Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Just Who Is This, Girls??????????????

              Indeed, darlings!!!!!!!  Just who is the young girl in the above photo?  I have to confess
I was stunned when I found out.

               For starters, she is no longer among the Living.  She would have been around my age
if alive today, but she passed away tragically in 1976, at the age of 21.  I imagine the above
photo is not much removed from the time of her death.

                 The young woman in the above photo would also qualify by my definition for the title
of Hollywood's Most Unhappy Celebrity Child.

                  She is.....was.....Mary Jennifer Selznick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                  Now, if some of those names sound familiar to some of my girls, well, they damn well should!
Miss Selznick was the daughter--the only child--of film producer David O. Selznick, and his wife, actress
Jennifer Jones.  And while Brooke Hayward brilliantly chronicled the pitfalls of being a celebrity's child in "Haywire" (and her parents were no slouches, being the producer Leland Hayward and the actress Margaret Sullavan) Mary had a much tougher road to haul.  Her parents were not just celebrities; they were icons.  Her father happened to produce what was the most important film of its day, a little something we still all know and love called "Gone With The Wind;" her mother was one of the most beautiful women to appear on camera, memorable for her stunning performance in "The Song Of Bernadette" (for which she won the Academy Award as Best Actress of 1943) not to mention the murderous, half-breed Indian girl, Pearl Chavez (who, the publicity said, was "built by the Devil to drive men crazy!") in "Duel In The Sun," as well as the ethereal ghost in the haunting "Portrait Of Jennie.  With such a gene pool, Mary's pedigree was extraordinary, and  she might very well have attained a youthful start very much like her almost counterpart onstage, Susan Strasberg.

                 But, along with this pedigree, Mary, I believe, also inherited some of the worst aspects of her parents' gene pool, which did not work in her favor.  David O. Selznick was a bundle of nerves, who gulped pills constantly on every set he worked on. I am surprised he and Judy Garland never met up at the same rehab clinic at least once.  He was strongly addicted to gambling, losing so much money that he had to sell off his share of profits in GWTW, and this habit was a constant source of anxiety to Jennifer Jones.  And she had her problems, too.  As Phyllis Isley, in Oklahoma, she had been Daddy's girl, and this drew her to older and more powerful men.  This need for protection, for emotional security, may be one reason why her short lived marriage to the extremely handsome, vulnerable, unstable yet gifted actor, Robert Walker, did not work out.  Common history blames Jennifer for abandoning him for career advancement via Selznick, and while it cannot be denied he did wonders for her, what I have read has led me to suspect more.  For one thing, even after the divorce, Jennifer never denied Walker access to his sons.  For another, it has been suggested that Walker's volatility sometimes erupted into physical attacks on Jennifer, which, Selznick or not,  would have been something she would have wanted to get she and the boys away from.  There are two sides to every story, darlings!!!!!!!!  In addition, Jennifer was plagued with anxiety and insecurity--about her acting, her own self-worth.  She needed strong direction to manage a performance, and she was highly sensitive when those performances came in for criticism.  Several years after Selznick's death, in her late 40s, she was found wandering on a beach, having ingested a considerable amount of sleeping pills, in an attempt at suicide.  Several years later, she married the philanthropist/art dealer, Norton Simon, who, ironically, had lost one of his children to suicide, as Jennifer Jones would eventually also.

               It seems Mary Jennifer had trouble all her life.  Measured against her mother, she never felt as attractive; the surprise is, the picture I have used shows a young woman a good deal more attractive than I had at first thought.  But, girls, next to Jennifer Jones, who among us would look as good? Liz Taylor in her day, maybe, but that is an extraordinary exception. 

                 Besides which, there was always mother-daughter friction between Mary and her mother; and before she turned twenty one she had survived a suicide attempt, an abortion, and a stint in a psychiatric ward.  Mary was on fragile ground.

                   So, with her lineage, she decided to make a foray into acting, coming to New York for
a time, and studying with Uta Hagen at the HB Studio.  It did not seem like Mary had the stuff her
mother did.

                    Around this same time, in May of 1976, Phil Isley, father of Jennifer Jones (who was christened Phyllis Isley, after him) was dying of cancer, at 83.   His actress daughter was with him in the hospital, when, on May 11, the day after what would have been Selznick's 74th birthday, had he lived, came word that Mary Jennifer had been found dead.  Apparently, she had had some kind of emotional crash (and she was said to have substance abuse problems as well) and proceeded to the tallest building in the Brentwood area--10701 Wilshire Boulevard.  A locale, ironically, plainly visible from the window of her psychiatrist's office.  There, tragically, Mary Jennifer chose death, jumping off the roof.

