Jennifer Jones was an actress best known her performances in 1946’s Duel in the Sun and 1943’s The Song of Bernadette. The actress was legendary producer David O. Selznick’s second and final life, and the two worked together professionally for many years. Despite Jennifer’s career success, the actress led a fairly tragic life. She tried to commit suicide and also had to suffer through the suicide of one of her children. Join Facts Verse as we explore how Jennifer Jones hit rock bottom time and time again.
Jennifer Jones Was Born to Two Stage Parents
Jennifer Jones was born on March 2, 1919, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The future star was the only child of two stage actors that travelled around the Midwest as apart of the Isley Stock Company. During her early childhood years, Jennifer accompanied her parents on the stage whenever there was a role that called for someone her size. This instilled a taste for performing in the young girl that would never leave, even after she took up a more stable life attending school.
For schooling, Jennifer Jones was enrolled in Oklahoma City’s Edgemere Public School in 1925. From there, the future star was enrolled all-girls Catholic school by the name of Monte Cassino before attending junior college in Tulsa. After graduating from junior college, Jennifer made the move to Illinois Northwestern University. There, she studied with the intention of becoming a drama major for deciding to transfer to New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts. At this school, she met the man that would become her first husband. His name was Robert Walker.
Robert Walker hailed from Utah, and Jennifer Jones hit it off with him rather quickly. Jennifer had begun attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts towards the end of 1937, and she and Robert were married by January of 1939. Following their marriage, Jennifer and Robert lived in Tulsa for several months. There, Jenifer’s father had set them up with a radio gig. Following this obligation, Jennifer and Robert moved out to Hollywood with the intention of becoming big-name stars. By the end of 1939, Jennifer had appeared on the big screen in two separated projects. The first project was the Western New Frontier, which starred John Wayne in the lead role. The second project was a serial entitled Dick Tracy’s G-Men. Both of these projects came from Republic Pictures, though they didn’t lead to contract work. Instead, Jennifer Jones set her sights on signing a contract with Paramount Pictures.
Jennifer’s First Venture to Hollywood Was a Failure
Although it didn’t take long for Jennifer Jones to make her way onto the screen after arriving in Hollywood, a failed screen test with Paramount Pictures made the aspiring actress feel that the place that she truly belonged was New York. Her and Robert headed back to the city, though Jennifer would return to Hollywood many years later without her first husband. Upon arriving in New York City, the recently married couple of Jennifer and Robert settled down and had a couple of sons. Robert worked steadily in the radio, while Jennifer was finding work as a model. All the while, the actress kept her eye out for any auditions that might pave the way for her to become a star.
In 1941, the same year that her second son was born, Jennifer Jones caught wind that auditions were being held for a new play from producer David O. Selznick. Upon giving her audition, Jennifer was said to have ran out of David’s office in tears. Apparently, the actress believed that her audition had been poor. However, David had been endeared. Jennifer ended up receiving a phone call from the producer, and the rest is history! The actress was signed to a seven-year contract, though this seven-year contract quickly turned into a much longer relationship that would become every bit as personal as it was professional.
Under the watchful eye of future second husband David O. Selznick, Jennifer Jones became a star. Though she had first become involved with the producer through her audition for the stage, David believed that the actress belonged on the silver screen. With David’s help, Jennifer was able to secure the role that would make her famous. This would be the titular role in 1943’s The Song of Bernadette. Though Jennifer’s performance as the character of Bernadette in the film was only her third performance on the screen, she ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Around the time that The Song of Bernadette was sweeping up awards, Jennifer Jones and David O. Selznick were beginning an affair. Jennifer would soon divorce her first husband and marry David, and the two would stay married until the producer’s death. After David died, Jennifer’s life took a dark turn. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Jennifer Left Her First Husband for David O. Selznick
Though Jennifer Jones and Robert Walker costarred together in 1944’s Since You Went Away and weren’t officially divorced until the summer of 1945, they had separated in 1943. After Jennifer and Robert’s divorce, she and David O. Selznick maintained their relationship for a period of years before finally deciding to tie the knot in 1949. The two were married at sea, and they continued working together professional over the course of their marriage.
