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David Selznick's Valentine to his Wife Jennifer Jones
David Selznick loved his wife Jennifer Jones. John Huston wrote in his "An Open Book" that "David laid everything on the line for his adored Jennifer". This movie was years in the making and while this was a 20th Century Fox production, not a Selznick International production Mr. Selznick was always behind the scenes suggesting ideas for the Movie. Selznick himself tried for many years to personally produce this property but could not get the financing.
Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, Ivan Moffat wrote a fine screenplay, and David Selznick approved Henry King as Director for as DOS put it " Henry King gets the best results with Jennifer" as King directed Jennifer Jones in two of her greatest hits her Oscar winning performance in "Song of Bernadatte" and Oscar Nominated "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" both hits at 20th Century Fox. Oscar Winner Joan Fontaine in her auto biography "No Bed Of Roses" noted that Henry King downplayed the erotic nature of Nicole and Dick Diver relationship, and also that Joan Fontaine was treated like an extra by the crew but not by Jennifer Jones who was a Friend.
Jennifer Jones was a major star in the l940's and early to mid 1950's with 5 nominations and one Oscar win but semi retired for 5 years from 1956 thru 1961 and that is a long, possibly too long an absence for a major star to be off the screen. Jennifer Jones was as good an actress as Meryl Streep is regarded today, and was very analytical in her performances. In this film Jennifer Jones- An Academy Award Winner and Major star for nearly 20 years- had Paula Stasberg -most famous as coach to Marilyn Monroe-as her on set acting coach which irked Henry King no end. Ms. Fontaine, again in her book No Bed of Roses scoffed at the coaching and in her bio wrote "Charming and Talented Jennifer was the most insecure Actress I ever worked with" Fontaine noted that Jennifer would hold up production as she talked long distance with Selznick in Hollywood things such as set dressing! Fontaine observed that Director Henry King had not the slightest care or understanding of European cafe society.
The movie is lushly produced and David Selznick insisted they shoot some of the scenes in Europe in Zurich, on the Riviera and in Paris. In fact Selznick wanted the entire film to be shot in Paris rather than 20th's stages in Beverly Hills. The movie is very well cast with stars who can act: Jennifer Jones, Jason Robards and Joan Fontaine as Jennifer's brittle older sister. Some criticism was made of the fact Jennifer Jones was too old to play Nicole I disagree. Jennifer Jones eschewing 20th's makeup man Ben Nye and costumers Charles Le Maire and William Travilla- looks beautiful, and younger due to George Masters great hairstyles and famed designer Balmain's great outfits than Jennier Jones did in Selznick's " A Farewell To Arms" five years earlier.
Many top Male stars and previous Jennifer Jones leading Men such as William Holden and Gregory Peck were offered the role of Nick Diver and declined but I gather they felt in any DOS obsessed production Jennifer Jones would be the spotlighted star not them. Correct! The role of Nick went to Jason Robards and while in the early 60's he had not attained the stature as he would later in his career I feel Robards is superb and the chemistry between Jason Robards and Jennifer Jones is real on screen. It is also great to see Oscar winner Paul Lukas in a small pivotal role.
Some of David Selzinck's complaints about the movie are accurate: some of the sets are not at all 'Roaring 20's like', and the music could be more reflective of the period.
When the movie was released it was not well received and David Selznick requested 20th pull back the movie and add scenes, but alas 20th Century Fox released it worldwide "as it was" and after the fanfare of a big New York premiere, it was quickly released and forgotten. All except the beautiful theme- which Selznick hated- which was Oscar nominated and played today the song is haunting and beautiful.
Tender Is The Night was Jennifer Jones last movie as a true Superstar. The Selznick's hoped this film would garner Jennifer a 6th Best Actress Nomination and return her to the upper strata of leading ladies. At the time of his death David Selznick was in talks for Jennifer to appear in one of Ross Hunter's great soap operas at Universal in the hope that a Ross Hunter film would do for Jennifer what Hunter's great films did for Lana Turner mid career.
The Idol in 1966 with Michael Parks, and the disastrous 1969 Angel Angel Down We Go would follow and a cameo in the Towering Inferno and Ms. Jones would retire.
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