Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Jones passed away today in Malibu at the age of 90.
Jones won an Oscar in 1943 for The Song of Bernadette. She was nominated four other times, for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Duel In the Sun, Love Letters, and Since You Went Away.
I don’t really talk about Jennifer Jones a lot on this site, but she really is one of my all time favorites. She’s definitely very high on my list of actresses working in the 1940s. Portrait of Jennie is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s an incredible love story, and Jones’ performance is amazing. She plays Jennie from a child (I believe she starts the story at 10 years old) to an adult, and she’s believable at every stage of her life. She also manages to imbue the character with an otherworldly feel that’s essential to the character. Joseph Cotten was her leading man in this one, and I think he was easily her best leading man.
She also made Love Letters with Cotten. It’s a bizarre movie that’s kind of impossible to explain without ruining. But it’s really fantastic. It’s weird and twisty and just so damn good, and Jones gives another stellar performance. It’s a difficult character, with some serious emotional and psychological problems, but she also needs to be convincing in her romance with Cotten, and Jones pulls off both sides of the character perfectly.
I also love her in an underseen Lubitch film, the endlessly charming Cluny Brown. Her performance is really essential to the film. Played by a lesser actress, the character could have easily come out as supremely annoying. But Jones makes her so funny and lovable.
Madame Bovary doesn’t get a lot of attention, but I think it’s a pretty great movie. Her character does bad things and Jones is able to make the character sympathetic without condoning her actions. And she infuses her with an incredible amount of passion.
Jones does have a few missteps in her filmography, particularly her two remakes, A Farewell to Arms and The Barretts of Wimpole Street. Both movies are pretty terrible, pale imitations of their originals, but that’s not Jones’ fault, of course.
Really, compared to other stars of the studio era, Jones’ filmography is pretty short. In her 35 years in Hollywood, she made only 27 films (when you look at a lot of stars from the 1930 and 1940s, they’ll have 80, 90, sometimes over 100 films to their credit). But with the exception of a few films, all of her works was wonderful. Hers is definitely a case of quality over quantity, and she will definitely be missed.
By Katie Richardson