Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jean Simmons 1929-2010 RIP

Jean Merilyn Simmons, OBE (January 31, 1929 – January 22, 2010) was an English actress who later became an American citizen. She appeared predominantly in motion pictures, beginning with films made in Great Britain during and after World War II, followed mainly by Hollywood films from 1950.
Early life and career

Simmons was born in Lower Holloway, London, England, to Charles Simmons and his wife Winifred (Loveland) Simmons; Jean was the youngest of four children; her siblings were Edna, Harold and Lorna. Simmons began acting at the age of 14. During World War II, the Simmons family was evacuated to Winscombe in Somerset. Her father, a physical education teacher (who had represented Great Britain in the 1912 Summer Olympics), taught briefly at Sidcot School, and sometime during this period Simmons followed her older sister on to the village stage and sang songs like "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow." Returning to London and just enrolled at the Aida Foster School of Dance, she was spotted by the director Val Guest, who cast her in the Margaret Lockwood vehicle Give us the Moon. Prior to moving to Hollywood, she played the young Estella in David Lean's version of Great Expectations (1946) and Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), for which she received her first Oscar nomination. It was the experience of working on Great Expectations that caused her to pursue an acting career more seriously:

"I thought acting was just a lark, meeting all those exciting movie stars, and getting £5 a day which was lovely because we needed the money. But I figured I'd just go off and get married and have children like my mother. It was working with David Lean that convinced me to go on."

Playing Ophelia in Olivier's Hamlet made her a star, although she was already well-known for her work in other British films, including her first starring role in the film adaptation of Uncle Silas and Black Narcissus (both 1947). Olivier offered her the chance to work and study at the Bristol Old Vic, advising her to play anything they threw at her to get experience; she was under contract to the Rank Organisation who vetoed the idea. In 1950 Rank sold her contract to Howard Hughes, who then owned the RKO studio in Hollywood.

In 1950, she married the English actor Stewart Granger, with whom she appeared in several films, successfully making the transition to an American career. She made four films for Hughes, including Angel Face, directed by Otto Preminger. According to David Thomson "if she had made only one film – Angel Face – she might now be spoken of with the awe given to Louise Brooks." A court case freed her from the contract with Hughes in 1952. In 1953, she starred alongside Spencer Tracy in The Actress, a film that was one of her personal favourites. Among the many films she appeared in during this period were The Robe (1953), The Egyptian (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Big Country (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960), (directed by her second husband, Richard Brooks), Spartacus (1960), and The Happy Ending (1969), again directed by Brooks and for which she received her second Oscar nomination.

By the 1970s, Simmons turned her focus to stage and television acting. She toured the United States in Stephen Sondheim's well-reviewed musical A Little Night Music, then took the show to London, and thus originated the role of Desirée Armfeldt on the West End. Doing the show for three years, she said she never tired of Sondheim's music; "No matter how tired or off you felt, the music would just pick you up."

She portrayed Fiona Cleary, Cleary family matriarch, in the 1983 mini-series The Thorn Birds. Simmons won an Emmy Award for her role.

In 1985 and 1986, she appeared in North & South.

In 1988, she starred in The Dawning with Anthony Hopkins and Hugh Grant, and in 1989, she again starred in a mini-series, this time a version of Great Expectations, in which she played the role of Miss Havisham, Estella's adoptive mother. Simmons made a late career appearance in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Drumhead" as a witch-hunt-inspiring investigator named Admiral Norah Satie.
Personal life

Jean Simmons was married and divorced twice: she married Stewart Granger in Tucson, Arizona on December 20, 1950. In 1956 she and Granger became U.S. citizens; they divorced in 1960. On November 1, 1960, she married director Richard Brooks; they divorced in 1977. Both men were significantly older than Simmons but she denied she was looking for a father figure. Her father had died when she was just sixteen but she said: "They were really nothing like my father at all. My father was a gentle, soft-spoken man. My husbands were much noisier and much more opinionated ... it's really nothing to do with age ... it's to do with what's there – the twinkle and sense of humour." And in a 1984 interview, given in Copenhagen at the time she was shooting the film Yellow Pages, she elaborated slightly on her marriages, stating,

“It may be simplistic, but you could sum up my two marriages by saying that, when I wanted to be a wife, Jimmy [Stewart Granger] would say: 'I just want you to be pretty.' And when I wanted to cook, Richard would say: 'Forget the cooking. You've been trained to act – so act!' Most people thought I was helpless – a clinger and a butterfly – during my first marriage. It was Richard Brooks who saw what was wrong and tried to make me stand on my own two feet. I'd whine: 'I'm afraid.' And he'd say: 'Never be afraid to fail. Every time you get up in the morning, you are ahead.”

