Filled Under: Jennifer Jones

Silver Screen Sirens: Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones (March 2, 1919 – December 17, 2009) was an American Oscar-winning actress during the Hollywood golden years. Jones was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for her role as Bernadette Soubirous in “The Song of Bernadette” (1943). She married three times, most notably to film producer David O. Selznick. Jennifer Jones starred in more than twenty films over a thirty-year career, going into semi-retirement following Selznick’s death in 1965. In later life, Jones withdrew from public life to live in quiet retirement with her son and his family in Malibu, California. She granted no interviews and rarely appeared in public. Jennifer Jones died of natural causes on Thursday, December 17, 2009, aged 90. She was cremated at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Jennifer Jones (1953 portrait)

Jennifer Jones (1953 portrait)

 

Jennifer Jones in "The Song of Bernadette" (1943). Jones won an Academy Award for her role as Bernadette Soubirious in this movie.

Jennifer Jones in “The Song of Bernadette” (1943). Jones won an Academy Award for her role as Bernadette Soubirious in this movie.

 

Jennifer Jones in "Love Letters" (1945)

Jennifer Jones in “Love Letters” (1945)

 

Jennifer Jones in "Duel In The Sun" (1947)

Jennifer Jones in “Duel In The Sun” (1947)

 

Jennifer Jones in "Madame Bovary" (1949)

Jennifer Jones in “Madame Bovary” (1949)

 

Jennifer Jones in "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" (1955)

Jennifer Jones in “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” (1955)

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Jennifer Jones

 

“My mother told me never explain, never complain. Even as a young actress, I determined I would never give personal interviews, since they made me so uncomfortable.” ~ Jennifer Jones

 

Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones was an American actress and a five-time Academy Award nominee, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in “The Song of Bernadette”(1943). Jones was born Phylis Lee Isley on March 2, 1919 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her parents were Flora Mae and Phillip Ross Isley. An only child, she was raised Roman Catholic and attended Catholic school. Her parents toured the Midwest in a traveling tent show that they owned and operated. Jones attended Monte Cassino Junior College in Tulsa and Northwestern University, where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, before transferring to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in 1938. In 1939 Jones made her way to Hollywood where she landed two small roles, first in a 1939 John Wayne western titled “New Frontier”, followed by a serial entitled “Dick Tracy’s G-Men”. In these two films, she was billed as ‘Phyllis Isley’. She then failed a screen test for Paramount Pictures and decided to return to New York City wher she worked part-time modeling hats for the Powers Agency while looking for possible acting jobs. When she learned of auditions for the lead role in “Claudia”, Rose Franken’s hit play, she presented herself to David O. Selznick’s New York office but fled in tears after what she thought was a bad reading. Selznick, however, overheard her audition and was impressed enough to have his secretary call her back. Following an interview, she was signed to a seven-year contract. She was carefully groomed for stardom and given a new name, Jennifer Jones. She won the coveted role over hundreds of applicants for the role of Bernadette Soubirous for “The Song of Bernadette” (1943) In 1944, on her 25th birthday, Jones won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Bernadette Soubirous. That year, Jones’ friend, Ingrid Bergman, was also a Best Actress nominee for her work in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Jones apologized to Bergman, who replied, “No, Jennifer, your Bernadette was better than my Maria.” Jones presented the Best Actress Oscar the following year to Bergman for “Gaslight”.

 

Jennifer Jones and her husband David O. Selznick – April 8, 1957

 

Over the next two decades, Jones appeared in a wide range of roles selected by Selznick. Her dark beauty and sensitive nature appealed to audiences and she showed a variable range in her performances. Jones recieved Academy Award nominations for Best Actress in “Love Letters” (1945), “Duel in the Sun” (1946), and “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” (1955). She also recieved a Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for “Since You Went Away” (1944). Other notable films included “Cluny Brown” (1946), “Portrait of Jennie” (1948), “Madame Bovary” (1949), “We Were Strangers” (1949), “Gone to Earth” (1950), “Carrie” (1952), “Ruby Gentry” (1952), “Indiscretion of an American Wife” (1953), “Beat the Devil” (1953), “Good Morning Miss Dove” (1955), “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” (1956) starring opposite Gregory Peck and “A Farewell to Arms” (1957). Jones leading men during this period included Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, John Garfield, Charlton Heston, Laurence Olivier, Montgomery Clift, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Robert Stack, John Gielgud, Rock Hudson, and Jason Robards. Her last big-screen appearance came in the spectacular disaster film “The Towering Inferno” (1974), in which she danced with Fred Astaire.

 

Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones between scenes of “Duel in the Sun” (1946)

 

Jennifer Jones was married three times. The first to Robert Walker in 1939. They had two sons together, Robert Walker, Jr. and Michael Walker. Jones and Walker divorced in 1945. Her second marriage was to David O. Selznick in 1949 and their marriage lasted until his death in 1965. Her third marriage was to Norton Simon in 1971. They remained married until his death in 1993.

 

Jennifer Jones in “Madame Bovary” (1949)

 

After the death of her third husband, Jones enjoyed a quiet retirement, living with her son Robert Walker, Jr. and his family in Malibu, for the last six years of her life. She granted no interviews and rarely appeared in public. She died of natural causes on Thursday, December 17, 2009, aged 90. She was cremated at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Glendale.

 

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