Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For the Canadian curler of the same name, see Jennifer Jones (curler)
Born Phylis Lee Isley in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Phil Isley and Flora Mae (Suber) Isley, she and her parents toured the Midwest in a traveling tent show that they owned and operated. She attended Monte Cassino Junior College in Tulsa and Northwestern University before transferring to the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York in 1938. There she met and fell in love with fellow acting student Robert Walker and the two were married on January 2, 1939.
The couple returned to Tulsa for a thirteen week radio program arranged by her father and then headed for Hollywood. Phylis landed two small roles, first in a John Wayne western titled New Frontier (1939) and later a serial, Dick Tracy’s G-Men (1939) but when she and her husband failed a screen test for Paramount Pictures, they decided to return to New York.
While Walker found steady work in radio programs, Phylis found part-time work modeling hats for the Powers Agency and looked for possible acting jobs. When she read that a search would be conducted for the lead role of Claudia in Rose Franken’s hit play, she presented herself to David O. Selznick’s New York office but later 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.
Selznick’s latest discovery was carefully groomed for stardom and given a new name - Jennifer Jones. Director King Vidor was impressed by her screen test as Bernadette Soubirous for The Song of Bernadette and she won the coveted role over hundreds of applicants. Jones won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Song of Bernadette (1943) on her birthday in 1944.
Over the next two decades, she appeared in a wide range of roles judiciously selected by Selznick. Her dark beauty and sensitive nature appealed to audiences and she projected a variable range. Her initial saintly image, as projected in her first starring role, was a stark contrast three years later when she was cast as a provocative half-breed in Selznick’s controversial Duel in the Sun (1946). Notable films, in addition to the before mentioned, include Since You Went Away (1944), Cluny Brown (1946), Portrait of Jennie (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), Ruby Gentry (1952), Love is a Many-Splendored Thing and Good Morning Miss Dove (1955).
Jones's first marriage to Robert Walker produced two sons, Robert Walker Jr. and Michael Walker, both of whom became actors. The couple divorced in 1944. Jones married Selznick in 1949, staying with him until his death in 1965. Following Selznick's death, she semi-retired from acting and appeared in only a few films. Her last appearance was a strong supporting role in The Towering Inferno (1974). Her daughter with Selznick, Mary Jennifer Selznick , committed suicide in 1976. This led to Jones interest in mental health issues.
She married multi-millionaire industrialist, art collector and philanthropist Norton Simon in 1971, and remained married to him until his death in 1993. She is currently on the board of directors of the Norton Simon Museum.
Jones is a breast cancer survivor.
Academy Awards and nominations
- 1956 Nominated Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
- 1947 Nominated Duel in the Sun
- 1946 Nominated Love Letters
- 1945 Nominated Since You Went Away
- 1944 Won The Song of Bernadette
- 1939 New Frontier
- 1939 Dick Tracy's G-Men
- 1943 The Song of Bernadette
- 1944 Since You Went Away
- 1945 Love Letters
- 1946 Cluny Brown
- 1946 Duel in the Sun
- 1948 Portrait of Jennie
- 1949 We Were Strangers
- 1949 Madame Bovary
- 1949 Gone to Earth (released in the U.S. in 1952 as The Wild Heart)
- 1952 Carrie
- 1952 Ruby Gentry
- 1954 Beat the Devil
- 1954 Indiscretion of an American Wife
- 1955 Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
- 1955 Good Morning Miss Dove
- 1956 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
- 1957 The Barretts of Wimpole Street
- 1957 A Farewell To Arms
- 1961 Tender Is The Night
- 1965 The Idol
- 1969 Cult of the Damned
- 1974 The Towering Inferno
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