Our Star of the Month Gene Tierney left this world 20 years ago today, succumbing to a long battle with emphysema at her home in Texas. Here is an article written by Richard Severo of the New York Times, appearing in the newspaper on November 8, 1991–2 days after Gene Tierney’s death.
Gene Tierney, 70, Star of ‘Laura’ And ‘Leave Her to Heaven,’ Dies
By RICHARD SEVERO
Published: November 08, 1991
Gene Tierney, the elegant actress whose beauty bewitched a tough detective in the 1944 film “Laura” and whose portrayal two years later of a diabolically selfish woman in “Leave Her to Heaven” won her an Academy Award nomination, died Wednesday night at her home in Houston. She was 70 years old.
Miss Tierney died of emphysema, a spokesman for the family said.
Miss Tierney had undergone years of treatment for stress and depression. She retired from films in 1965 after making “The Pleasure Seekers,” but made at least two television appearances after that. She told reporters that she preferred her life in Houston as the wife of W. Howard Lee, an oil man whom she married in 1960. He died in 1981.
A year before her marriage to Mr. Lee, when reporters found her working in a dress shop in Topeka, Kan. (a job she took as part of her psychotherapy at the Menninger Clinic there), she told them she attributed her illness to “my lack of understanding of what I could cope with and what I could not. . . . I tried to work harder and harder, thinking that work would cure everything. All it did was make things worse.”
With her blue-green eyes, brown hair, prominent cheekbones and what many young men of the 1940’s regarded as the most appealing overbite of the day (Miss Tierney said her movie contract stipulated that her slightly protruding front teeth were never to be fixed) she won plaudits for her patrician look but some criticism for her acting.
Even in “Laura,” which more than any other movie established her as a major star, Miss Tierney was faulted by some critics. In that film, a detective (Dana Andrews) falls in love with the portrait of a woman he believes has been murdered. For the first 30 minutes of the film, he and the other characters merely talk about her; then they discover she has not been murdered, and the character appears on screen.
For Thomas P. Pryor, who reviewed the film in The New York Times, Miss Tierney’s entrance was a bit of a letdown. She did not “measure up to the word portrait of her character,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, Miss Tierney received much praise over the years for the freshness and disarming directness she brought to her portrayal of Laura. The film is still regarded as a classic of its genre.
R.I.P. Gene Tierney. We are so lucky to still have her films with us.