PORTRAIT OF JENNIFER by Edward Z. Epstein

PORTRAIT OF JENNIFER

A Biography of Jennifer Jones
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Run-of-the-mill bio of a mildly luminous Hollywood star. Born Phylis Isley in 1919, Jennifer Jones got her name--and her career--from movie mogul David Selznick, who put the 22-year- old actress under contract and landed her the title role in The Song of Bernadette, for which she won an Oscar in 1944. The fact that both of them were married (he to Louis B. Mayer's daughter Irene, she to troubled actor Robert Walker) and that she was the mother of two young boys didn't deter Selznick from pursuing the quietly ambitious Jones, and they eventually wed. She may well have regretted her decision to entrust her fortunes to the volatile Selznick. His insistence on overseeing every detail of her films, which grew more obsessive as his own stature declined, kept her idle for years between projects (at a time when most Hollywood stars worked constantly) and resulted in many overproduced clunkers, most famously the awful Duel in the Sun (1946). Jones survived, going on to give well-regarded performances in such successful movies as Love Is a Many Splendored Thing (1955) and The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957), but she might have been a bigger star without him. Veteran Hollywood biographer Epstein (Mia, 1991, etc.) offers a workmanlike chronology of his subject's life, heavily padded with irrelevant gossip about peripheral characters. Treatment of her third marriage, to industrialist Norton Simon, is too brief and provides only sketchy coverage of such potentially juicy material as his controversial takeover of the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, to which his wife was named chairperson in 1977. Jones, who declined to cooperate with this book, comes across as shy, neurotic, and intensely private--a hardworking, serious actress, certainly, but since the author gives no evaluation of her talent other than quoting contemporary reviews, it's hard to know why we should care about her. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Movie Entertainment Book Club alternate)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-671-74056-3
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994




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