Jennifer Jones has died, she was 90. Following news of her death yesterday, journalists focus on the missed opportunities of Jennifer Jones’ career, mostly caused by her second husband, producer David O. Selznick. Still, not a shabby career overall. For her first starring role, “The Song of Bernadette,” (1943) Jennifer Jones earned an academy award.
Later, she went on to be nominated for several more. She appeared in 27 films, playing the lead female character in “Portrait of Jennie,” (1949), in the adaptation of Han Suyin’s widely read “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” (1955) and scores of other major motion pictures, playing opposite every male star of the time—Gregory Peck, William Wyler, Humphrey Bogart, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, etc.
Yet critics found her too often miscast, her original beauty and personality scrubbed bland, Selznick refusing offers that would have given her important roles that went to Eva Marie Saint in “On the Waterfront” or Julie Harris in “East of Eden.”
To generations of film buffs, Jennifer Jones will forever be Pearl Chavez in “Duel in the Sun,” (1947; pictured), the half-breed torn between her desire to be “a good girl” by settling down with Joseph Cotten and her passion for his no-good brother, an untypically villainous (and sexy) Gregory Peck. There are two ways to watch “Duel in the Sun” (which was sneeringly dubbed “Lust in the Dust” and that Variety called at the time “raw, sex-laden, western pulp fiction,”)—either to hoot at this bombastic story of doomed love with its steamy, bloody ending or to give in to the grandiose scenery filmed in lush Technicolor and to the untamed passion that sweeps away the protagonists.
Either way, the image of Jennifer Jones as defiant Pearl Chavez , throwing her head back and tossing her curls at her errant lover, ready to kill him and to die for him and ultimately doing both is forever part of Hollywood mythology.