Gene Gutowski was born Witold Bardach to a family of cultured and assimilated Jews in Lwow (Lviv), Poland, present-day Ukraine. His father Juliusz Bardach was a lawyer and his mother Anna Bardach was a concert pianist. He began studies as a sculptor at the Institute of Fine Arts just prior to World War II. In 1941, the Germans occupied Lwow, and a year later Gene's entire family had been killed.
He managed to escape to Warsaw, where he worked first for a photographer and later at the Junkers aircraft factory under the identity of a dead Pole, Eugeniusz Gutowski, a name he would retain. He later left Warsaw for Riga, Latvia, where he worked for a construction company. He was sent to work in Germany at the end of 1944. After again escaping from the advancing Soviet army in 1945, he volunteered for U.S. Army intelligence. In 1947, he married Zillah Rhoades, a U.S. State Department official, and moved with her to New York City.
He worked for a few years as a fashion illustrator before breaking into the film and TV industry, working as a production manager. In 1960, he moved to London to produce an adventure film, Station Six Sahara. He met Roman Polanski and they embarked on a creative partnership that resulted in three films: Repulsion (1965), Cul-de-sac (1966), and The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). They remained friends but went on to pursue separate projects. Gene bought into the Kenzo fashion house with money from Adnan Khashoggi and built the brand up internationally. He returned to lived in Poland after the fall of Communism. After 30 years, he and Polanski joined forces again to produce The Pianist (2002), which won multiple Academy Awards.
He published his autobiography, Od Holocaustu do Hollywood, in Polish in 2004. An English-language edition under the title With Balls and Chutzpah: A Story of Survival was issued in the USA in 2011. In 2014, his son Adam Bardach, a filmmaker/producer, made a documentary about his father called Dancing Before the Enemy: How a Teenage Boy Fooled the Nazis and Lived.