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Jennifer Jones (born March 2, 1919) is an American actress. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Song of Bernadette (1943).

Early life

Jones was born Phylis Lee Isley in Tulsa, Oklahomamarker, the daughter of Flora Mae (née Suber) and Phillip Ross Isley. Her parents toured the Midwest in a traveling tent show they owned and operated. Jones attended Monte Cassino Junior College in Tulsa and Northwestern Universitymarker, where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority before transferring to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York Citymarker in 1938. It was here she met and fell in love with fellow acting student Robert Walker. The two were married on January 2, 1939.

They returned to Tulsa for a 13-week radio program arranged by her father, and then headed for Hollywoodmarker. Isley 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" (Phyllis now spelled with two Ls). However, when she and Walker failed a screen test for Paramount Pictures, they decided to return to New York Citymarker.


While Walker found steady work in radio programs, Isley worked part-time modeling hats for the Powers Agency while looking for possible acting jobs. When she learned of auditions for the lead role of Claudia in Rose Franken’s hit play of the same name, 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 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 St. Bernadette. 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.
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. Other notable films included Since You Went Away, Love Letters, Cluny Brown, Portrait of Jennie, Madame Bovary, Carrie, Ruby Gentry, Indiscretion of an American Wife, Beat the Devil, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Good Morning Miss Dove, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and A Farewell to Arms. Her 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.

The portrait of Jones for the film Portrait of Jennie was painted by Robert Brackman.

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 Franciscomarker skyscraper.

Jones was a five-time Oscar nominee.

Personal life

Jones' first marriage produced two sons, Robert Walker Jr. (born April 15, 1940), and Michael Walker (born March 13, 1941). Both later became actors. Jones had a love affair with David O. Selznick, which eventually led to her separation from Walker in November 1943 and divorce in June 1945.

Jones wed Selznick on July 13, 1949, a marriage that lasted until his death on June 22, 1965. After his death, she semi-retired from acting; her last appearance was in 1974's The Towering Inferno. According to media reports, Jones attempted suicide in May 1967; she was hospitalized in a coma before eventually recovering. Later her only child with Selznick, Mary Jennifer Selznick (1954-1976), committed suicide by jumping from a 20th-floor window. This led to Jones' interest in mental health issues.

On May 29, 1971, Jones married multi-millionaire industrialist, art collector and philanthropist Norton Simon, whose son Robert had committed suicide in 1969. 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/art collector Walter Annenberg. Norton Simon died in June 1993. Jennifer Jones-Simon is Trustee Emeritus of the Norton Simon Museummarker in Pasadenamarker.

Jones is a breast cancer survivor. The actress Susan Strasberg, who died of breast cancer, was married to actor Christopher Jones and named her only child Jennifer Robin Jones in the actress's honor.

At age 90, Jennifer Jones enjoys a quiet retirement in Southern California close to her son. She grants no interviews and rarely appears in public.

Marriages and children

Jones filed for divorce in April 1945. Robert Walker was distraught over the divorce and was soon prone to drinking, emotional outbursts and eventually, a nervous breakdown. He spent time at the Menninger Clinic in 1949 where he was treated for a psychiatric disorder.[2]According to the book Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies, while filming My Son John, on the night of August 28, 1951, Walker's housekeeper found him in another emotional outburst. Failing to calm him down, she called his psychiatrist, who, upon arrival administered sodium amytal. Walker suffered an acute allergic reaction to the drug, and stopped breathing. All efforts to resuscitate him failed. Walker was 32 years old.[4]

    • Mary Jennifer Selznick (August 12, 1954 May 11, 1976). She had developed deep emotional problems and had never fully gotten over her father's death. She was living in a dark fantasy world and, according to one source, experimented with drugs and had had a nervous breakdown. While Jennifer was on a visit to Tulsa to visit her dying father, Mary Jennifer jumped to her death from a 22-story building in Los Angeles.

1.^ "Jennifer Jones Sues To Divorce Actor Walker", The Washington Post, April 22, 1945, p. M4.2.^ Beverly Linet, Star Crossed: The Story of Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1985) ISBN 0-399-13194-93.^ "Robert Walker's Wife Is Granted Divorce", The Washington Post, December 17, 1948, p. 26.4.^ Brettell, Andrew; Imwold, Denis; Kennedy, Damien; King, Noel (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. pp. 253. ISBN 0-764-15858-9.5.^


Year Film Role Notes
1939 New Frontier Celia Braddock as Phyllis Isley
Dick Tracy's G-Men Gwen Andrews as Phillis Isley
1943 The Song of Bernadette Bernadette Soubirous Academy Award for Best ActressGolden Globe
1944 Since You Went Away Jane Deborah Hilton Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1945 Love Letters Singleton/Victoria Morland Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actress
1946 Cluny Brown Cluny Brown
Duel in the Sun Pearl Chavez Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actress
1948 Portrait of Jennie Jennie Appleton
1949 We Were Strangers China Valdés
Madame Bovary Emma Bovary
Gone to Earth Hazel Woodus
1952 Carrie Carrie Meeber
Ruby Gentry Ruby Gentry
1953 Beat the Devil Mrs. Gwendolen Chelm
1954 Indiscretion of an American Wife Mary Forbes
1955 Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing Dr. Han Suyin Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actress
Good Morning Miss Dove Miss Dove
1956 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Betsy Rath
1957 The Barretts of Wimpole Street Elizabeth Barrett
A Farewell to Arms Catherine Barkley
1962 Tender Is the Night Nicole Diver
1965 The Idol Carol
1969 Angel, Angel, Down We Go Astrid Steele a.k.a Cult of the Damned
1974 The Towering Inferno Lisolette Mueller Nominated - Golden Globe

Further reading


  1. Phyllis Flora Isley

External links

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