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Oscar-Winning Actress Jennifer Jones Dead at 90

JenniferJones

Jennifer Jones, the beautiful, raven-haired actress who was nominated for Academy Awards five times, winning in 1943 for her portrayal of a saintly nun in "The Song of Bernadette," died Thursday. She was 90.

Jones, who in later years was a leader of the Norton Simon Museum, died at her home in Malibu of natural causes, museum spokeswoman Leslie Denk told The Associated Press.

Jones was the widow of the museum's founder, wealthy industrialist Norton Simon, and served as chair of the museum's board of directors after his death.

Known for her intense performances, Jones was one of Hollywood's biggest stars of the 1940s and '50s.

Among her most memorable roles were the vixen who vamps rowdy cowboy Gregory Peck in "Duel in the Sun," and the Eurasian doctor who falls for Korean War correspondent William Holden in "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing."

Despite her heavily dramatic screen roles, Jones conveyed an aura of shyness, even aloofness offstage. She rarely gave interviews, explaining to a reporter in 1957: "Most interviewers probe and pry into your personal life, and I just don't like it. I respect everyone's right to privacy, and I feel mine should be respected, too."

Early in her career, Jones had become nearly as famous for her high-profile marriages as for her movie work. She met actor Robert Walker when both studied acting in New York, and they married and came to Hollywood, where her stardom ascended more rapidly than his.

Jones' boss, David O. Selznick, became obsessed with his star and spent much of his time promoting her career. They married four years after she divorced Walker in 1945.

Selznick died in 1965, and in 1973 Jones married Simon. After his death in 1993, she assumed a major role in leading the Pasadena-based museum.

She initiated the museum's celebrated gallery renovation by architect Frank Gehry and spearheaded the development of its public programming and outreach initiatives.

Jones' performance in "The Song of Bernadette," about a French peasant girl who claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes in 1858, earned her a best actress Oscar and helped make her one of Hollywood's most popular leading ladies.

Director Henry King recalled testing the six finalists for the role of Bernadette: "A man held a stick behind the camera; the girls focused their rapt attention on that stick. The other five did very well. But only Jennifer looked as if she saw the vision."

Among her other films were "Love Letters" (with Joseph Cotten), "We Were Strangers" (with John Garfield), "Madame Bovary" (with Louis Jourdan) and "A Farewell to Arms" (with Rock Hudson).

She received a supporting actress Oscar nomination for "Since You Went Away," and lead actress nominations for "Love Letters," "Duel in the Sun" and "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing."

Her last film was 1974's "The Towering Inferno." After retiring from acting Jones avoided the limelight as much as possible.

She is survived by her son, Robert, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her daughter committed suicide in 1976, plunging to her death from the 22nd floor of a Los Angeles hotel while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

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