Jennifer Jones


Actor
Jennifer Jones

About

Also Known As
Jennifer Jones Simon, Phylis Lee Isley, Phylis Isley, Phylis Walker
Birth Place
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Born
March 02, 1919
Died
December 17, 2009
Cause of Death
Natural Causes

Biography

She was the proverbial middle-American beauty made an overnight star by the smitten Hollywood big shot, and made good on it with five Oscar nominations and one statue. Only a few years after he had made Vivien Leigh the dark-horse victor of his Scarlett O’Hara sweepstakes, David O. Selznick unveiled Jennifer Jones as his latest discovery in "The Song of Bernadette" in 1943, an American f...

Photos & Videos

The Song of Bernadette - Movie Poster
Ruby Gentry - Movie Poster
Portrait of Jennie - Lobby Card Set

Family & Companions

Robert Walker
Husband
Actor. Born on October 13, 1918; met in 1938 when they were fellow students at AADA; married on January 2, 1939; divorced in March 1944; died on August 28, 1951.
David O Selznick
Husband
Producer. Born on May 10, 1902; married from July 1949 until his death on June 22, 1965.
Norman Simon
Husband
Industrialist. Born on February 5, 1907; married from May 1971 until his death on June 2, 1993.

Bibliography

"Jennifer Jones: A Bio-Bibliography"
Jeffrey L Carrier, Greenwood Press (1990)

Biography

She was the proverbial middle-American beauty made an overnight star by the smitten Hollywood big shot, and made good on it with five Oscar nominations and one statue. Only a few years after he had made Vivien Leigh the dark-horse victor of his Scarlett O’Hara sweepstakes, David O. Selznick unveiled Jennifer Jones as his latest discovery in "The Song of Bernadette" in 1943, an American film debut that, like Leigh’s, would earn her the Best Actress accolade at the next year’s Academy Awards. Selznick’s singular, often clumsy obsession with Jones’ career would make her a staple lead in overwrought, star-compromised romances such as "Duel In the Sun" (1946), "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" (1955) and "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1956), as well the subject of the storied producer’s own romantic zeal – yielding an enigmatic legacy of a movie star whose talents and body of work remain clouded by the choices made for her.

Jones was born Phylis Lee Isley on March 2, 1919 in Tulsa, OK, to Phil and Flora Mae Isley, operators of a regional theatrical troupe, the Isley Stock Company. The family business afforded Phylis her first work in show business selling tickets on her non-school days and did well enough by the time the Depression struck that Phil Isley could begin buying up movie theaters and equipping them with sound for the "talkies" coming out of Hollywood as of the early 1930s. The Isley theater chain soon stretched into Texas, giving Phylis, who had decided she wanted to act at age 4, unfettered access to the latest movies and spurring dreams of stardom. Upon graduating high school, she briefly attended Monte Cassino, a local Catholic junior college, then went on to Northwestern University, but soon found herself restless and unenthusiastic about the curriculum. She was accepted into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, matriculating in fall 1937.

She began a relationship with fellow student Robert Walker, who, after a year at the Academy, grew eager get out into the job market, and Phylis agreed to go with him. Phil Isley arranged for his daughter to star in her own eponymous radio show back in Tulsa, Walker joining her on the air for a13-week run, but the couple married in early 1939 and decided to seek their fortunes in Hollywood. It would be a brief and uneventful sojourn. While she signed on with minor studio Republic for which she did a B-Western in its "Three Mesquiteers" series and the matinee serial "Dick Tracy’s G-Men" (1939), Walker fielded better opportunities in radio in New York and the couple moved east again. Phylis did some modeling but found little acting work, in the meantime bearing two children, Robert Jr. and Michael. She auditioned for a production of the play "Claudia," and, though she didn’t get the part, playwright Rose Franken was impressed enough that she recommended the young actress for possible casting in the film adaptation then in the works by independent über-producer David Selznick.

