RANDOM SNAPSHOTS – PT8.

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Jennifer Jones (1919 – 2009)                                           

On November 9, 1967 the 48 year-old Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Jones booked into a motel near Malibu Beach, swallowed a large quantity of Seconal and was discovered unconscious at the foot of a 400 foot cliff. The press tried to make something of the fact that Charles Bickford, her elderly co-star in The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Duel in the Sun (1946), had died the day before, but her troubles went much deeper than that. In time she would recover and would, in fact, go on to live for another 42 years.

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Jennifer and 2nd husband David O. Selznick

At age 48 she had lost her looks and film offers were becoming fewer and fewer. The standard Hollywood procedure back then was to consign female stars to the scrap heap once they hit 40. The men, of course, continued to land romantic leads well after 40, aided by a little plastic surgery, Grecian Formula and the occasional toupee. It was, after all, a business run by men. While Jennifer was the wife of producer David O. Selznick she was groomed for important roles, but his death in 1965 changed all that. It did not help that her style of ‘women’s weepie’ movie had gone out of vogue as well.

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Jennifer and 1st husband Robert Walker in Since You Went Away (1944)

Jennifer’s emotional fragility had always been evident. Her illicit affair with Selznick whilst still wed to actor Robert Walker filled her with guilt, bringing on her first suicide attempt, yet the day after she collected her Oscar for The Song of Bernadette, she filed for divorce from Walker. Jennifer may have managed to survive her two suicide attempts but, sadly, the same could not be said for her daughter Mary Jennifer. Crushed by her father’s death in 1965, she struggled for a decade to recover her emotional balance until, in 1976, the 22 year-old hurled herself from the 22nd floor of a Los Angeles skyscraper. Traces of morphine, barbiturates and alcohol were found in her system. Mary’s suicide saw her mother donate a million dollars to establish the Jennifer Jones Simon Foundation for Mental Health and Education in 1980. By then Jennifer had married a billionaire art collector named Norton Simon. His daughter, too, had committed suicide.

In her later years Jennifer purchased the screen rights to ‘Terms of Endearment’, hoping to star in it, but by the time it was ready to be made she was too old for the role that ultimately went to Shirley MacLaine and won her an Academy Award. Jennifer devoted her final years to the foundation that bore her name. She was still diligently working for it when she passed away in 2009, just three weeks short of her 91st birthday.

 

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 John Kitzmiller (1913 – 65)         Kitzmiller (Quarrel), Ursula Andress & Sean Connery in Dr No (1962)                                            

African-American actor John Kitzmiller played Quarrel in the very first 007 film Dr No (1962), the Jamaican fisherman who helps Bond out until he has a spot of bad luck. As an American soldier during WW2, Kitzmiller took part in the liberation of Italy, rose to the rank of captain, and fell in love with the country. He stayed there and became the Italian cinema’s stock black actor, making more than 50 films in Europe. His career declined rapidly in the late fifties, however, and he sunk into depression and alcoholism. Just three years after completing Dr No he was dead from cirrhosis of the liver. He was 51.

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Wesley Snipes (1962 – )                               

Apparently making three “Blade” movies about hunting vampires doesn’t pay the bills quite like it used to. Wesley Snipes was making tons of money during the 1990’s, but he managed to squander it all. In 2006 he was busted for tax evasion and had to serve three years in the McKean Federal Correction Institution as a result, starting in December 2010. During his bankruptcy hearing it was revealed that he owed the IRS $20 million, not having filed an income tax return for the eight years between 1999 and 2007.

He lost his apartment when the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11. Fortunately for him, according to one source, he was delayed at a gym when it happened. Other sources claim he was away on the West Coast at the time. Either way, it was sheer good fortune that he was not in his luxury apartment when it was destroyed. He was released from prison in April 2013 and Sylvester Stallone put him into The Expendables 3 as a gesture from one friend to another.

Since the age of 12 Snipes has been training in martial arts, earning a 5th Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate and a 2nd Dan black belt in Hapkido. He has also trained in Capoeira, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing. Raised as a Christian, he converted to Islam in 1978, but walked away from it in 1988. Married twice, he has five children and is currently wed to Nakyumg (Nikki) Park, a Korean national. Wesley spends much of his time in South Korea. Hopefully, he will get his career back on track because he is a most capable actor.

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Suzanne Somers (1946 – )

After spending her childhood and teenage years in constant fear of being physically beaten by her alcoholic father, Suzanne enrolled in college on a music scholarship as soon as she could, despite her dyslexia and poor student record. Six months later her plans struck a roadblock when she found herself pregnant to a boyfriend. She married the child’s father and gave birth to a son in November 1965. In 1967 Suzanne’s affair with her music teacher destroyed the marriage and the couple divorced in 1967.

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with John Ritter in Three’s Company

In 1968 she landed a job as a prize model on a TV games show hosted by Alan Hamel. He was a married man but Suzanne was soon heavily involved with him. She fell pregnant to him and they agreed to abort the child. Foolishly, Suzanne attempted to handle it herself and almost bled to death. She and Hamel later married.

Her big career break came when she won the starring role of Chrissy Snow in the TV series Three’s Company in 1976. By the show’s fifth season she was earning a healthy $30,000 an episode. Deciding that was not nearly enough, she demanded a massive pay rise to $150,000 an episode plus 10% ownership of the series! The producers, not surprisingly, refused her demands so she boycotted the show. ABC forced her to finish her contractual obligations and then fired her at the end of the season. She sued ABC for 2 million dollars, but was eventually compelled to accept an out of court settlement for a paltry $30,000, the very amount she had been receiving per episode until she became greedy. All in all, it could be safely said that Suzanne shot her career in the foot!

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