Better known for her extraordinary
beauty than her acting talent, Tierney was the offspring of affluent
parents. Her father was a very successful insurance broker and her doting
and equally successful grandparents ensured little Gene went to the finest
schools on the East Coast. She was then sent to Europe for two years of
polishing, in Switzerland’s finishing schools.
Set on a career in the theatre, Tierney’s father established a company
dedicated to his daughter’s thespian aspirations; by 1939 she was
performing walk-on parts on Broadway. Friends with the stars of the day,
she enchanted Darryl Zanuck and he signed her to 20th Century Fox.
Appalled by the squeakiness of her voice in her first film 'The Return of
Frank James', Tierney starts to smoke heavily to lower her voice; the
unorthodox method worked but her addiction to cigarettes later caused the
emphysema that killed her.
In 1941 Tierney made four films and attempted to marry actor Robert
Sterling, but her parents disapproved and they split up. When she met
designer Oleg Cassini, her parents again disapproved, so Tierney eloped to
Las Vegas, using earrings as wedding rings. Two years later Tierney
contracted German measles while pregnant, and her baby, Daria, was born
deaf, dumb and mentally retarded.