She would not get the role, but her audition did garner the personal attention of Selznick, who almost immediately offered the "big-eyed girl," as he called her in memos, a seven-year contract with his company. Even before Selznick found a part for her, he brought her to Los Angeles and introduced her as his latest discovery under the stage-name Jennifer Jones, in the meantime securing a contract with MGM for Walker, who brought the family out. Selznick found the ideal launch pad for Jones in an upcoming 20th Century Fox project, "The Song of Bernadette," the tale of an earnest French peasant girl who has pastoral visions and eventually is canonized a saint. The New York Times’ review averred that Jones’ "large, sad eyes and soft face, her wistful mouth and luminous smile are a thoroughly appealing exterior for the innocence which shines from within." Upon the next year’s Academy Awards, the newcomer won the Oscar for Best Actress; Jones was distracted enough the evening of the ceremony that she left her statue in the cab she took home. Walker also saw his fortunes on the rise with notices for his first credited role in the film "Bataan" (1943), but the marriage was faring worse. Selznick, himself married to MGM honcho Louis B. Mayer’s daughter Irene, pursued Jones, and they had begun an affair at least by the time production began on the somber homefront drama "Since You Went Away" (1944), the production fraught with problems owing to the fact that Selznick had cast Walker as Jones’ love interest. The couple separated, to be divorced the next year – initiating a downward spiral of mental instability and alcohol abuse for Walker, eventually resulting in his untimely death in 1951 – and Jones and Selznick’s relationship became an open secret in Hollywood.

"Since You Went Away" scored Jones another Oscar nomination early the next year, and she reunited with that film’s co-star Joseph Cotten in Paramount’s romantic psychological drama "Love Letters" (1945), which brought her another nomination. She showed a flair for comedy in "Cluny Brown" (1946), playing an apprentice plumber caught up in society hijinx. Selznick began his pattern of micromanaging Jones’ career, selecting only projects that might forward his deific image of her. His would-be Western epic "Duel In the Sun" (1946) had her as a half-Native American bad-girl torn between two wealthy Texan brothers (Cotten and Gregory Peck), her lusty desires and her conscience. Selznick hoped to make it his next "Gone With the Wind," and though the picture survived scathing reviews to do well at the box-office – and earn Jones a fourth Oscar nomination – the then-astronomical $6 million he poured into the production and over-ambitious marketing expenses reputedly winnowed profits to almost nothing.

Next, the pricey melodrama "Portrait of Jennie" (1948), had her as an ethereal, spectral muse to Cotten’s artist and highlighted Selznick’s imperative to directors to feature idealized close-ups of Jones at every opportunity, which proved insufficient to make the film a hit. After an odd turn as a Cuban revolutionary opposite John Garfield in John Huston’s 1949 curiosity "We Were Strangers," she shone in Vincente Minnelli’s adaptation of "Madame Bovary" (1949), a lavish period piece that allowed Jones to realize a more textured title character through her rags-to-riches arc. Jones and Selznick wed that year, but he became even more intrusive in her work, her next film, the U.K.-made Michael Powell-directed Victorian melodrama "Gone to Earth" (1950), eliciting a more uninhibited performance by Jones, but not until two years later would Selznick release the film in the U.S., redubbed "The Wild Heart" (1952) and re-cut to add more Jones close-ups and excise plot-points. She would settle into a run of illicit-romance fare: "Carrie" (1952), with Jones as the object of affection and ruination of Laurence Olivier; "Ruby Gentry" (1952), with Vidor coaxing some spirit out of her as a lower-class Southern woman wooed by three men from the proper side of the tracks; and "Terminal Station" (1953), which had her as a married American woman ending an Italian holiday and affair with a young man (Montgomery Clift). The Italian production of the latter came as Jones dealt with guilt over Walker’s recent death and a difficult period with Selznick, who meddled from afar and would again denude the finished product into a 63-minute cut retitled "Indiscretion of an American Wife."

She was next set to star in "The Country Girl" (1954), but discovered she was pregnant, the part going to Grace Kelly, whose performance would win the Oscar. Jones bore Selznick a daughter, Mary Jennifer, in 1954. She put together a sequence of off-the-beaten-path roles, a disarmingly plucky con-woman in Huston’s "Beat the Devil" (1954), a dowdy, bed-ridden spinster in "Good Morning, Miss Dove" (1954), a short-lived, poorly reviewed Broadway stint in "Portrait of a Lady" in late 1954; and a Chinese doctor wooed by William Holden in the period’s canonical bittersweet romance, "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" (1955). Under the helm of "Bernadette" director Henry King, the latter became a major hit and earned Jones her fifth Oscar nomination. Jones returned in the examination of post-war middle-class suburban angst, "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit," reuniting with Peck in the role of his over-ambitious but ultimately angelic wife. But the end of the decade saw her fortunes ebb, first with MGM’s gaudy "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1957), then more infamously in Selznick’s own slogging adaptation of Hemingway’s "A Farewell to Arms" (1957). The movie drew such critical fire and so few box-office receipts that it would prompt Selznick to effectively retire, and he and Jones sought to avoid the fallout by bolting the U.S. on what turned out to be an extended tour of Europe and India, with which Jones became particularly enamored, adopting yoga into her regimen.

