Lawrence Tierney: Hollywood’s Real-Life Tough Guy

Univ. Pr. of Kentucky. Nov. 2022. 408p. ISBN 9780813196503. $29.95. FILM
Journalist Kearns’s (Tabloid Baby) book is the first official biography of actor Lawrence Tierney (1919–2002), who played tough guys in mostly supporting roles and bit parts during a 50-year career. A promising start as the star of Dillinger (1945) was soon curtailed by his chronic addiction to alcohol and his erratic, often violent behavior. That led to a series of bar fights, assaults, and public drunkenness. During the latter part of his life, Tierney landed notable small roles in major films like Prizzi’s Honor (1985) and Reservoir Dogs (1992). But his temper was still volatile; director Quentin Tarantino briefly fired him from Reservoir Dogs after the two got into a fistfight. Every crime and misdemeanor that Tierney was involved in is tediously detailed, as are his endless court appearances. Primary-source material comes from the leading gossip columnists of the day, including Sheilah Graham, Dorothy Kilgallen, Jimmie Fidler, and Hedda Hopper.
VERDICT A sad look at a promising career derailed and how the Hollywood establishment dealt with it.
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