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Actress Gene Tierney, Known For Role in ‘Laura,’ Dies At 70

November 7, 1991 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) _ Actress Gene Tierney, who played the enigmatic victim in the murder mystery ″Laura″ and was nominated for an Academy Award for ″Leave Her To Heaven,″ has died, a funeral home spokesman said Thursday. She was 70.

Tierney, who had suffered from emphysema, died late Wednesday at her home. James Allen of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons funeral home in Houston said Thursday that funeral arrangements were pending.

She had lived in Houston since 1960, when she married oilman W. Howard Lee, who died in 1982.

The actress’ striking, high-cheekboned good looks helped propel her to stardom before the age of 20. But she battled a series of tragedies, including the birth of a daughter who was mentally retarded because Tierney had German measles during her pregnancy, and a bout of mental illness during the mid- 1950s.

″When I was ill, I thought that my emotional life was over for good,″ she said in an Associated Press interview in 1958. ″That was not true. I’m well now, with plenty of hope and plenty of chance to find happiness.″

″Laura,″ directed by Otto Preminger and released in 1944, is perhaps her best-known role. She played a socialite who is apparently a murder victim; Dana Andrews plays a police detective who falls in love with her through her portraits. The film also starred Vincent Price and Clifton Webb.

″Leave Her to Heaven,″ 1945, was about an selfish woman who causes unhappiness for those around her and eventually commits suicide. Tierney received her only Oscar nomination for that role, but lost out to Joan Crawford, selected as best actress for ″Mildred Pierce.″

Among Tierney’s other films were ″Belle Starr,″ 1941; ″Heaven Can Wait,″ 1943; ″A Bell for Adano,″ 1945; ″Dragonwyck,″ 1946; ″The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,″ 1947; and ″Night and the City,″ 1950.

She was married to designer Oleg Cassini from 1941 to 1952. They had two children, Daria, born in 1943, who was born retarded, and Christina, in 1948.

In the 1950s, she had a celebrated romance with Prince Aly Khan, the famous playboy; then came her marriage to Lee after she recovered from her illness.

She still worked occasionally after that, appearing in ″Advise and Consent,″ also directed by Preminger, in 1962 and a few other films.

Tierney was born Nov. 20, 1920, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, a daughter of a wealthy businessman. She was educated at private schools in Connecticut and Switzerland.

She overcame family disapproval to pursue an acting career, first on Broadway in 1939.

She was appearing in a supporting role in ″The Male Animal,″ 1940, when she was spotted by producer Darryl F. Zanuck and signed by 20th Century Fox. She made her film, ″The Return of Frank Jesse James,″ that same year.

Tierney’s autobiography, ″Self Portrait,″ was published in 1979.

In addition to her daughters, she is survived by four grandchildren and a sister, Patricia Tierney Byrne, of Boynton Beach, Fla.