She did not do another film until 1961, working with King again in Fox’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s "Tender Is the Night," but it fared poorly and she retreated from the public eye. Her son, Robert Walker, Jr., in the meantime would pick up a Golden Globe award as "most promising newcomer" for his performance in the film "The Ceremony" (1963). Selznick died in 1965, and to cope, Jones decided to work again, taking a role in "The Idol" (1966) as a middle-aged mother seduced by her son’s temperamental artist friend. She followed that with a turn in a stage revival of "The Country Girl" at New York City Center, but she remained mired in depression over Selznick, which only went compounded upon the death of her friend and "Bernadette" and "Duel In the Sun" co-star Charles Bickford, who had supporting. On Nov. 9, 1967, Jones checked into a Malibu motel, took an overdose of barbiturates and was later found unconscious on the beach. She would recover, claiming the overdose accidental, not a suicide attempt. Eerily, her daughter by Selznick, Mary Jennifer, would also deal badly, experimenting with drugs and eventually suffering a breakdown.

Jones went back to work in the 1969 oddity "Angel, Angel, Down We Go" (1969), a trippy mod-ish outing in which she played the mother of a daughter whose rockstar boyfriend winds up seducing every member of the family, Jones’ character revealing her past in the camp-classic line, "I made 30 stag films and never faked an orgasm!" In 1971, at a party thrown by media mogul and art collector Walter Annenberg, she met Annenberg’s fellow collector Norton Simon, the multimillionaire corporate raider who had most famously made Hunt Foods into a major packaged-goods company. A month after their meeting, Simon and Jones wed. Within a few years, Simon convinced her to emerge from retirement once again, which she did in Irwin Allen’s all-star disaster opus "The Towering Inferno" (1974), playing a doomed tenant. In 1976, Mary Jennifer committed suicide, jumping from a 22-story building in L.A., while Jennifer was visiting her ailing father in Oklahoma. Phil Isley died not long after. Jones and Simon, who had lost a son to suicide in 1970, began dedicating time and money to fight mental illness, in 1980 endowing the Jennifer Jones Simon Foundation for Mental Health and Education. Jones flirted with another return to show business the next year, purchasing the film rights to Larry McMurtry's novel Terms of Endearment, but producer/director James L. Brooks considered her too old for the part of the steadfast mother of the piece, Shirley MacLaine eventually winning the Best Actress Oscar for the role, Brooks the best screenplay, picture and director statues. Jones became reclusive, helping to take care of Simon when a few years later he was diagnosed with the incapacitating Guillain-Barré Syndrome in 1984, eventually taking over executive control of his art empire via the Norton Simon Foundation and the Norton Simon Museum, which he had endowed in Pasadena in 1978. She lived in Malibu with son Robert Walker, Jr. and his family until her death from natural causes on Dec. 17, 2009.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Herself
The Towering Inferno (1974)
Angel, Angel, Down We Go (1969)
Astrid Steele
The Idol (1966)
Carol
Tender Is the Night (1962)
Nicole Diver
The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957)
Elizabeth
A Farewell to Arms (1957)
Nurse Catherine Barkley
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)
Betsy Rath
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
Dr. Han Suyin
Good Morning, Miss Dove (1955)
Miss Dove
Beat the Devil (1954)
Gwendolen Chelm
Indiscretion of an American Wife (1954)
Mary Forbes
Ruby Gentry (1953)
Ruby [Corey] Gentry
Carrie (1952)
Carrie Meeber [Hurstwood]
The Wild Heart (1952)
Hazel Woodus Marston
Gone to Earth (1950)
We Were Strangers (1949)
China Valdes
Madame Bovary (1949)
Emma Bovary
Portrait of Jennie (1949)
Jennie Appleton
Duel in the Sun (1947)
Pearl Chavez
Cluny Brown (1946)
Cluny Brown
The Song of Bernadette (1945)
Bernadette [Soubirous, also known as Sister Marie Bernarde]
Love Letters (1945)
Singleton, also known as Victoria Morland
Since You Went Away (1944)
Jane Hilton
New Frontier (1939)
Celia
Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939)

