in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
|Born||Phylis Lee Isley
March 2, 1919
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||December 17, 2009
Malibu, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||Northwestern University|
(m. 1939–45; divorced)
David O. Selznick
(m. 1949–65; his death)
(m. 1971–1993; his death)
|Children||Robert Walker, Jr. (born 1940),
Michael Walker (1941–2007),
Mary Jennifer Selznick (1954–1976)
Jennifer Jones (March 2, 1919 – December 17, 2009) was an American Oscar-winning actress during the Hollywood golden years. Jones, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Song of Bernadette (1943), was also Academy Award-nominated for her performances in four other films. She married three times, most notably to film producer David O. Selznick.
Jones starred in more than twenty films over a thirty year career, going into semi-retirement following the death of her husband, David O. Selznick, in 1965. In 1980, she founded the Jennifer Jones Simon Foundation For Mental Health And Education after her daughter's suicide. In later life, Jones withdrew from public life to live in quiet retirement with her son and his family in Malibu, California.
Jones was born Phylis Lee Isley in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the daughter of Flora Mae (née Suber) and Phillip Ross Isley. An only child, she was raised Roman Catholic and attended Monte Casino Catholic school. Her parents toured the Midwest in a traveling tent show that they owned and operated. Jones attended Monte Cassino, a girls' school and junior college in Tulsa and then Northwestern University in Illinois, 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. It was there that she met and fell in love with fellow acting student Robert Walker. The couple married on January 2, 1939.
Jones and Walker returned to Tulsa for a 13-week radio program, arranged by Jones' father, and then made their way to Hollywood. Jones 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" (with two Ls in her first name), but she failed a screen test for Paramount Pictures and decided to return to New York City.
While Walker found steady work in radio programs, Jones 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. Director Henry King was impressed by her screen test as Bernadette Soubirous for The Song of Bernadette (1943) and she won the coveted role over hundreds of applicants. In 1944, on her 25th birthday, Jones won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Bernadette Soubirous, beating out her friend, Ingrid Bergman, who was the 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.
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 projected a variable range. Her initial saintly image — as shown in her first starring role — was a stark contrast three years later when she was cast as a provocative bi-racial woman in Selznick’s controversial film Duel in the Sun (1946). Other notable films included Since You Went Away (1944), Love Letters (1945), Cluny Brown (1946), Portrait of Jennie (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), We Were Strangers (1949), Gone to Earth (1950), Carrie (1952), Ruby Gentry (also 1952), Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953), Beat the Devil (1953), Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), Good Morning Miss Dove (also 1955), The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) starring opposite Gregory Peck and A Farewell to Arms (1957). The portrait of Jones for the film Portrait of Jennie was painted by Robert Brackman. She inspired the character Dolores González in Raymond Chandler's novel The Little Sister (1949).
Her last big-screen appearance came in the spectacular disaster film The Towering Inferno (1974), in which she danced with Fred Astaire before a fire threatened partygoers in a new San Francisco skyscraper who were celebrating its official opening as tallest building in the world. Her exit from the picture was also the most sympathetic when, after helping to assist two children to escape the disaster, her character fell 110 stories to her death from a scenic elevator on the outside of the building which was derailed following an explosion. Her touching performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Scenes from early on in the movie showed paintings lent to the production from the Norton Simon art gallery. Simon was her husband at the time the movie was produced.
Jones's first marriage had two sons, Robert Walker, Jr. (born April 15, 1940; the only one of Jones's children who would not predecease her), and Michael Walker  (March 13, 1941 – December 27, 2007). Both later became actors. Jones had an affair with film producer David O. Selznick, which eventually led to her separation from Walker in November 1943 and divorce in June 1945.
Jones married Selznick on July 13, 1949, a union which lasted until his death on June 22, 1965. After his death, she semi-retired from acting. According to media reports, Jones attempted suicide in November 1967 after hearing of the death of close friend Charles Bickford. She was found unconscious at the base of a cliff overlooking Malibu Beach; she was hospitalized in a coma before eventually recovering. Her daughter, Mary Jennifer Selznick (1954–1976), committed suicide by jumping from a 20th-floor window in Los Angeles on May 11, 1976. This led to Jones's interest in mental health issues. In 1980, she founded the Jennifer Jones Simon Foundation For Mental Health And Education. The Foundation pledged $400,000 to be used exclusively for the world renowned Mary Jennifer Selznick Workshop Program, named in honor of Jones's late daughter.
On May 29, 1971, Jones married multi-millionaire industrialist, art collector and philanthropist Norton Simon, whose son Robert had committed suicide in 1969. The marriage took place aboard a tug 5 miles off the English coast, and was conducted by Unitarian minister Eirion Phillips. Years before, Simon had attempted to buy the portrait of her used in the film Portrait of Jennie. Simon later met Jones at a party hosted by fellow industrialist and art collector Walter Annenberg. Norton Simon died in June 1993. Four years before his death, Simon resigned as President of Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and Jennifer Jones-Simon was appointed Chairman of the Board of Trustees, President and Executive Officer. In 1996, she began working with architect Frank Gehry and landscape designer Nancy Goslee Power on renovating the museum and gardens. She remained active as the director of the Norton Simon Museum until 2003, when she was given emeritus status.
Jones was a breast cancer survivor. Actress Susan Strasberg, who would die of the disease in 1999 and was then married to actor Christopher Jones, named her own daughter Jennifer Robin Jones in the older actress's honor.
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. Jones participated in Gregory Peck's AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony in 1989 and appeared at the 70th (1998) and 75th (2003) Academy Awards as part of the shows' tributes to past Oscar winners. She died of natural causes on Thursday, December 17, 2009, aged 90. She was cremated at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Glendale.
- "Isley family", Genealogy, Roots web.
- Luther, Claudia (December 18, 2009). "Jennifer Jones dies at 90; Oscar-winning actress". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 16, 2010. "Jones, who was Catholic and had gone to a convent school..."
- Paul Green (September 12, 2011). Jennifer Jones: The Life and Films. McFarland. pp. 13ff., 198ff. ISBN 978-0-7864-6041-0. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
- Moody, Gary. "All the Oscars: 1943". The Oscar Site – A celebration of all things Oscar. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
- L.A. Times obituary
- "Oscar-Winning Actress Jennifer Jones Dies at 90". KCOP-TV. December 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-19. "Jennifer Jones, a best actress Oscar winner for 1943's "The Song of Bernadette" and known for her marriages to film mogul David O. Selznick and industrialist Norton Simon, died today at her Malibu home. She was 90."
- Harmetz, Aljean (December 17, 2009). "Jennifer Jones, Postwar Actress, Dies at 90". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-19. "Jennifer Jones, who achieved Hollywood stardom in “The Song of Bernadette” and other films of the 1940s and ’50s while gaining almost as much attention for a tumultuous personal life, died Thursday at her home in Malibu, Calif. She was 90. Ms. Jones, who was the chairwoman of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., died of natural causes, said Leslie Denk, a museum spokeswoman. Ms. Jones was the widow of the industrialist and art patron Norton Simon."
- Jennifer Jones (1919 - 2009) - Find A Grave Memorial
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jennifer Jones.|
- Jennifer Jones at the Internet Movie Database
- Jennifer Jones - Tribute site
- N.Y. Times Obituary for Jennifer Jones
- Jennifer Jones at Find a Grave
- Jennifer Jones - Daily Telegraph obituary
- Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Jones, Jennifer