Though often overshadowed by some of her female contemporaries as the years passed, Jennifer Jones came to embody one of the preeminent examples of a Hollywood star. With qualities that transcended preternatural beauty, she projected the sort of charisma that cannot be feigned, courting legions of fans in the process, as she graced one film after another with her presence. And then, just as suddenly as she had risen to greatness, Jones dropped out of the limelight and withdrew into anonymity, spending the last several decades of her life well outside of the public eye.
Jennifer Jones began life in Tulsa, OK, as Phyllis Isley, the daughter of vaudeville performers. Ensconced in show business from the beginning, she dreamed of establishing herself as an actress from early childhood. As a young woman, Isley studied at New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts and revealed incredible promise; during that tenure, she also met and grew enchanted with a young actor named Robert Walker; they did summer stock together, fell deeply in love, married, and parented two children, Robert Walker, Jr., and Michael Ross Walker. Then Hollywood beckoned to Isley, first with a supporting role in a Republic western, and then in the form of a talent agent from megaproducer David O. Selznick, the giant responsible for Gone With the Wind. Though the agent sensed greatness from the ingenue's initial reading and arranged a meeting between Isley and Selznick without hesitation, Isley reportedly felt ashamed by the Republic B picture and attempted to obscure its presence. She needn't have worried; the initial meeting between Selznick and Isley (whom he renamed Jennifer Jones) permanently changed both of their lives and made Jones a household name.