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Other

Cast (Special)

The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Performer
The American Film Institute Salute to Gregory Peck (1989)
Performer
The 59th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1987)
Performer
The American Film Institute Salute to Lillian Gish (1984)
Performer
The Men Who Made the Movies: King Vidor (1973)
Herself

Life Events

1937

Moved to NYC to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts

1938

Hosted own local radio program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, "The Phylis Isley Radio Theater"; ran for 13 weeks

1939

After marriage to Robert Walker, moved to California

1939

Signed contract with Republic Pictures

1939

Film acting debut alongside John Wayne in "New Frontier"; made second film "Dick Tracy's G-Men"; billed as Phylis Isley

1940

With Walker, moved to NYC

1941

Acted on stage in Santa Barbara in "Hello Out There"; billed as Phylis Walker

1942

Changed name to Jennifer Jones in January

1943

Achieved star status with her performance in the title role of "The Song of Bernadette", a film biography of the young woman who claimed to see a vision of the Virgin Mary; received Best Actress Oscar

1944

First film produced personally by David O. Selznick, "Since You Went Away"; starred opposite Robert Walker; received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination

1944

Reportedly offered title role in "Laura"; Selznick declined it

1945

Earned second Best Actress Academy Award nomination as an amnesiac in "Love Letters", co-starring Joseph Cotten

1946

Starred in "Duel in the Sun"; garnered third Best Actress Oscar nomination

1948

Reteamed with Joseph Cotton in the romantic "Portrait of Jennie"

1949

Played "Madame Bovary"

1952

Played title role of "Carrie", based on Theodore Dreiser's novel

1955

Earned fifth Academy Award nomination for leading role in "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing"

1957

Cast as Elizabeth Barrett Browning in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street"

1957

Last film for five years, "A Farewell to Arms", produced by David O. Selznick

1962

Returned to films after a five-year absence to play the leading role in "Tender Is the Night"

1966

After Selznick's death, returned to filmmaking following a four-year absence in "The Idol"

1969

Last film for five years, the dreadful "Angel, Angel Down We Go"

1974

Played a supporting role as Fred Astaire's love interest in the all-star "The Towering Inferno"; final film role

