Jennifer Jones

  1. Joan Fontaine, The Constant Nymph, 1942.  Arriving for  lunch at Romanoff’s, director Edmund Goulding stopped by Brian Aherne’s table to chat with his pal.  (He’d starred in the 1933 UK version).  Goulding said it was impossible to find the lead girl. He’d tried Bette Davis,  Wendy Barrie, Olivia De Havilland, Jennifer Jones, Joan Leslie, Eve March, Merle Oberon, Margaret Sullivan. Head brother Jack Warner craved A Star. “She has to be consumptive, flat-chested, anemic, and 14!” “How about me?” said the the freckled miss sitting with Aherne.  “Who are you?” asked Goulding, somehow not recognising his friend’s wife in a leather flight suit and  pigtails (they had just flown into LA from their Indio ranch). “Joan Fontaine.”  “You’re perfect!”  She was 25. So what!  She signed next day and called it “the happiest motion-picture assignment of my career.” Oscar nomination, included.   Well at 25, she was, remember, playing a 14-year-old infatuated with Charles Boyer (in her husband’s ’33 role).
  2. Jane Randolph, Cat People, 1942.     Jones was first up for the (implied) mistress of our hero, Kent Smith… as… no, really… Oliver Reed!   RKO gave producer Val Lewton a mere $150,000,  Orson Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons sets and 18 days to make the film. French director Jacques Tourneur used more shadows than lighs, few special effects, no stars, nor visible violence and scared everyone! Result: a $4m take, compared to Citizen Kane’s $500,000.
  3. Dorothy McGuire, Claudia, 1943.     Muddled  between  two aspirants,  Phyllis Thaxter and Phyllis Walker, producer David Selznick eventually changed Mrs Walker into Mrs  Selznick – making the re-named Jennifer Jones  the fourth female star he “created” after Ingrid Bergman, Vivien Leigh, Joan Fontaine.  He  liquidated Selznick International to create David O Selznick Productions to launch Jones in Fox’s Song of Bernadette, 1943, a coup assisted by the fact that Fox production chief during Darryl Zanuck’s war service was family: Selznick’s brother-in-law William Goetz. Bernadette won an Oscr for the “brilliant  new discovery,” remembered  by some from Dick Tracy’s G-Men, 1939.  And Jennifer’s  dumped husband,  poor Robert Walker, got lost in the shuffle, never recovered from losing her and was dead by 1951.
  4. Jane Ball,  The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.    Producer David O Selznick was planning to start shooting in February 1942, with Ingrid Bergman, Shakesperean actor Maurice Evans and  Jones (still known as Phyllis Walker until divorcing Robert Walker to become Mrs DOS). But only Evans’ role was important. The women  were window dressing. And knew it. Bergman balked and the whole house of cards collapsed.  DOS threw in the towel and sold out to Fox.  Nora became Ball’s screen debut. The ex-chorus girl’s career was over three films later in 1951 and she became a nurse.   DOS also off-loaded…
  5. Joan Fontaine, Jane Eyre, 1944.    A third chance disappeared as Selznick searched for extra income to finance future plans. 
  6. Gene Tierney, Laura, 1944.    And a fourth…  Selznick stopped her reporting to Fox on April 24, 1944. Because, said Selznick’s right hand, Daniel T O’Shea, her Fox contract stipulated that  her films be consistent with her standing as The Song of Bernadette Oscar-winner.  Yeah, yeah… Truth of the matter was Vera Caspary’s novel contained too many  echoes of their own life:  ambitious beauty dominated  by  an  obsessive older man.
  7. Jane Ball, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.   Anderson, Jennifer Jones ancd Trudy Marshall were also in the convoluted David Selznick-cum-Fox mix for the adult Nora – the childhood sweetheart of novelist AJ Cronin’s herto, Father Francis Chishol – Gregory Peck’s breakthrough.
  8. Lana Turner, Cass Timberlane, 1947.    David Selznick wouldn’t loan his Jennifer to MGM on seeing how much Donald Ogden Stewart’s script favoured Spencer Tracy’s titular judge.
  9. June Allyson, Little Women, 1947.    Selznick decided to re-make his l933 version in 1946 with Jones (his very own Susan Alexander) as Jo, of course. He was undecided between Shirley Temple or Dorothy McGuire for Meg. When both Jones and Selznick proved greatly fatigued, physically and emotionally, from making Duel in the Sun, he sold the project to MGM to inaugurate its 25th anniversary agenda.
  10. Ingrid Bergman, Joan of Arc, 1947.   Merry-go-round… In 1935, Joan was to be Katharine Hepburn, but colour was pricey and her films were flopping. In 1940, David O Selznick talked to Bergman about it. Nothing happened. By 1944, Gabriel Pascal chose the (still) unknown Kit Cornell for another project that never heard voices in financial agreement. By 1946, DOS planned it for his lover, Jones, before bowing to the inevitable, ie: Sierra Pictures, ie: Bergman, producer Walter Wanger, director Victor Fleming.
  11. Alida Valli, The Miracle of the Bells, 1947.    Jones, Barbara Bel Geddes, Greer Garson and ballerina Ricky Soma were in the mix for the Polish actress dying upon  completion of  her  Joan of Ark film in Hollywood.  Plus the unknown Jane Garth, who played the role on-stage.  Naturally,  the  real screen’s next Maid,  Ingrid  Bergman was also considered.  But no, no, this is Hollywood.  For a Polish girl, you need…an Italian!

