Saturday, December 19, 2009

Screen legend Jennifer Jones dead at 90

Academy Award winning actress, Jennifer Jones died Thursday December 17. Jones was one of the biggest stars of the 1940s and 1950s; she received a total of five Academy Award nominations, winning the award with her first starring performance in The Song of Bernadette (1943).

A star is born
Jones met her first husband, Robert Walker, while both were studying acting in New York. As a young married couple, they decided to give Hollywood a try and headed west. Jones's career took off faster than Walker's. She caught the eye of producer David O. Selznik, who carefully managed her career. After divorcing Walker, Selznik and Jones were married in 1949. Their marriage lasted until Selznik's death in 1965.

Portrait of an actress
As a movie star, Jones seemed to specialize in complicated melodrama's or over-the-top epics like Duel in the Sun (1946). Although Duel in the Sun was generally panned by critics, the public loved it and it was one of the top grossing films of all time. When given the proper vehicle, Jones proved she was a capable and competent actress with winning performances in Love Letters (1945), Portrait of Jenny (1948), and probably her most underrated, but truly brilliant performance in Cluny Brown (1946), directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch.

Enduring popularity
In the 1950s, Jones's popularity was still solid, with lead roles in films like Carrie (1952), costarring Laurence Olivier, Ruby Gentry (1952), with a young Charlton Heston, and probably her most memorable role from this period, Love is a Many Splendid Thing (1955) opposite William Holden, for which she received her fifth and final Academy Award nomination. Her last major film role was in the disaster epic, The Towering Inferno (1974), which featured an all-star cast that included Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, and Fred Astaire.

A very private life
In contrast to her career as a world-famous movie star, Jones was a very private person who avoided the limelight. Fortunately, she's left us a wonderful body of work that will live on for many years to come.

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