FILM STAR JEAN SIMMONS DIES AT 80







FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

This hits very, very hard.

I grew up watching JEAN SIMMONS movies on television. She is one of my favourite film stars.

She was breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly talented. But she also exuded a kind of glorious ultrafeminine refinement. She had a style all her own.

I will miss her tremendously, as will everyone else who ever delighted in her supreme star quality and dazzling performances.

RIP, Ms. Simmons. You were the bomb…

JEAN SIMMONS, the lovely, ethereal British film star who appeared in LAURENCE OLIVIER’S HAMLET, sang with Marlon Brando in Guys & Dolls and costarred with CARY GRANT, ROBERT MITCHUM, BURT LANCASTER, ROBERT PRESTON, DEAN MARTIN and PAUL NEWMAN, has died.

She was 80.

Ms. Simmons, who won an EMMY for her role in the 80s miniseries THE THORN BIRDS, died Friday at her home in Santa Monica, her agent JUDY PAGE told THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.

She had lung cancer.

Already a stunning beauty at 14, JEAN made her movie debut in the 1944 British production Give Us the Moon.

Several minor films followed before British director DAVID LEAN gave the London born actor her breakthrough role of ESTELLA, companion to the reclusive Miss Havisham in 1946’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS. That was followed by the exotic Black Narcissus and then Olivier’s OSCAR
winning HAMLET in 1948. She was nominated for BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS for her performance as OPHELIA.

She would be nominated for another OSCAR – for BEST ACTRESS in 1969’s THE HAPPY ENDING – before moving largely to television roles for the remainder of her career.

Other notable films included ELMER GANTRY, SPARTACUS, THE GRASS IS GREENER, ALL THE WAY HOME and ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO.

JEAN left Britain for Hollywood in 1950, accompanied by her future husband STEWART GRANGER. There, they were befriended by reclusive tycoon Howard Hughes, who flew them to Tucson, Arizona, for a surprise wedding.

“When I returned from the honeymoon,” JEAN told a reporter in 1964, “I learned that Hughes owned me. He had bought me from (British producer) J. Arthur Rank like a piece of meat.”

What followed was a string of films that she would later dismiss as terrible, although she took some solace in the fact Hughes, legendary in those days as a womanizer, never bothered her.

“I was married to Jimmy (Granger’s real name was James Stewart), so Hughes remained at a distance,” she recalled.

“But those movies! So terrible they aren’t even on videocassettes.”

JEAN finally ended up suing Hughes for the right to make more prestigious films at other studios, and the result was YOUNG BESS (as young QUEEN ELIZABETH I), The Robe (the first movie filmed in CinemaScope), The Actress, The Egyptian and Desiree.

In the latter film, in 1954, she played the title role opposite Brando’s Napoleon.

The pair teamed again in 1955 for Guys & Dolls, the SAMUEL GOLDWYN produced musical in which she portrayed Sarah Brown, a Salvation Army style reformer conned into a weekend fling in Havana by gambler Sky Masterson.

She loved the rehearsals for that film, she remembered in 1988, “especially the dancing routines with Marlon trying not to step on me and choreographer Michael Kidd looking very worried.”

“I got to sing because Sam Goldwyn said, ‘You might as well wreck it with your own voice than somebody else’s.”’

By the 1970s, the lead roles in film had ended, but JEAN continued to work regularly on stage.

She also appeared in numerous TV movies and miniseries, including a 1991 version of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, in which she played Miss Havisham this time.

The careers of both Ms. Simmons and her husband STEWART GRANGER had flourished in the 50s – he as a swashbuckler, she as a charming demure (but very glamorous) presence. But long absences on film locations strained their relationship and they divorced in 1960. They had a daughter Tracy.

Shortly after her divorce, JEAN married RICHARD BROOKS, who directed her in ELMER GANTRY and THE HAPPY ENDING. They had a daughter named Kate and divorced in 1977.

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