Over the course of the early 1950s, Jennifer Jones floundered critically thanks to a number of flops, but she once again achieved some critical success in 1955 with the release of Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. The film netted her a nomination at the Academy Awards, which was the actress’s fifth overall. In 1965, David O. Selznick passed away. The producer was 63 years old at the time. Jennifer had all but retired from acting at the time, though the death of her late second husband caused her to get back into it. In 1966, she could be seen on the screen for the first time in several years thanks to the film The Idol.
The same year that Jennifer Jones appeared on the big screen in The Idol, she also made a return to the stage. She acted alongside Rip Torn in a production of The Country Girl. It seemed that Jennifer was getting back into the swing of things, though she would soon suffer a second death in her personal life that would push her over the age. In 1967, Jennifer’s old friend Charles Bickford passed away as a result of a blood infection. Upon hearing the news, Jennifer attempted suicide by jumping off of a seaside cliff.
Jennifer Jones Attempted Suicide After David’s Death
Many specifically attributed Jennifer Jones’ suicide attempt to the news of Charles Bickford’s death, though it certainly didn’t help that the actress was also still reeling from the loss of her late second husband. Though Jennifer attempted suicide in spectacular fashion and likely had little chance of survival, she ended up pulling through. She was comatose for a period of time, but she came out of the coma unscathed. In 1969, she could be seen on the big screen again thanks to the film Angel, Angel, Down We Go.
By the 1970s, Jennifer Jones decided that it was time to get married again. She married third husband Norton Simon in 1971, with Norton being an independently wealthy industrialist and art collector. It seems that Norton had been obsessed with Jennifer for quite some time, with the industrialist having previously attempted to buy a portrait of the actress that was used during the filming of the motion picture Portrait of Jennie. Though this attempt proved fruitless, Norton ended up getting to marry the subject of the portrait herself! Soon after marrying her third husband, Jennifer decided to retire from the entertainment industry for good. Her last role was a memorable one, coming via the 1974 hit The Towering Inferno. The film earned a lot of money, and Jennifer earned a Golden Globe nomination.
During the decades that Jennifer Jones and David O. Selznick were married, the couple had a daughter. That daughter was named Mary Jennifer Selznick, and she was born in 1954. In May of 1976, Mary followed in the footsteps of her mother a decade prior by attempting suicide. However, Mary’s attempt wasn’t unsuccessful. Like her mother, Mary’s chosen method of suicide was a long fall. Instead of launching herself from a seaside cliff, Mary jumped out of the window of her apartment. Given that her apartment was on the 22nd floor of it’s building, the young woman sadly didn’t end up making it.
Jennifer Never Recovered from Her Daughter’s Death
After the suicide of her daughter, Jennifer Jones became very interested in mental health issues. Jennifer’s third husband was also interested in mental health issues for similar reasons, as his own child had committed suicide in 1969. Together, Jennifer and Simon founded the Jennifer Jones Simon Foundation for Mental Health and Education. Jennifer ran the foundation until 2003, and it was created with the goal of putting an end to mental health stigma.
Norton Simon passed away in 1993, and Jennifer never remarried before her own death in 2009. Upon her husband’s death, Jennifer became the owner of the Norton Simon Museum, which is an art museum that’s still located in Pasadena, California. In the years leading up to her death, Jennifer spent a lot of time working at this museum, and also spent a lot of time working with her mental health foundation.
In 2007, Jennifer had to suffer through the death of a child the second time. Her eldest son passed away from a cardiac arrest, marking the last tragedy that Jennifer would have to live through before her own death. In the years leading up to her 2009 death, Jennifer was rarely seen publicly. She was 90 years old at the time that she passed away, and her cause of death was said to have been natural causes. Of the three husbands that she held over the course of her lifetime, Jennifer chose to be buried alongside David O. Selznick.
Though Jennifer Jones suffered through many tragedies over the course of her lifetime, she never succumbed. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Jennifer Jones became involved with second husband David O. Selznick while she was still married to her first, and that she suffered through the suicide of their daughter? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!