  12. Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1948.
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMille’s 1935 plan had been had Henry Wilcoxon with Joan Crawford, Larraine Day, Dolores Del Rio, Paulette Goddard, Jane Greer or Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious.  He sought a mix of Vivien Leigh, Jean Simmons and “a generous touch of Lana Turner” from among… Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Rhonda Fleming (the Queen of Babylon, 1954), Ava Gardner, Greer Garson (Mrs Miniver!!), Susan Hayward (1951’s Bathsheba), Rita Hayworth (the future Salome), Jennifer Jones (St Bernadette in 1943), Patricia Neal, Maureen O’Hara, Nancy Olson (too demure), Jean Peters, Ruth Roman, Gail Russell, Ann Sheridan, Gene Tierney… even such surprises as comical LucIlle Ball (!) and song ‘n’ dancer Betty Hutton.  Plus the Dominican Maria Montez (perfect!), Italian Alida Valli and two Swedes: Viveca Lindfors and Marta Toren.  But CB had already fancied Lamarr for his unmade epic about the Jewish queen Esther (played by Joan Collins in 1960).  Here’s a Samson review signed Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  13. June Allyson, Little Women, 1948.    Selznick decided to re-make his l933 version in 1946 with Jones (his very own Susan Alexander) as Jo, of course. He was undecided between Shirley Temple or Dorothy McGuire for Meg. When both Jones and Selznick proved greatly fatigued, physically and emotionally, from making Duel in  the Sun, he sold the project to  MGM to inaugurate its 25th anniversary agenda.
  14. Betty Hutton, The Greatest Show on Earth, 1951.  Three years before CB De Mille made his old dream of a circus film (and inspired a six-year-old Phoenix kid named Spielberg to make movies),  the Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick planned risking $6m on a big top number named after the slogan of the Ringling Bros circus. The DOS line-up would have featured Jones,  Joseph Cotten,  Louis Jourdan, Dorothy McGuire, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Shirley Temple and Alida Valli.  Obviously the DeMille  epic had a different script, but it’s safe to surmise  that the characters would have been much the same… trapeze stars, lion-tamer, elephant girl, circus boss.  
  15.  Olivia De Havilland, My Cousin Rachel, 1952.     Producer-scenarist Nunnally Johnson had a so-so scenario. And big ideas. He wanted Greta Garbo as Rachel. No one else would do. Shd considered it as a comeback. For at least seven seconds. (A day, actually). First director George Cukor wanted Vivien Leigh. The second, Henry Koster, preferred Olivia opposite Richard Burton in his Hollywood debut as her cousin.
  16. Barbara Stanwyck, The Moonlighter, 1952.  One reunion for another…When Warners could not get the Ruby Gentry star and her director, King Vidor, it settled for Double Indemnity’s Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. Cowboys stars Gene Autry and Roy Corrigan also made a few dollars  – their ranches ranches in Placerita Canyon and Simi Valley were chosen as locations.
  17. Jean Simmons, The Robe, 1953.    Jennifer, Ingrid Bergman and Janet Leigh were seen for Richard Burton’s girl, Diana, in the first (released) CinemaScope movie. Actually, Debra Paget was signed, but proved pregnant.  It’s still her face on the poster. Or so says the legend. For me, the face does not resemble Debra or Jean. There was more drama off-screen…  Simmons had an affair with Burton, who was then warned off by her husband Stewart Granger. With a gun
  18. Eva Marie Saint, On The Waterfront, 1953.  In the mix for a wee while  for  Edie Doyle (like Grace Kelly, and  Elizabeth Montgomery) before producer Sam Spiegel gave Saint her debut role. And a Best Supporting Oscar. 
  19. Lana Turner, Betrayed, 1953.   You don’t mess with MGM…  When La Turner missd a wardrobe fitting appointment in London for Clark Gable’s Metro finale, the  suits reached for Plan G and J. Gardner or  Jennfier Jones.   Turner talked her way back in. She was, after all,  on honeymoon with the fourth of her seven husbands.  Lex Barker, aka Tarzan, circa 1948-1952.  
  20. Grace Kelly, The Country Girl, 1953.    Producer William Perlberg revealed that Jones was his first idea for Georgie. Hardly surprising as she had the role in the play’s 1966 New York revival. Until another Selznick production intervened. Jones was pregnant with Mary Jennifer Selznick (a suicide in 1976).  Grace got the Oscar. 

