Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Jennifer Jones Dies

Adam Bernstein

Actress Jennifer Jones died today at 90 in Malibu, Calif. Sadly for this film lover, barely a soul in the newsroom heard of her.

Few actresses have launched their careers with more fanfare than Ms. Jones, who received a huge publicity buildup for her first major film, "The Song of Bernadette" (1943). She won the Academy Award playing a 19th-century French peasant girl who sees visions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes and defies Catholic Church authorities who claim she is a fraud.

A saint in that film, she became a popular sinner in Hollywood melodramas including "Duel in the Sun" (1947) and "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" (1955). For my money, her best work was as a servant girl with a zest for plumbing in Ernst Lubitsch's "Cluny Brown" (1946) and a world-class swindler in John Huston's "Beat the Devil" (1953) with Humphrey Bogart as a rival adventurer seeking uranium riches in Africa.

Writing of "Beat the Devil," a Time magazine critic wrote that Ms. Jones "managed to catch the mystic fervor of the truly creative liar."

By most accounts, Ms. Jones's career faltered under the guidance of producer David O. Selznick, her second husband and one of the most powerful moguls in Hollywood. He tried to transform her into what film scholar David Thomson mockingly called "the greatest actress in the world," while eliminating her quirky charms that first captivated audiences.

What are your memories of Ms. Jones?

By Adam Bernstein  |  December 17, 2009; 1:27 PM ET
Categories:  Actors, actresses , Adam Bernstein  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Daily Goodbye
Next: The 'Voice of Polo'

Comments

My parents took me to see "Good Morning, Miss Dove" when I was a child and I thought she was wonderful. Then I began to see her older movies, esp. "Portrait of Jennie," Love is a Many Splendored Thing, and lots of others. She left a body of many solid performances that I will always remember. I hope that AFI does a retrospective of her work.

Posted by: commonsense101 | December 17, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

I never miss "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" -- Bill Holden and Jennifer Jones were amazing to watch in the backdrop of Hong Kong. However, she was best in "Cluny Brown" -- her charm and spunk were top-notch. "Portrait of Jennie" was an odd but interesting fantasy movie -- again, her charm was apparent. I agree with the previous poster that AFI should do a retrospective.

Posted by: createsastir | December 17, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

My goodness, she was a beautiful woman. And, a talented actress, who, if the stories are to be believed, suffered the fate of many beautiful women who are "molded" by the men they love into someone the men desire to serve their own purposes.
But, she lived until the age of 90, she was loved by her children and grandchildren and all the rest of us who so appreciated her talent.
I have an old piece of piano sheet music, from times gone by, with her on the front of it. The song is "Ruby", the photo is perfect for the song and every single time I play this (by the way, a great song), I picture this absolutely fabulous, sensual, sensitive female capable of capturing anyone and dream the dream of all who desire to be loved by a beautiful woman.
Um HUM, she was something.

Posted by: cms1 | December 17, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Jones' son Robert and I were members of Headquarters Company at the New Mexico Military Institute in the late 50s. He and I and many other cadets came down with a particularly vicious bug and were in the same ward of the school infirmary taking heavy antibiotics and recovering. One morning around 11 o'clock there was a bit of a buzz on the floor and we learned that Robert's mother had come to Roswell to visit her sick son. All of us who were awake immediately perked up and tried to look presentable as she came in and went to Robert's bed. To say she was a "vision of loveliness" might be a bit extreme, but she was strikingly beautiful and we all sat and stared at her like zombies. Upon leaving she wished us well in our recuperation and then bombarded Robert with questions. In retrospect it was all pretty silly, but at the time it was the biggest news on campus. I'll never forget it!

Peter in Buenos Aires

Posted by: Wryter47 | December 18, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

She was my all-time favorite actress. Her wide variety of film roles as well as her stunning beauty always captivated me.

Posted by: phillip5 | December 18, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I HAD NOT SEEN ANY INFO ON JENNIFER JONES IN YEARS. SHE REALLY WAS ONE OF THE FINEST ACTRESS'S OF HER ERA. MY FAVOURITE MOVIE OF HER'S WAS PORTRAIT OF JENNIE WITH JOSEPH COTTON. I WAS FORTUNATE TO SEE MR.COTTON OUTSIDE THE SCHUBERT THEATRE IN L.A. DRESSED VERY ELEGANTLY IN BLACK & WHITE EVENING WEAR. THIS WAS OVER 30 YEARS AGO, ALWAYS A BIT OF A THRILL TO SEE IDOLS COME TO LIFE, ALTHOUGH MOST FORGOTTEN NOW BY PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CLASSIC FILM BUFFS.

Posted by: MAGS2 | December 18, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

As a teen in the late fifties and early sixties I remember well the furor over the movie, "Love is a Many Splendid Thing" I attended Catholic school at the time, nuf said, and I think the movie was baned in Boston, always a sure sign that it was a hum dinger.. It swelled my heart as a teenager re the possibility of a great true love and the fatal result of its loss. Something many of us who survived the Viet Nam fiasco experienced for ourselves. As I watch it on cable these days fifty years later I am again reminded of loves great power. Ms. Jones and Mr. Holden though now both gone, will forever conjur that magnificent excitement of the heart, love and all the attendant possibilities.

Posted by: dotstokes | December 18, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Adam called her bland in some of her performances - how could he say such a thing? Jennifer was complicated, difficult to categorize - even, my word, ethereal - but by no means bland. No such words should ever be cut and pasted on a byline by a critic to describe this actress of enormous soul and specificity. For shame - Jennifer was many things but my God - say something lovely about this important woman, and let it not be talk of blandness. What hateful bias is this?

Posted by: scenicroute | December 19, 2009 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Scenicroute seemed to have read too quickly. The films were singled out as bland, not the actress. She was charming early on and the films indeed became more ponderous by the late 1950s under Selznick. The film expert Basinger, quoted in the story, makes this case persuasively.

Posted by: wapshot2003 | December 19, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the lovely obituary you did for my mother. One item was omitted regarding flowers. Would it be possible to let her public know that in lieu of flowers she requested that donations be sent to the Norton Simon Museum or the Hereditary Disease Foundation. She was deeply committed to both. Once again heartfelt thanks.

Sincerely,

Robert Walker

Posted by: BobWalkerJr | December 19, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company