Jean Merilyn Simmons, OBE (31 January 1929 – 22 January 2010) was an English actress and singer. One of J. Arthur Rank’s “well-spoken young starlets”, she appeared predominantly in films, beginning with those made in Great Britain during and after the Second World War, followed mainly by Hollywood films from 1950 onwards
Simmons was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Hamlet (1948), and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for Guys and Dolls (1955). Other notable film appearances included Young Bess (1953), The Robe (1953), Elmer Gantry (1960), Spartacus (1960), and the 1969 film The Happy Ending, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won an Emmy Award for the 1983 miniseries The Thorn Birds.
In 1950, she married actor Stewart Granger, and that same year, starred in the Frank Sinatra/Marlon Brando musical Guys and Dolls (1955); she used her own singing voice and earned her first Golden Globe Award. Simmons divorced Granger in 1960 and almost immediately married writer-director Richard Brooks, who cast her as Sister Sharon opposite Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry (1960), a memorable adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel. That same year, she co-starred with Kirk Douglas in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960) and played a would-be homewrecker opposite Cary Grant in The Grass Is Greener (1960).
Off the screen for a few years, Jean captivated moviegoers with a brilliant performance as the mother in All the Way Home (1963), a literate, tasteful adaptation of James Agee’s “A Death in the Family”. However, after that, she found quality projects somewhat harder to come by, and took work in Life at the Top (1965), Mister Buddwing (1966), Divorce American Style (1967), Rough Night in Jericho (1967), The Happy Ending (1969) (a Richard Brooks film for which she was again Oscar-nominated, this time as Best Actress).
Jean continued making films well into the 1970s. In the 1980s, she appeared mainly in television miniseries, such as North and South (1985) and The Thorn Birds (1983). She made a comeback to films in 1995 in How to Make an American Quilt (1995) co-starring Winona Ryder and Anne Bancroft, and most recently played the elderly Sophie in the English version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). She now resided in Santa Monica, California, with her dog, Mr. Gates, and her two cats, Adisson and Megan. Jean Simmons died of lung cancer on January 22, 2010, nine days before her 81st birthday.
Classic Film Noir