  21. Gloria Grahame, Human Desire, 1953.  Austrian director Fritz Lang hated the title.  “What other kind of desire is there?” Brando hated everything else. “I cannot believe that the man who gave us the über dark Mabuse, the pathetic child murderer in M and the futuristic look at society, Metropolis, would stoop to hustling such crap.”  Lang  was also considering Olivia, Rita Hayworth and Jennifer Jones for Glenn Ford’s lover…. While Hollywood gossip hen Louella Parsons said the producers wanted Lang’s 1951 Clash by Night line-up: Pau; Douglas, Robert Ryan and Barbara Stanwyck.  But no… Well,  hello Gloria… You’re lookin’ swell, Gloria You’re still glowin’  You’re still crowin’ You’re still goin’ strong…
  22. Ava Gardner, The Barefoot Contessa, 1954.    Jones and Yvonne De Carlo were being pushed towards writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz but he only had eyes for Ava – despite the $200,000 MGM was charging for her. She made it to escape LA, the US and the collapse of her marriage to Frank Sinatra.
  23. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
  24. Irene Papas, Tribute To A Bad Man, 1955.    When Grace Kelly cooled (she was hoping for Giant), Spencer Tracy began to question his own interest on the project. All the more so when finding a replacement proved as troublesome as his health. Jones thought the roles were re-runs of Tracy and Katy Juardo in the previous year’s Broken Lance.  No one wanted the film: Dorothy McGuire, Eva Marie Saint, Marjorie Steele, etc. Spence voted McGuire. Director Robert Wise preferred “the simply awful Greek” – of whom Tracy also commented: “Boy or girl?”
  25. Audrey Hepburn, War and Peace, 1956.    Eager to get back into the big time, producer David Selznick started building Tolstoi’s epic around his wife  with MGMoney. He threw in the towel when Mike Todd and Dino De Laurentiis announced their own versions. As usual, he saw Jennifer  younger than anyone else. At 35, she was hardly “the quintessential” Natasha Rostova.  No, that was Audrey,  27, going on 19.
  26. Ingrid Bergman, Anastasia, 1956.      Four years earlier, having survived Gone To Earth, true Brit director Michael Powell planned his version with Mrs Selznick as the titular, mystery woman claiming to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of the last Russian Tsar… and sole survivor of the 1918 assassination of the principal Imperial royal family. Exiled aunts never believed her. She went to court to claim her inheritance. She lost the 1938-1970 case and on her death was proved an imposter called Franziska Schanzkowska. Bergman was banished by Hollywood after the hypocrotical scandal of her adultery with Italian neo-realistic director Roberto Rossellini in 1949 (because no one in LA committed adultery or had a child out of wedlock – hello, Loretta Young!). Finally, she was forgiven by head Fox Darryl Zanuck- and won the Best Actress Oscar on March 27, 1957, picked up for her by old friend Cary Grant. She did not return to Hollywood until Cactus Flower in 1969.
  27. Ann Blyth, The Helen Morgan Story, 1956.      For six months, Warner Bros scanned some 32 possible Morgans, including Jones, Dani Crayne, Susan Hayward plus singers Doris Day, Judy Garland, Helene Grayco, Peggy Lee, Jaye P. Morgan, Patti Page, Keely Smith. And even fashion model Nancy Berg.   Morgan’s friends and fans were aghast when director Michael Curtis chose Blyth, with Cogi Grant dubbing the songs, as neither looked or sounded like Morgan. Curtiz said Blyth was the best actress for the rôle and Grant’s voice was better than Morgan’s “kind of high-pitched, low-voiced torch singing… it’s outmoded.” So, tell another story! Berg’s life, for example, was way heavier.

