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12/17/2010

One year ago: Jennifer Jones

December 17, 2010 |  6:00 am

Jennifer-jones Jennifer Jones was an Academy Award-winning actress who in her life married two legendary men — producer David O. Selznick and industrialist and art collector Norton Simon. She died one year ago at age 90.

Jones starred in more than two dozen films, playing opposite such A-list actors as William Holden, Joseph Cotten and Gregory Peck. She won an Oscar for best actress for her performance in the 1943 film "The Song of Bernadette."

Her acting talent may have gone undiscovered if not for Selznick. He groomed her for stardom, pulled strings to get her roles and eventually married her  after she divorced her first husband, actor Robert Walker, with whom she had two sons.

Starting in the mid-1960s, Jones went through a bleak period. Her film career was on the wane and, in 1965, Selznick died. Two years later, she attempted suicide.

Her life took a turn for the better, however, around the time she met art collector Simon at a reception in Los Angeles in 1971 when she was 52. By then, she had retreated from Hollywood and taken up work with mental-health and charity organizations while raising her daughter by Selznick.

Jones, originally not an art connoisseur, became enamored of it when she married Simon. At his death in 1993, Simon named her president of Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum, where she oversaw a $3-million renovation of the museum's interior and gardens that was completed in 1999.

Jones herself was surprised at the many turns her life had taken.

"Actually," she told the Washington Post in 1977, "every time I stop to think about it, I'm really amazed. I think I've had an extraordinary life. And lots of times I can hardly believe it's me."

For more on the actress, read Jennifer Jones' obituary by former Times staff writer Claudia Luther, and view a photo gallery of her life.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Jennifer Jones in 1949, the year she married David O. Selznick. Credit: Associated Press

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