                      Whatever may be said about Jennifer Jones, it cannot be denied that for whatever she got--stardom, wealth, security, she paid a high price for it, and then some.  I guess my recent viewing of 'Bernadette' made me think of Jones, who has now been gone for over two years, and to wonder about Mary Jennifer, who, again, were she here now, would be about my age.

                         Girls, I promise to find something more cheerful to write about in the near future.  Don't worry; I am not going from this, to Sylvia Plath.  That would be cause for getting out the razor blades.  Mary Jennifer Selznick was not the first celebrity child to commit suicide, and, sadly, she will not be the last. But of all the stories, hers to me seems the saddest.

                           She may not have been her mother. But she had a Future!!!!!!!!!

                           As do all my girls out there, loves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


HarlowFan said...

Her relationship with her daughter sounds like the plot of one of Jennifer's last films:Angel Angel Down We Go. The daughter in that movie felt she wasn't as pretty or accomplished as her mother Jennifer!

The Raving Queen said...

I have heard about that film for years, and have never seen it. I sort want to, and don't. I have read--correct me, if I am wrong--that Jones' character in the movie does porno films. I am sure this is only alluded to, but, when you look at the bulk of Jones' work, this does not stand with the rest.
Even the "Farewell To Arms" remake had to have been better!

HarlowFan said...

Oh the movie is horrendous! Along with The Idol, in which she co-starred with Michael Parks,this is the worst crap she ever did. She even sleeps with her daughter's dirtbag boyfriend. At least The Towering Inferno had SOME redeeming qualities!

SuzyQ2 said...

I was room-mates w/Jennifer Selznick (She went by the name Jennifer then) when I was 15 at a boarding school in Danville, California. She introduced herself & proclaimed: "My mother is Jennifer Jones & my father is David O. Selznick."

I didn't know who either of them were (grew up w/out even a TV) so I just answered w/my parents' names!

Jennifer was a very "clean" liver--vegetarian, no drinking, no smoking or drugs or sex (which pretty much everyone else did at this high school as it was a very "progressive" high school w/only a couple hundred students at the most). We were called "the hippies on the hill."

I asked for a room-mate change w/in a month or so as Jennifer was very standoffish, quiet & uninvolved w/people. I don't think she grew up w/"regular" friends & didn't know how to interact w/adolescents living in a group experience of a dorm.

I had heard that she jumped out of the window under the influence of LSD...

Unfortunately, several people from this school had problems w/drugs & had tragic deaths way too young.

Unknown said...

I can say this now as all parties are passed away. I worked for Jennifer Jones, then to me was known as "Mrs. Simon" and her industrialist husband Norton Simon. It was my first job out of college in 1989. I actually lived with them in the Beverly Hills Hotel. Wow I can talk a lot about this. I once drove Mrs. Simon (aka Jennifer Jones) to Glendale where her daughter, along with her father and Jennifer's ex husband David O'Selznik are laid to rest at Forest Lawn cemetery. It was a bit of a drive from Beverly Hills. Not a word was spoken during that car ride and it was sad for me to see a mother bring flowers to her dead daughter's grave.

The Raving Queen said...

Now, that is very impressive and fascinating. I think the silence says a lot about how both deaths effected Jennifer Jones.

And poor Mary. When your mother is one of the most beautiful and talented people to grace the screen, and she inherits Daddy's looks, rather than his business acumen!

The whole thing was sad!

Unknown said...

Yes it was an interesting experience that I am comfortable sharing b/c all the parties are deceased. Yesterday I was reminded of JJ and I was playing on the internet and found your blog. Mary wasn't too bad looking, that photo of her in the bikini is pretty good (and this is before photoshop). JJ had a pretty photo of Mary on her nightstand. So it wasn't like she forgot her daughter. Paul Newman's son committed suicide, Michael Douglas' son is in PRISON for drugs. I live in LA and I can tell you first hand it is the parents with poor upbringing that is a major cause of their messed up kids. They have too much time, too much money, too much access to drugs, they don't have to work, etc. Mary was 21 years old when she jumped off a building in Westwood (LA). Gloria Vanderbuilt had 2 sons. One is Anderson Cooper of CNN, and his brother who not only committed suicide, but did so IN FRONT OF HIS MOTHER jumping off her balcony while she was watching. I last saw Mrs. Simon a few years before she passed along with her son Robert Walker jr. in Norton Simon's and Jennifer Jones' favorite restaurant in Santa Monica. She was in terrific spirits and very happy. I never saw her smile ONCE when I worked for her. But she was free from the head games and conflicts of Mr. Simon (as he passed in 1993).