  28. Ava Gardner, The Sun Also Rises, 1957.    
    There are two main characters in Ernest Hemingway’s first novel. He wrote it in 1925.  They took forever to reach the screen. They are part of the post-WWI “lost generation.”  Jake Barnes is impotent. Lady Ashley  is  a nymphomaniac. Words, said Hollywood censors, “not proper for screen presentation.”  Ann Harding first won the rights in 1934  to co-star Leslie Howard. She sold out in 1944 to Constance Bennett, who  quit before finding her Jake.  By 1949, the couple were Montgomery Clift- Margaret Sheridan. Dewey Martin was a ‘52 Jake. There followed Gregory Peck-Jennifer Jones, Robert Stack-Dana Wynter – ultimately Tyrone Power-Jennifer Jones – she split for another Papa Hemingway heroine, Catherine  Barkley, A Farewell to Arms. Ava Gardner took over only to be  replaced by  Susan Hayward (rivals in Papa’s Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1952) Hemingway insisted Ava was Brett  and no one  else.  And the offensive words? Producer Darry F Zanuck promised they would be un-uttered. He (half) lied.  Impotent was spoken, as a doctor explained his war wounds to Jake.  And Brett, well, she was no longer a nympho, just a lush.  Papa’s review? “It’s pretty disappointing and that’s being gracious.  

  29. Natalie Wood, Marjorie Morningstar, 1957.  A Star is Bored…Novelist Herman Wouk’s heroine is the proverbial Jewish-American princess. She wants to be a Broadway star – and falls for the no-hoper social director of a Borsht Belt summer resort  Warner Bros bought the book Marlon Brando-Elizabeth Taylor in ’56. They became Natalie Wood-Gene Kelly.  Jennifer Jones and singer-actress Erin O’Brien were also seen for little Miss Morgenstern. The New York Times thought Kelly “a mite uncomfortablein his assignment.”  Obviously. He was not 14 years her senior as per the book, but  26 years  older! 
  30. Susan Strasberg, Stage Struck, 1957.  A Star is Less Boring… David  O  Selznick naturally saw the 1932 Morning Glory re-make notion as a perfect vehicle for Jones in  Katharine Hepburn’s first Oscar-winning role. Jones was Mrs DOS.  Suxan complained that her work was hampered by her Method-teacher father, Lee Strasberg, forever visiting the set. (As  his wife started to do wth Marilyn Monroe).
  31. Joan Collins, The Wayward Bus, 1957.   When Marilyn Monroe , so  cruelly scorned by her studio, astounded us in Bus Stop, Fox dusted down John Steinbeck’s busload of Chaucerian passengers to do the same for Jayne Mansfield. (Hah!).  The main couple of the bus driver and his alcoholic wife, Alice (running a pitstop diner) went from the unlikely Franco-British Charles Boyer-Gertrude Lawrence to Marlon Brando-Jennifer Jones to Robert Mitchum-Susan Hayward to Richard Widmark-Gene Tierney to, finally, Rick Jason-Joan Collins.  Incidentally, Marilyn’s bus driver, Robert Bray, turned up here as a chopper pilot hovering around Collins. (He then blew his career by refusing South Pacific)
  32. Miiko Taka, Sayonara, 1957.   Marlon Brando  won his three demands.  First, playing his USAir Force major as a Southerner (no one knew why, but presumably to make the zero role rather more interesting to him), that the film had a happy ending (unlike the book), and that a  Japanese actress must portray his bride-to-be. Such an actress was not easy to find in time for the shoot. So much so that  Audrey Hepburn and Jennifer Jones were suggested for Hana-Ogi. After searching for a replacement out  East,  non-actress  Miiko (Seattle-born Betty Ishimoto) was found working at a  travel agency… in Los Angeles.

