Now, with World War 2 underway, a heavily pregnant Gene did her part for the war effort. Appearing at the famed Hollywood Canteen with other stars she shockingly contracted German measles from an over-zealous female Marine who left quarantine because she “just had to meet” her favorite star. In doing so, the fan doomed Gene’s first child to a living interminable hell.
On Oct. 15, 1943, Gene and Oleg’s baby, Daria, was born — severely mentally retarded, deaf and partially blind…
Realizing she needed more than simple treatment, Gene was taken to a mental health facility, the Harkness Pavilion in New York. There the screen beauty was strapped down and given multiple electro shock treatments. The powerful jolts of unrestrained electricity destroyed not only her memory but her fragile grip on reality.
Locked in, strapped down and screaming, Gene received an additional 19 shock therapy treatments at the prestigious Institute for Living in Connecticut.
Upon release, seemingly cured, in 1957, but unable to return to film acting because of her inability to remember lines, Gene was teetering again on the edge of the abyss.
On Christmas Day, clad only in a sheer night gown, paranoia raging with every swing of a bi-polar pendulum and hallucinating wildly, Hollywood’s most beautiful star clung by her fingernails to the wall of a skyscraper 14 stories up – far from the teeming throngs of normalcy of a bustling New York street on Christmas Day…
In her autobiography “Self Portrait” published in 1979, Gene brought the stigma of mental illness out of the shadows, helping others to meet the grim challenge. “Trying to make order out of my life was like trying to pick up a jellyfish,” she wrote.
Sadly, Gene Tierney died in 1991 from emphysema in Houston, Texas – a victim of the very thing that helped make her a star – smoking.
And yet, when one sees Gene live again on the screen, in the captured shadow shows of an idealized dream, Lord Byron’s words come to mind: “She walks in beauty, like the night…”