Jennifer Jones (actor)

Jennifer Jones (born March 2, 1919) is an American actress.


Early life

Jones was born Phylis Flora Isley in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 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 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. 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 Hollywood. 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 City.


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, 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, Lord Laurence Olivier, Montgomery Clift, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Robert Stack, Sir John Gielgud, Rock Hudson and Jason Robards.

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

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 met and began an affair with 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 marriage that lasted until his death on June 22, 1965. After his death, she semi-retired from acting; her last appearance was a supporting role in the 1974 film The Towering Inferno. Jones' only child with Selznick, Mary Jennifer Selznick (August 12, 1954—1976), committed suicide by jumping from a 20th-floor window. This led to Jones's interest in mental health issues.

On May 29, 1971, Jones married multi-millionaire industrialist, art collector and philanthropist Norton Simon, who sadly also survived the suicide death of his son Robert, in 1969. Years before he'd met future wife Jennifer Jones, he had attempted to buy the portrait of her used in the film Portrait of Jennie (1948). Later Simon met Jennifer Jones at a party hosted by fellow industrialist/art collector Walter Annenberg. Norton Simon died in June 1993. Jennifer Jones-Simon is currently on the board of directors of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.

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' honor.

Marriages and Children

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
1943 Academy Award Best Actress The Song of Bernadette
Golden Globe Award Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
1944 Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Since You Went Away
1945 Academy Award Best Actress Love Letters
1946 Academy Award Best Actress Duel in the Sun
1947 Golden Apple Award Least Cooperative Actress
1955 Academy Award Best Actress Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
Photoplay Award Most Popular Female Star
1974 Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture The Towering Inferno
1975 David di Donatello Award
1997 German Film Award Life Achievement Award


Year Film Role Other notes
1939 New Frontier Celia Braddock
Dick Tracy's G-Men Gwen Andrews
1943 The Song of Bernadette Bernadette Academy Award for Best Actress; Golden 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 Cult of the Damned Astrid Steele
1974 The Towering Inferno Lisolette Mueller Nominated - Golden Globe

Further reading


External links

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