Photo Collections

The Song of Bernadette - Movie Poster
The Song of Bernadette - Movie Poster
Ruby Gentry - Movie Poster
Ruby Gentry - Movie Poster
Portrait of Jennie - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Portrait of Jennie (1949). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. Also included is a card from the 1950 release of the film, as Tidal Wave.
Since You Went Away - Movie Poster
Here is an "advance" One-sheet movie poster for Since You Went Away (1944). The poster copy touts the previous successes of producer David O. Selznick.
Madame Bovary - Jennifer Jones Publicity Stills
Here are a few stills of Jennifer Jones, taken to help publicize MGM's Madame Bovary (1949), directed by Vincente Minnelli.
Love is a Many Splendored Thing - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955), starring Jennifer Jones and William Holden. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Love Letters - Lobby Cards
Here are a few lobby cards from Love Letters (1945), starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Madame Bovary - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from MGM's Madame Bovary (1949), starring Jennifer Jones, Van Heflin, and James Mason. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
We Were Strangers - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from Columbia Pictures' We Were Strangers (1949), starring John Garfield and Jennifer Jones. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Beat the Devil - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Beat the Devil (1954), directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, and Jennifer Jones. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957) - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for MGM's The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957), starring Jennifer Jones and John Gielgud. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Cult Of The Damned (a.k.a. Angel, Angel Down We Go) (1969) - I'm A Fairy Princess Shortly after the opening, a flashback to earlier in the life of troubled Tara-Nicole (Joan Calhoun in this scene, growing up to be Holly Near), at a restaurant with her warring super-wealthy parents (Charles Aidman, Jennifer Jones) with writer Robert Thom in his only outing as a director, in Cult Of The Damned, (a.k.a. Angel, Angel Down We Go), 1969.
Cult Of The Damned (1969) - All Sorts Of Tranquilizers Usually low-budget American International pictures shooting on location at the Getz-Hearst “Beverly House” in Beverly Hills, singer Bogart (Jordan Christopher) has the full attention of mother Astrid (Jennifer Jones) and daughter Tara Nicole (Holly Near), then another original song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in Cult Of The Damned, (a.k.a. Angel, Angel Down We Go), 1969.
Cult Of The Damned (1969) - Open, My Parents Were Perfect The soundtrack doing much of the work, with voice over by Holly Near as rich and twisted Tara Nicole, the opening to American International’s shocker Cult Of The Damned, (a.k.a. Angel, Angel Down We Go), 1969, leading to Charles Aidman as her father in the shower, also starring Jennifer Jones.
Since You Went Away (1944) - Mrs. Hilton, I Presume? Col. Smollett (Monty Woolley) follows a rejected applicant and rents the room from Anne (Claudette Colbert), Jane (Jennifer Jones) and Brig (Shirley Temple) observing, in William Wyler's home-front drama Since You Went Away, 1944.
Since You Went Away (1944) - I Wish I Were Twenty-Seven Jane (Jennifer Jones) is at first compassionate toward Corporal Smollett (Jones' then-husband Robert Walker) then swooning before officer Tony (Joseph Cotten) in David Selznick's Since You Went Away, 1944.
Farewell To Arms, A (1957) - We Die Anyway Vittorio De Sica as the almost-smarmy Rinaldi conducts his American ambulance driver friend Frederic (Rock Hudson), back at the base in the Italian Alps after leave, to meet the new English nurses, especially Miss Barkley (Jennifer Jones), in David O. Selznick’s production, from Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms, 1957.
Farewell To Arms, A (1957) - Promise You'll Come Back Leaving their base (Charles Vidor directing on location, in the eastern Italian Alps near Venzone), ambulance driver Frederic (Rock Hudson) is desperate to see British nurse Catherine (Jennifer Jones) after their torrid one-night liaison, in the 1957 version of Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms, produced by Jones’ husband, David Selznick.
Farewell To Arms, A (1957) - I've Come Back To Catherine Something like fidelity to the Hemingway novel, via Laurence Stallings’ play and Ben Hecht’s script, of the second encounter between American WWI ambulance driver Frederic Henry (Rock Hudson) and Brit nurse Catherine (Jennifer Jones), who spoke earlier of her fianceè, killed in action, in A Farewell To Arms, 1957.
Tender Is The Night (1962) - Other Men To Do That In flashback, doctor Dick (Jason Robards Jr.) and psychiatric patient Nicole (Jennifer Jones) on their first outing in Zurich, from Henry King's version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel Tender Is The Night, 1962.
Tender Is The Night (1962) - French Riviera Technique not too convincing but an accurate rendering of the first scene of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, introducing Dick (Jason Robards Jr.), Abe (Tom Ewell), Nicole (Jennifer Jones) and Rosemary (Jill St. John), from Tender Is The Night, 1962.
Tender Is The Night (1962) - Romantic Eyes At his Riviera villa, Dick Diver (Jason Robards Jr.) entertains starlet Rosemary (Jill St. John), then realizes his wife Nicole (Jennifer Jones) is in trouble, in Tender Is The Night, 1962, from the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
Portrait of Jennie (1949) - One More Reason To Grow Up Fast Enigmatic Jennie (Jennifer Jones) appears once more in Central Park, this time for a twirl on the ice with artist Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten) in Portrait of Jennie, 1949.

Trailer

Family

Phil R Isley
Father
Movie theater owner, theater manager, actor. With wife ran the Isley Stock Company; after 1929, bought several movie theaters.
Flora Mae Isley
Mother
Actor, theater manager. With husband operated the Isley Stock Company.
Robert Walker Jr
Son
Gallery owner, former actor. Born on April 15, 1940; father Robert Walker.
Michael Ross Walker
Son
Actor. Born on March 13, 1941.
Mary Jennifer Selznick
Daughter
Born on August 12, 1954; committed suicide on May 11, 1976.

Companions

Robert Walker
Husband
Actor. Born on October 13, 1918; met in 1938 when they were fellow students at AADA; married on January 2, 1939; divorced in March 1944; died on August 28, 1951.
David O Selznick
Husband
Producer. Born on May 10, 1902; married from July 1949 until his death on June 22, 1965.
Norman Simon
Husband
Industrialist. Born on February 5, 1907; married from May 1971 until his death on June 2, 1993.

Bibliography

"Jennifer Jones: A Bio-Bibliography"
Jeffrey L Carrier, Greenwood Press (1990)