[Editor’s Note: Jennifer Jones passed away yesterday at the age of 90. This is the first paragraph of a piece originally published at the House on May 14th, 2008. Click here to read the full entry.]
In the middle of Vincente Minnelli’s version of Madame Bovary (1949), Jennifer Jones’ Emma is at a ball and surrounded by admiring men. The country girl who has read so many romance novels is now seemingly in the midst of one of her stories, and she behaves like a freed prisoner; after a flirtatious laugh, she catches sight of herself in an ornate gilded mirror, and Minnelli cuts to the sumptuous image she sees, then cuts back to a medium shot of her reaction. Jones’ gentle, apple-cheeked face gradually becomes hard, proud, even calculating: it’s a revelation of her narcissistic inner nature as a performer. She rationed this side of herself, so that in William Wyler’s Carrie (1952), the director can only catch the briefest flash of low cunning on her face as she thinks over her options as a female object of desire. Lincoln Center has programmed Jones’ best films from May 16-24, offering us a big screen opportunity to watch one of the more mysterious of screen presences, not quite an actress, not quite a star, but a source of unplaceable anxiety and half-buried, wanton instincts.