from the trailer for Young Bess (1953)
|Born||Jean Merilyn Simmons
January 31, 1929
Lower Holloway, London, England, UK
|Died||January 22, 2010 (aged 80)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Stewart Granger (1950-1960)
Richard Brooks (1960-1977)
Jean Merilyn Simmons, OBE (January 31, 1929 – January 22, 2010) was an English actress who later also 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.
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 elder sister on to the village stage and sang songs such as "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."
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. In 2004, Simmons voiced the lead-role of Sophie in the English dub of Howl's Moving Castle.
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 1956) 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, nine days before her 81st birthday. 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.
In 2005, Simmons signed a petition to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair asking him to not to upgrade cannabis from a class C drug to a class B.
|Give us the Moon||Heidi|
|Mr. Emmanuel||Sally Cooper||Billed as Jean Simmonds|
|1945||Kiss the Bride Goodbye||Molly Dodd|
|Meet Sexton Blake||Eva Watkins|
|The Way to the Stars||A singer|
|Caesar and Cleopatra||harpist|
|1946||Great Expectations||Estella as a girl|
|1947||The Woman in the Hall||Jay|
|Uncle Silas||Caroline Ruthyn|
|Hungry Hill||Jane Brodrick|
|1948||Hamlet||Ophelia||Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1949||The Blue Lagoon||Emmeline Foster|
|Adam and Evelyne||Evelyne Kirby|
|1950||So Long at the Fair||Vicky Barton|
|Cage of Gold||Judith Moray|
|Trio: "Sanatorium"||Evie Bishop|
|1951||The Clouded Yellow||Sophie Malraux|
|1952||Angel Face||Diane Tremayne|
|Androcles and the Lion||Lavinia|
|1953||Young Bess||Princess Elizabeth|
|Affair with a Stranger||Carolyn Parker|
|The Actress||Ruth Gordon Jones|
|1954||She Couldn't Say No
(AKA Beautiful but Dangerous )
|Demetrius and the Gladiators||Diana||Appeared in a clip from The Robe|
|A Bullet Is Waiting||Cally Canham|
|1955||Footsteps in the Fog||Lily Watkins|
|Guys and Dolls||Sister Sarah Brown||Awarded — Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy Actress
Nominated — BAFTA for Best Actress
|1956||Hilda Crane||Hilda Crane|
|1957||This Could Be the Night||Anne Leeds||Nominated — Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy Actress|
|Until They Sail (1957)||Barbara Leslie Forbes|
|1958||The Big Country||Julie Maragon|
|Home Before Dark||Charlotte Bronn||Nominated — Golden Globe for Best Drama Actress|
|1959||This Earth Is Mine||Elizabeth Rambeau|
|1960||Elmer Gantry||Sharon Falconer||Nominated — BAFTA for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe for Best Drama Actress
|The Grass Is Greener||Hattie Durant|
|1963||All the Way Home||Mary Follett|
|1965||Life at the Top||Susan Lampton|
|1966||Mister Buddwing (1966)||The Blonde|
|1967||Divorce American Style||Nancy Downes|
|Rough Night in Jericho||Molly Lang|
|1969||The Happy Ending||Mary Spencer||Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress|
|1971||Say Hello to Yesterday||Woman|
|1975||Mr. Sycamore||Estelle Benbow|
|1978||The Dain Curse (TV)||Aaronia Haldorn|
|1979||Beggarman, Thief (TV)||Gretchen Jordache Burke|
|1981||A Small Killing (TV)||Margaret Lawrence|
|1983||The Thorn Birds (TV)||Fee Cleary||Awarded — Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress|
|1984||December Flower (TV)||Etta Marsh|
|1985||Midas Valley (TV)||Molly Hammond|
|North and South||Clarissa Gault Main|
|1986||North and South Book II||Clarissa Gault Main|
|1987||Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love||Laura Robertson |
|1988||Yellow Pages||Maxine de la Hunt|
|The Dawning||Aunt Mary|
|1989||Great Expectations||Miss Havisham|
|Murder She Wrote
Episode: "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall"
|Nominated — Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress, Drama Series|
|1991||Star Trek: The Next Generation
Episode: "The Drumhead"
|Rear Admiral Norah Satie|
|Dark Shadows||Elizabeth Collins Stoddard / Naomi Collins|
|They Do It with Mirrors||Carrie-Louise Serrocold|
|1995||How to Make an American Quilt||Em Reed|
|Daisies in December||Katherine Palmer|
|2001||Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within||Council Member 2 (voice)|
|2003||Winter Solstice||Countess Lucinda Rhives||Released in Germany as Wintersonne|
|2004||Jean Simmons: Rose of England||Herself|
|Howl's Moving Castle||Grandma Sophie (voice)|
|2005||Thru the Moebius Strip||Shepway (voice)|
|2009||Shadows in the Sun||Hannah |
Jean Simmons was born in London, England. She began her acting career very young, and appeared in films like David Lean's Great Expectations (1946) and Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948) while still a teenager.
As a very promising young actress, she came to Hollywood in 1950, where she appeared in such films as The Robe (1953), Young Bess (1953), Désirée (1954), The Egyptian (1954), The Big Country (1958), Spartacus (1960), Elmer Gantry (1960), Life at the Top (1965), A Rough Night in Jericho (1967), etc.
In the 1970s, she gradually turned to television work, notably in the highly successful miniseries The Thorn Birds (1983), for which she won an Emmy Award for best supporting actress, and North and South (1985).
Miss Simmons was married twice. Her first was to actor Stewart Granger from 1950 to 1960, with whom she had a daughter, Tracy (born 1956). The second was to director Richard Brooks from 1960 to 1977, with whom she had a second daughter, Kate (born 1961). Both marriages ended by divorce.