She had two daughters, Tracy Granger (born September 1957) and Kate Brooks (born July 1961), one by each marriage – their names bearing witness to Simmons' friendship with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Simmons moved to the East Coast in the late 1970s, briefly renting a home in New Milford, Connecticut. Later she moved to Santa Monica, California, where she lived until her death from lung cancer at home on January 22, 2010, aged 80. She was an alcoholic, for which she was treated at the Betty Ford Center in 1986; She had been treated some years previously for breast cancer, apparently successfully.


Sports Day (1944)
Give us the Moon (1944)
Mr. Emmanuel (1944)
Kiss the Bride Goodbye (1945)
Meet Sexton Blake (1945)
The Way to the Stars (1945)
Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)
Great Expectations (1946)
The Woman in the Hall (1947)
Uncle Silas (1947)
Black Narcissus (1947)
Hungry Hill (1947)
Hamlet (1948)
The Blue Lagoon (1949)
Adam and Evelyne (1949)
So Long at the Fair (1950)
Cage of Gold (1950)
Trio (1950)
The Clouded Yellow (1951)
Angel Face (1952)
Androcles and the Lion (1952)
Young Bess (1953)
Affair with a Stranger (1953)
The Robe (1953)
The Actress (1953)
She Couldn't Say No (1954) (AKA Beautiful but Dangerous )
Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)
The Egyptian (1954)
A Bullet Is Waiting (1954)
Désirée (1954)
Footsteps in the Fog (1955)
Guys and Dolls (1955)
Hilda Crane (1956)
This Could Be the Night (1957)
Until They Sail (1957)
The Big Country (1958)
Home Before Dark (1958)
This Earth Is Mine (1959)
Elmer Gantry (1960)
Spartacus (1960)
The Grass Is Greener (1960)
All the Way Home (1963)
Life at the Top (1965)
Mister Buddwing (1966)
Divorce American Style (1967)
Rough Night in Jericho (1967)
Heidi (1968)
The Happy Ending (1969)
Say Hello to Yesterday (1971)
Mr. Sycamore (1975)
The Dain Curse (TV, 1978)
Dominique (1978)
Beggarman, Thief (TV, 1979)
A Small Killing ((TV, 1981)
The Thorn Birds (TV, 1983)
December Flower (TV, 1984)
Midas Valley (TV, 1985)
Yellow Pages (1985)
North and South (1985)
North and South Book II (1986)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Long Lost Love (1987)
The Dawning (1988)
Great Expectations (1989)
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991)
Dark Shadows (1991) Elizabeth Collins Stoddard / Naomi Collins
They Do It with Mirrors (1991)
How to Make an American Quilt (1995)
Daisies in December (1995)
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) (voice)
Jean Simmons: Rose of England (2004)
Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro) (2004) (voice)
Through the Moebius Strip (2005)
Shadows in the Sun (2008)

Awards and nominations


Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Series/Special, The Thorn Birds (1983)
Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy Actress, Guys and Dolls (1956)


Academy Award for Best Actress, The Happy Ending (1969)
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Hamlet (1948)
BAFTA for Best Actress, Guys and Dolls (1956)
BAFTA for Best Actress, Elmer Gantry (1960)
Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress - Drama Series, Murder, She Wrote (1989)
Golden Globe for Best Drama Actress, Home Before Dark (1959)
Golden Globe for Best Drama Actress, Elmer Gantry (1961)
Golden Globe for Best Drama Actress, The Happy Ending (1970)
Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy Actress, This Could Be the Night (1958)
Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress - Miniseries, The Thorn Birds (1984)


1.^ Obituary Los Angeles Times, 23 January 2010.
2.^ Obituary Washington Post, 24 January 2010.
3.^ Harmetz, Aljean (January 23, 2010). "Jean Simmons, Actress, Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
4.^ Picturegoer 2 August 1947 'Are They Being Fair To Jean Simmons?'
5.^ as told to Gloria Hunniford in Sunday, Sunday television interview LWT, Autumn 1985
6.^ Val Guest So You Want to be in Pictures p.58.ISBN 1-90311-115-3
7.^ Woman's Weekly, Christmas 1989
8.^ Philip French "Jean Simmons: an unforgettable English rose", The Observer, 24 January 2010 (print edtion)
9.^ David Thomson Obituary: Jean Simmons, The Guardian, 25 January 2010
10.^ Sondheim Guide - A Little Night Music
11.^ "Woman's Weekly Christmas 1989"
12.^ "British-born Hollywood actress Jean Simmons dies at 80". BBC. Retrieved 23 January 2010.

-- wiki

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