  33. Kim Novak, Bell, Book and Candle, 1958.   Cary  Grant wanted it for him and his third wife, Betsy Drake. But MCA had already grabbed the play for Stewart –Lew Wasserman’s favourite client. (Neither news delighted Cary, who quit Wasserman  by 1960 for suggesting a Grant TV series). (He never did TV).  Also in the witch mix were Susan Hayward (with Rex Harrison),  Jennifer Jones and – Cary’s favourite –  Grace Kelly. 

  34. Bette Davis, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962. Sisters, sisters, such horrendous sisters…  Bette Davis is Baby Jane Hudson, ex-child star, still jealous of her sister Joan Crawford’s better, well longer, career and   deciding to do something diabolical about it.  In case the two bitter enemies couldn’t face working together (Davis even tried to grab the rights and produce the film sans Crawford!), the hag-horrors might have been Ingrjd Bergman and Tallulah Bankhead or Ginger Rogers and Marlene Dietrich, to name just four earlier possibilities. (There are more). Bette and producer William Frye tried to persuade Alfred Hitchcock to tackle what became known as hagsploitation. He was too busy (editing Psycho, prepping The Birds), besides he’d long since worked simply for himself. Other nearly Baby Janes were Susan Hayward, Rita Hayworth, Kathrine Hepburn, Jennifer Jones,  Plus Agnes Moorhead, in a 1960 version with Jennifer West; Agnes joined the sorta-sequel,  Hush…Hush,Sweet Charlotte, 1964.
  35. Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra, 1963.

  36. Eleanor Parker, The Oscar, 1965.  Two months after being chosen to play randy talent scout Sophia Cantaro, Rita left the project “by mutual consent of all parties.”  She was not a well woman. After some thoughts about Jennifer Jones, Paramount signed Parker.  But nothing could alter  the scathing opinion of New York Times critic Bosley Crowther: “another distressing example of Hollywood fouling its nest – professionally, socially, commercially and especially artistically.”

  37. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.  
  38. Julie Adams, The Last Movie, 1969.    In the late 60s, when deciding to succeed the late Montgomery Clift as Kansas, director Dennis Hopper  assembled a cast including Jane Fonda, Jason Robards…. and Jones (reduced to AIP’s Angel, Angel, Down We Go at the time). And then decided not to risk Phil Spector’s promised $1.2m budget. Based on Hopper’s experiences while shooting The Sons of Katie Elder in Mexico (when indigenous natives re-enacted the movie-making), the film  won the Critics’ Prize at Venice but The Last Movie was damn nearly The Last Hopper. Well, he shot it in  Peru – coke capital of the world. ’Nuff said?
  39. Nastassja Kinski, Tess, France, 1979.     Selznick had secured  rights to Thomas Hardy’s great heroine for his wife. And did nothing about it. Director Roman Polanksi and his discovery did  plenty with it… when Paris producer Claude Berri gained the rights.
  40. Shirley  MacLaine,  Terms of Endearment,  1983.    Apart from replacing  Olivia  de  Havilland in The Towering  Inferno, 1974, Jones retired after her third marriage to industrial millionaire Norton Simon in 1971. Suddenly, she optioned Larry McMurtry’s book in 1979 – with Pacino as her leading man.  Just as suddenly she sold it to Paramount where it won MacLaine her Oscar.
  41. Irene Jacob, Victory, UK-France-Germany, 1996.      Looking for another grand  role for his wife, producer David O Selznick met with Claude Chabrol at the Hotel Raphael in Paris – but the nouvelle vague icon was not keen on the Conrad book.  Next to try was another New Waver, Louis Malle. With singer-actress Marie Laforêt. 


“She had a divine madness. You could see what a tender, vulnerable creature she was on-screen. Being her friend was like being friuends with a unicorn.” – Bud Cort

 “David O Selznick was always waiting for that great vehicle for her to be reintroduced. I know projects came up all the time until people stopped asking, because David kept saying no.  Nothing was ever good enough for her, I believe.” – her son, Bob Walker.

“From the time of Bernadetteon… Jennifer was his property.  That’s what she was. She was his property. And then, at the end, she really let him down because she couldn’t fulfill what he had in mind for her as an actress. She just wasn’t that good. But he had made her such a great star that it didn’t matter.  That’s reality.” – Dennis Hopper.









 Birth year: 1919Death year: 2009Other name: Casting Calls:  40