• 2 March 1919
  •  Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Jennifer Jones


One of the world's most underrated Academy Award-winning actresses, Jennifer Jones was born Phylis Lee Isley on 2 March 1919 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Flora Mae (Suber) and Phillip Ross Isley, who ran a travelling stage show. As a young aspiring actress, she met and fell for young aspiring actor Robert Walker and they soon married, moving to Chicago in order to fulfill their dreams of becoming movie stars. When their plans fell through, Phyllis began working as a model, sporting mainly hats, gloves and jewellery, as well as occasionally finding some work on local radio stations providing her voice to various characters in radio programmes along with her husband. In a last-ditch attempt to pursue her dream, Phyllis travelled to the Selznick studios for a reading that would ultimately change her life. It was that day that she met David O. Selznick and after that particular audition her career began to take shape. Initially, Phyllis thought that the audition had went terribly and stormed out of the studios in tears, only to be chased by Selznick who assured her that she had been fine. Although she wasn't given that particular part, Phyllis was given a contract with Selznick studios, changing her name to Jennifer Jones, and was cast over thousands of other hopefuls in the role of Bernadette Soubirous in The Song of Bernadette (1943). For her innocent, sweet and moving portrayal of the sickly teenager who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes and devotes her life to her by becoming a nun and then ultimately dies of bone cancer, Jones won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role on 2 March 1944 - coincidentally her 25th birthday - beating out stiff competition such as Ingrid Bergman (who later became a close friend of hers), Greer Garson, Joan Fontaine and Jean Arthur. Now a Hollywood star, Jones' career was marked out and molded for her by Selznick, who would become the love of her life. They began an affair and eventually she left her husband and two sons for the producer that inevitably led Walker to his untimely death through alcohol and drug abuse, instigated due to their separation. As for her career, Jones took on the supporting role of Jane Hilton, a headstrong teenage girl who in the end grows up fast when her fiance is killed in action during WWII, in Since You Went Away (1944). For her performance Jones received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, losing out to Ethel Barrymore for None But the Lonely Heart (1944). Jennifer continued to deliver strong performances, receiving further Best Actress Oscar nominations for Love Letters (1945) (she lost out to Joan Crawford for Mildred Pierce (1945)) and Duel in the Sun (1946), (she lost out to Olivia de Havilland for To Each His Own (1946)) which saw her cast against type as the seductive and biracial Pearl Chavez. Throughout the remainder of the 1940s Jones continued to produce memorable performances, such as in Portrait of Jennie (1948), which carried her into the 1950s and saw her receive her fifth and final Oscar nomination for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), losing out to Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo (1955). However, despite her obvious success within the film industry Jones was a very private person and managed to stay out of the spotlight which dominated so many other actresses of the time. As a result Jones began to become less and less noticed, which increased further when Selznick died in 1965. Films roles began to appear less and less and after a moderately successful supporting performance in The Towering Inferno (1974) Jones decided to make this her swansong and bowed out of the film industry. She did, however, try to revive her film career in later years by campaigning for the role of Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment (1983), but Shirley MacLaine was cast instead and as a result won the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. Jennifer Jones died December 17, 2009, in Malibu, California. In the 21st century, Jones is relatively unknown in comparison to the other actresses of her time such as Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Greer Garson, Bette Davis etc. But for those that are aware of her and her extraordinary talent, she is alluring to watch and her acting abilities extended far greater than most of her contemporaries.