Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Jones dies at age 90

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jennifer Jones in one of her most-remembered roles, as doctor Han Suyin in 1955's Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.

Jennifer Jones, leading lady in two dozen Hollywood pictures and an Academy Award winner for her first major film, 1943's The Song of Bernadette, died Thursday at her home in Malibu, California. She was 90.

Born Phyllis Lee Isley in Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 2, 1919, her pursuit of fame as an actress took her to New York City at the age of 19, leaving for Hollywood one year later. She changed her name to Jennifer Jones while testing for a part in a David O. Selznick movie; in 1949, Selznick, who produced Gone with the Wind, would become her second and perhaps highest-profile husband.

Jones broke into dramatic film roles in 1943 as the lead in The Song of Bernadette, a movie about a nun who saw visions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France in 1858. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress for the role, and became a star well in-demand, earning Academy Award nominations the next three years in a row for the films Since You Went Away, Love Letters and Duel in the Sun.

Jones was a popular movie actress well into the 1950s. She starred as a Eurasian doctor, Han Suyin, in the 1955 film Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, earning her a fifth and final Academy Award nomination. After a well-received turn in a film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms in 1957, she started to take on fewer and fewer movie roles. She would make her final on-camera appearance in the 1974 disaster movie The Towering Inferno.

Jones was married three times and was survived by one of her three children, Robert Walker, Jr., from her first marriage to Robert Walker. She married for a third and final time in 1971 to industrialist Norton Simon, six years after the death of her second husband David O. Selznick. The couple's collection of South Asian art, acquired while living in India, is now showcased in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. Jones was an active force behind the operations of the museum, serving as chairman from Simon's death in 1993 to 2003, and as trustee emeritus until her own death.

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