never realised Agatha Christie used her life story as a basis for one of her books until now!

bettye griffin said...

Interesting that the fact that Gene and Oleg had a healthy daughter, Christina, in 1948 was not mentioned...

Anonymous said...

Gene Eliza Tierney.The most beautiful woman to ever exist.

Anonymous said...

oohh what a story!! sooo sorry for her heart aches!!!...just luvv hearing of the movies n stars in the 40's...reminds me of my mother n aunt...when they were in key west fla. so was gene n her husband n my mother took 2pictures of her...looking at them as I text!...she sure is beautiful...Oleg n his brother were at a tennis match...my mother wrote on back of pic...was at casa marina hotel n she was pregnant at the time(gene)...isn't this exciting!!!