Gene Tierney was a popular actress in the 1940s and 50s. She was born in New York, married Oleg Cassini in Las Vegas in 1941, and divorced him in 1953. While Oleg Cassini was stationed here at Fort Riley during WWII, Gene Tierney stayed in Junction City.
Gene Tierney was best known for her role as the murder victim in the murder mystery, “Laura,” in 1944. She appeared in movies throughout the 1940s, one of which led to an Oscar nomination for best actress in 1945. In between all her Hollywood work Tierney stayed in Junction City to be near her husband; she gave birth to a daughter in 1943 in Washington, DC while visiting family.
When Tierney first arrived here in 1943, she stayed at a local motel until there was housing available. Fred Beeler remembers seeing Gene Tierney at Cooper’s Tourist Court, operated by his step father, located about where Casey’s is located today. Fred said he had the pleasure on several occasions of waking Miss Tierney to take phone calls from California. He also recalls that after Tierney and Cassini moved from the motel they briefly lived in an apartment around Webster and 4th.
Gene may not have lived in Junction City long but she lived here long enough to catch the attention of several locals. Shirley Haley told the Museum that when she heard that Gene Tierney was in Junction City, and living on Sunset Drive she was determined to get her autograph.
Shirley, and a few of her friends, made their way up the road to Gene’s home. Shirley said she had some butterflies, but being a gutsy girl even then, she squared her shoulders, marched up to the porch and rang the doorbell only to turn around and discover she was all alone. He girlfriends had suddenly disappeared. About that time the front door opened and there stood the lovely Gene Tierney.
Shirley recounted, “I could see her husband, fashion designer Oleg Cassini, sitting on the couch and I could smell hamburger cooking and it was obvious she was fixing dinner. She didn’t seem surprised at all to see me there and was very kind. When I asked for her autograph she signed my book without hesitation, then she asked a question or two about me—where I went to school, whether I had walked all the way up there, and so forth. Then she graciously said ‘goodbye’ and closed the door.”
Though she was a well-liked Hollywood starlet, apparently not everyone was as impressed as Haley. According to Carol Tiesing, Lillie Snyder, Carols’ mother, who ran an upholstery business in JC, had her picture printed in an issue of LOOK magazine with Tierney. In the photo, Gene Tierney is leaning over Snyder while she sits at a sewing machine. It appears in the photo that Tierney is giving Snyder instructions. According to Carol neither the magazine nor the photo were saved by family members.
While Tierney didn’t live in Junction City long she did come away with a favorable view of this town. In her autobiography Self-Portrait Tierney said, “Everyone seemed to help one another and shared their joys and heartaches. Those of us who had traveled from different parts of the country were treated with kindness by the local Kansans . . . In looking back, this period was one of the happiest times of my life.”
In between her movie roles and motherhood, Tierney still found time to support the war effort by selling bonds, giving speeches, and serving as an entertainer at the Hollywood Canteen, a popular spot for service men and women to rub elbows with famous folks. While Tierney did not live in Junction City for long she left her impression on it with people who recall her presence to this day. Tierney passed away in 1991 in Houston, TX.