Unknown said...

Unknown said...

Unknown said...

Caesar James said...

Wow, "Unknown," you seem to have a lot of insight and stories of old Hollywood. How fascinating. I would love to sit down with you over coffee and chat for a while.

Esme St. Clair said...

I've gotta disagree with you as far as Jones's looks. She looked like Julie Nixon who, since your copping to being the same age as I am, I assume you remember. Nowhere close to Liz Taylor. Incidentally, Jones is supposed to be the prototype for a character in one of Jackie Susann's books. The portrayal isn't very flattering, but it does provide ONE explanation as to why she got Selznick's attention so quickly (ahem).

The Raving Queen said...

Now, you have made an interesting comment. Julie Nixon? I can actually see that, though I never, till now, thought so. But I agree. Though Jones was prettier.

As for a character in one of Sussann's bboks, can you tell me who, and which one? I have read all of them, and while I recognized many, Jones never crossed my mind!

Very interesting!

Unknown said...

I looked up Julie Nixon, good call she sort of does look like JJ. BTW I worked for Jennifer Jones when she was married to Norton Simon, so I have very personal insight. Yes what Jacquline Susann book? Can't be valley of the dolls. JJ got O'Selnik's attention bc O'Selzik was a fat ugly guy and JJ was young and pretty. It's that simple.

The Raving Queen said...

I agree with you about Selznick; he was not a looker. I read somewhere
Marleen Dietrich once said he would be the last man in Hollywood she
would sleep with. And I too would like to know what Susann book. You
are right; definitely NOT 'Valley.'

Beatrice Maude said...

Jennifer Jones was not a great beauty, not by any measure; just because your famous doesn't make you gorgeous. But she was a good actress and lucked out with some great roles with strong leading men. Judging from the photo, her daughter Jennifer was clearly a pretty young woman who was unfairly compared to her mother. Being a child of self centered celebrity has to be rough; your mother/father isn't around much, he/she is almost never married to just one person in his/her lifetime; as a result the child is emotionally neglected, confused, feels insignificant and possibly even unwanted. Sadly Jennifer is just one of long list of celebrity children that have killed themselves for these very same reasons. By contrast, most of us ordinary folk born during the babyboom had the opposite experience; mothers that were 100% committed to us and put their own lives and ambitions on the back burner just to ensure that we had a better life than they had. My family didn't have much money, quite the opposite, but boy was my childhood wonderful, I'd go back in a heartbeat.

The Raving Queen said...

I think Jennifer Jones was stunning, and a great beauty. I am with you,
when it comes to childhood; I yearn for its innocence and security too.
Not so adolescence. It was tragic her daughter could not find a balnce,as I agree she was most likely compared unfairly to her mother. Jones' story overall is one of the best examples of the idea of fame coming with a price!

Fred Nerk said...

That photo was taken by Peter Sellers and was part of his 'daughters of the stars' contribution to the December 1972 edition of UK Vogue.

The Raving Queen said...

Now that is interesting. I never knew that,
nor had I seen the photo till now. Thanks
for sharing!

Stephen Chumley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Raving Queen said...

Thanks so much. I wrote this awhile ago.
It is haunting.

bri james said...

I still remember the news story on the daughter, she jumped from the 20th floor, and it took over a month to figure out who she was. had to be pretty awful sight!

The Raving Queen said...

Oh, my God! I did not know that part of the story.
I was in college when it happened, so it slipped my
memory. It was tragic enough, but with your information
even more so! Thanks for sharing!

Julie said...

This conversation is so interesting! I agree about sitting down with "Unknown" over coffee! Haha--What else do you know/remember about old Hollywood?

The Raving Queen said...

Make that two for coffee, darling!!!!!!!!!!!!

lala said...

jennifer jones wasn't all that great. she sounded like she had marbles in her mouth most of the time and her looks were average.

The Raving Queen said...

What would you know, darling????????????????

movielover said...

'West Of Eden' by Jean Stein is a good source of information about Jennifer Jones' life----- one thing is for sure, it was never boring.

The Raving Queen said...

I happen to have that book in my pile of To Be Read.
Sounds like you have rad it, and that it is worth it!
Thanks for letting me know!