Lawrence Tierney

Lawrence Tierney is best remembered for carrying out numerous “tough guy” roles in classic films. He brought these hard-boiled characters to the screen with ease, though off-screen, his life was filled with challenges.

Tierney expressed an interest in performing from an early age and gained experience on stage before making the move to Hollywood to work at RKO in films. Some of his most notable roles would be in Dillinger (1945), in which he portrayed gangster John Dillinger, and Born to Kill (1947).

Off-camera, Tierney was temperamental and challenging. He struggled with alcoholism and instability, negatively impacting his acting career. He landed in jail and made attempts at rehabilitation. By the 1960s, finding work was a struggle for him, and he turned to other jobs including construction work, bartending, and driving cabs. In the 1980s, he returned to acting and appeared on shows such as Seinfeld and Star Trek: The Next Generation, in addition to film roles in Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Armageddon (1998).

Burt Kearns’s Lawrence Tierney: Hollywood’s Real-Life Tough Guy shines the spotlight on Tierney, from his early life to his later film career. This is the first official biography about Tierney, drawing from interviews with colleagues, friends, and family, as well as publicity surrounding Tierney. This is a fascinating book that captures the complex nature of Tierney and his impact as an actor.

Lawrence Tierney: Hollywood’s Real-Life Tough Guy is available for purchase via the University Press of Kentucky.