Gene Tierney


Gene Eliza Tierney (November 19, 1920 – November 6, 1991) was an American film and stage actress. Acclaimed as a great beauty, she became established as a leading lady. She made her film debut in a supporting role as Eleanor Stone in Fritz Lang‘s western The Return of Frank James (1940), opposite Henry Fonda. A small role as Barbara Hall followed in Hudson’s Bay (1941) with Paul Muni and she co-starred as Ellie Mae Lester in John Ford‘s comedy Tobacco Road (also 1941), and played the title role in Belle Starr alongside co-star Randolph Scott, Zia in Sundown, and Victoria Charteris (Poppy Smith) in The Shanghai Gesture.
She played Eve in Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942), as well as the dual role of Susan Miller (Linda Worthington) in Rouben Mamoulian’s screwball comedy Rings on Her Fingers (with Henry Fonda), and roles as Kay Saunders in Thunder Birds, and Miss Young in Henry Hathaway‘s China Girl (all 1942). Receiving top billing in Ernst Lubitsch’s comedy Heaven Can Wait (1943), as Martha Strable Van Cleve, signaled an upward turn in Tierney’s career.

Tierney starred in what became her best-remembered role: the title role in Otto Preminger‘s film noir Laura (1944), with Dana Andrews. After playing Tina Tomasino in Henry King‘s A Bell for Adano (1945), she played the jealous, narcissistic femme fatale Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), adapted from a best selling novel by Ben Ames Williams. Appearing with Cornel Wilde, Tierney won an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. This was 20th Century-Fox’ most successful film of the 1940s. It was cited by director Martin Scorsese as one of his favorite films of all time, and he assessed Tierney as one of the most underrated actresses of the Golden Era.

Tierney then starred as Miranda Wells in Dragonwyck (1946), along with Walter Huston and Vincent Price. It was Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s debut film as a director, In the same period, she starred as Isabel Bradley, opposite Tyrone Power, in The Razor’s Edge (also 1946), an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel of the same name. Her performance was critically praised. She played Lucy Muir in Mankiewicz’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), with Rex Harrison.

The following year, she co-starred again with Power, this time as Sara Farley in the successful screwball comedy That Wonderful Urge (1948). As the decade came to a close, Tierney reunited with Laura director Preminger to star as Ann Sutton in the classic film noir Whirlpool (1949), co-starring Richard Conte and José Ferrer. She appeared in two other film noirs: Jules Dassin’s Night and the City, shot in London, and Otto Preminger’s Where the Sidewalk Ends (both 1950), reunited with both Preminger and leading man Dana Andrews, who she appeared with in five movies total.

Tierney was loaned to Paramount Pictures, giving a comic turn as Maggie Carleton in Mitchell Leisen’s ensemble farce, The Mating Season (1951), with John Lund, Thelma Ritter, and Miriam Hopkins. She gave a tender performance as Midge Sheridan in the Warner Bros. film, Close to My Heart (1951), with Ray Milland. Other films during this time include Walter Lang’s On the Riviera (1951), with Danny Kaye, Corinne Calvet, Marcel Dalio, Henri Letondal, and Sig Ruman; Later in her career, she was reunited with Milland in Daughter of the Mind (1969). After appearing opposite Rory Calhoun as Teresa in Way of a Gaucho (1952), her contract at 20th Century-Fox expired. That same year, she starred as Dorothy Bradford in Plymouth Adventure, opposite Spencer Tracy at MGM. She and Tracy had a brief affair during this time. Tierney played Marya Lamarkina opposite Clark Gable in Never Let Me Go (1953), filmed in England.

In the course of the 1940s, she reached a pinnacle of fame as a beautiful leading lady, on a par with “fellow sirens Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner”. She was “called the most beautiful woman in movie history” and many of her movies in the 1940s became classic films. She remained in Europe to play Kay Barlow in United Artists’ Personal Affair (1953). While in Europe, she began a romance with Prince Aly Khan, but their marriage plans met with fierce opposition from his father Aga Khan III.  Early in 1953, Tierney returned to the U.S. to co-star in the film noir Black Widow (1954) as Iris Denver, with Ginger Rogers and Van Heflin. Other notable films in this period include Plymouth Adventure (1952), with Spencer Tracy, Barry Jones, Dawn Addams, Lloyd Bridges, and John Dehner; Michael Curtiz‘s The Egyptian (1954) with Edmund Purdom, Bella Darvi, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Peter Ustinov, and Michael Wilding; Edward Dmytryk’s The Left Hand of God (1955) with Humphrey Bogart.

After a brief hiatus from film (brought on by various personal life issues), Tierney made a screen comeback in Preminger’s Advise and Consent (1962), with Fonda, Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon, Franchot Tone, Burgess Meredith, and Betty White. Soon afterwards, she played Albertine Prine in George Roy Hill‘s Toys in the Attic (1963), with Dean Martin and Geraldine Page, based on the play by Lillian Hellman. This was followed by the international production of Las cuatro noches de la luna llena, (Four Nights of the Full Moon – 1963), in which she starred with Dan Dailey. She received critical praise overall for her performances. Her career as a solid character actress seemed to be back on track as she played Jane Barton in The Pleasure Seekers (1964), but then she suddenly retired. She returned to star in the television movie Daughter of the Mind (1969) with Don Murray and Ray Milland. Her final performance was in the TV miniseries Scruples (1980).

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • The Return of Frank James (1940) – directed by Fritz Lang
  • Hudson’s Bay (1941) – directed by Irving Pichel
  • Tobacco Road (1941) – directed by John Ford
  • Belle Starr (1941) – directed by Irving Cummings
  • Sundown(1941) – directed by Henry Hathaway
  • The Shanghai Gesture (1941) – directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942) – directed by John Cromwell
  • Rings on Her Fingers (1942) – directed by Rouben Mamoulian
  • Thunder Birds (1942) – directed by William A. Wellman
  • China Girl (1942) – directed by Henry Hathaway
  • Heaven Can Wait (1943) – directed by Ernst Lubitsch
  • Laura (1944) – directed by Otto Preminger
  • A Bell for Adano (1945) – directed by Henry King
  • Leave Her to Heaven (1945) – directed by John M. Stahl
  • Dragonwyck (1946) – directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • The Razor’s Edge (1946) – directed by Edmund Goulding
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) – directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • The Iron Curtain (1948) – directed by William A. Wellman
  • That Wonderful Urge (1948) – directed by Robert B. Sinclair
  • Whirlpool (1949) – directed by Otto Preminger
  • Night and the City (1950) – directed by Jules Dassin
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) – directed by Otto Preminger
  • The Mating Season (1951) – directed by Mitchell Leisen
  • On the Riviera (1951) – directed by Walter Lang
  • The Secret of Convict Lake (1951) – directed by Michael Gordon
  • Close to My Heart (1951) – directed by William Keighley
  • Way of a Gaucho (1952) – directed by Jacques Tourneur
  • Plymouth Adventure (1952) – directed by Clarence Brown
  • Never Let Me Go (1953) – directed by Delmer Daves
  • Personal Affair (1953) – directed by Anthony Pelissier
  • Black Widow(1954) – directed by Nunnally Johnson
  • The Egyptian (1954) – directed by Michael Curtiz
  • The Left Hand of God (1955) – directed by Edward Dmytryk
  • Advise & Consent (1962) – directed by Otto Preminger
  • Toys in the Attic (1963) – directed by George Roy Hill
  • Four Nights of the Full Moon (1963) directed by Sobey Martin – aka Las cuatro noches de la luna llena – believed lost
  • The Pleasure Seekers (1964) – directed by Jean Negulesco