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Jennifer Jones

Posted: April 2nd, 2008, 10:14 am
by phil noir

Here she is in Portrait of Jennie (1948).

Anybody else an admirer of Ms Jones? I first became interested in her years ago when the British Film Institute restored Gone to Earth (1949). I come from Shropshire, the area of England in which this film was shot, and the new print was shown at the local cinema in my home town. She plays a half-Gypsy girl who is torn between the sensuality of the local squire and the spirituality of her husband, a clergyman. She is wonderful in this film - and incidentally does a very creditable Shropshire accent. I won't give the end of the film away for those who haven't seen it, but it is truly shocking.

She had an odd, intermittent career. Her first husband was Robert Walker, and her second renowned meddler David O. Selznick. I think she was an intelligent, committed actress who was constrained by his interference. She played everything from adolescent saints to be (The Song of Bernadette) to murderers and compulsive liars (Duel in the Sun and Beat the Devil.)

I've recently seen her in The Portrait of Jennie in which she is breathtakingly beautiful, and acts very subtly as the same character seen at intervals of several years, ageing from a pre-pubescent child to a woman of college age. She is also very good in Love is a Many Splendoured Thing; it is probably difficult for us now to see an obviously Caucasian woman playing a Eurasian, but - in my opinion - she uses her body and voice with great skill to suggest someone from another culture.

Her last major film was the F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation, Tender is the Night (1961), in which she plays Nicole Diver. I haven't seen it, but I think the role would be right up her street. I also hear good things about Love Letters (1945) - she and Joseph Cotten made a great team in Portrait of Jennie.

Posted: April 2nd, 2008, 11:02 am
by jdb1
We have discussed Jones elsewhere on this site. It seems that there are some here who like her, but I'm not one of them. I don't see any depth at all in her work. Her performances remind me of those of a high school girl with Hollywood ambitions in a school play. I really don't like her looks, either. There are many classic actors I'm indifferent to, but Jones is one I actively dislike.

I'm wondering what you mean by her being "constrained" by her husband. As I said on another thread, I don't think she would have gotten as far as she did were she not Mrs. David O. Selznick. Perhaps he was suffering from the Charles Foster Kane syndrome, and wanted to prove that his wife really was an "actress." I think her Oscar for Song of Bernadette was highly undeserved. Maybe the Academy was afraid of being accused of heresy if they didn't give it to her.

Please don't take my vehemence personally, Phil; our differences of opinion are one of the reasons we are here.

Posted: April 2nd, 2008, 11:12 am
by MissGoddess
She may have had one of the most remarkable careers in Hollywood; I can think of only a few other actresses who got to play the kind of coveted roles she did. They were all over the map in terms of style and personality, too. I think she is very unique, but perhaps an acquired taste for some. I think whatever it is about her that seems apart and different comes through and in many cases, helps serve the character she is portraying (Portrait of Jenny, Love Letters, Madame Bovary, Beat the Devil---all are marginalized women or other-wordly).

My favorites are Portrait of Jenny, Love is a Many Splendored Thing and Beat the Devil. I would love to see Run to Earth.

Posted: April 2nd, 2008, 1:35 pm
by phil noir
Thanks for your opinions, jdb1 and MissGoddess.

Don't worry, jdb1, we all have our opinions - I'm not one of those people who can't stand to be disagreed with! I suppose I'm basing my idea of her being constrained by Selznick on a chapter in Michael Powell's autobiography, Million Dollar Movie, about the filming of Gone to Earth - apparently he watched her every move, set spies on her, etc. However, it's perfectly possible she would not have made it without his input in her career - so it's a kind of a Catch 22 situation.

Actually I agree about The Song of Bernadette. It's a long time since I've seen it but those kind of soupily beatific religious films are not my cup of tea. But others of her roles I like very much - e.g.: Gone to Earth and Portrait of Jennie. I think she might have done better had she been born fifty years later since sometimes the glamorization insisted upon by Hollywood works against the sincerity of her performances. Michael Powell thought very highly of her talents and felt she was not employed to the best of her abilities.

We all have different tastes on what we find aesthetically pleasing, don't we? I just think she had the most beautiful, heart-shaped face.

Blondes have more fun

Posted: April 2nd, 2008, 2:09 pm
by benwhowell
I think she's terrific in "Beat The Devil." And she seems quite comfortable in her part of that wonderful ensemble. Huston had great insight with his "unconventional" casting.
I wish Truman Capote would have written a book about the making of "Beat The Devil." What a "tell all" that would be!
I recently saw "Duel In The Sun" for the first time. Maybe my expectations were too high, but it just left me feeling empty. I'm a big Gregory Peck fan, but I didn't connect with his performance. And as for Jennifer-An Oscar nomination?

Posted: April 2nd, 2008, 2:18 pm
by charliechaplinfan
The only thing I've seen her in is The Barretts of Wimpole Street. I know, someone sent it to me recorded off TCM. I didn't even know this version existed. I can't make an opinion up based on one film but I do have a couple more of her films to watch, one is A Portrait Of Jennie.

Posted: April 2nd, 2008, 3:00 pm
by jdb1
Phil, I don't think Selznick's behavior was different from his behavior on any of his films -- he was well-known for the production of volumes of memos and telegrams; certainly he must have driven the equally controlling Hitchcock crazy during the filming of Rebecca and Spellbound. I imagine his wife was well aware of his producing style, even before she married him.

I simply don't like Jones and I never have. Who can say why -- it's just one of those things. And Portrait of Jenny is a movie I just loathe -- I don't care much for Joseph Cotten, either. It's not his acting, which I find OK, it's his looks; I think he is really creepy looking. The thought of him in a romantic situation makes me shudder. Eeewwww.

Posted: April 2nd, 2008, 3:42 pm
by charliechaplinfan
I knew someone who raved over Joseph Cotten, I could never see it. Good in serious roles. Like you I can't get into him in romantic roles.

Posted: April 3rd, 2008, 3:17 am
by Ann Harding
I think David O. Selznick certainly helped Jennifer's career. He was a notoriously meddling producer and probably annoyed countless directors with his memos; but Jennifer got a lot of great parts thanks to him. There are many films with Jennifer I really love: Duel in the Sun, Portrait of Jennie (I think Joseph Cotten is attractive :wink: ), Gone to Earth (beware there is US shorter re-cut version to avoid!), Ruby Gentry, Madame Bovary and Cluny Brown (really nice later Lubitsch).

Was she really a great actress with a big acting range? Probably not. But she had all the trappings of a Hollywood star. She was photogenic and could portray efficiently a part with the help of a great director. She got plenty: King Vidor, William Dieterle, Michael Powell, Vincente Minnelli and Ernst Lubitsch. Not bad! :)