” My career has had a lot of ups and downs but basically it has been wonderful” Jean Merilyn Simmons (January 31st, 1929-January 22nd, 2010)
In 2010, TCM was proud to carry the distinct honor of recognizing Jean Simmons via their Star of the Month tribute by showcasing some of her greatest films in her career- how do you fully describe this wonderful demure British beauty? Even before her American debut, she was revered and beloved by both the British critics and film goers; Simmons was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of her outstanding contribution to film culture. She was married to the English American leading man Stewart Granger from the years 1950-1960 and then to prolific American director Richard Brooks from 1960-1977 ( the longest of her 2 marriages)- both ended in divorce and the births of 2 daughters: Tracy Granger (born Sept 1956) and Kate Brooks (born July 1961), their names bearing witness to Simmons’ friendship with fellow actors Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Jean Simmons won an Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actress as Meggie Cleary’s (Rachel Ward) mother Fee in the 1983 Emmy winning TV mini series The Thorn Birds with Richard Chamberlain and Barbara Stanwyck as well as winning the Golden Globe award for Best Musical/Comedy Actress as Sister Sarah Brown in the 1955 musical Guys and Dolls with Marlon Brando.
One of Simmons’ personal favorite films she starred in was the 1953 American comedy/drama film The Actress starring Spencer Tracy, Teresa Wright and Anthony Perkins in his film debut under the direction of George Cukor, based on Ruth Gordon’s autobiographical play Years Ago. Jean Simmons remained to become one of the most treasured, valued, venerated, and deeply appreciated actresses that any classic film fan has ever honorably paid homage to- her selfless contributions to the classic film world of the silver screen include: 1947s Black Narcissus with Sabu and close friend actress Deborah Kerr, 1948s Hamlet with legendary English stage actor Laurence Olivier, 1946s Great Expectations with John Mills and Valerie Hobson, 1949s Adam and Evelyne with future husband Stewart Granger, 1952s Angel Face with Robert Mitchum, 1958s The Big Country with Gregory Peck, Chuck Connors and Academy Award winning actor/singer Burl Ives, 1960s Elmer Gantry with Oscar winning actress Shirley Jones and Oscar winning actor Burt Lancaster and 1965s Life at the Top, the sequel to Room at the Top with Laurence Harvey and Honor Blackman- just some of the many wonderful films that Jean Simmons has starred in. In all, she made over 75 television and film appearances as well as stage productions in a career that spanned nearly 7 decades! Nine days before her 81st birthday on January 22nd, 2010, the world lost a cinematic film legend as Jean Simmons passed away from lung cancer @ her home in Santa Monica California- she was 80 years old. Though she never fully received the recognition that was rightly deserved for her, Jean Simmons gained a greater appreciation and an even deeper level of respect and admiration for classic movie fans everywhere- myself included! She gave us a profound passionate influence and incomparable reverence that attributes to a sincere heartfelt recollection of a generous and commendable cinematic starlet; someone whose venerated passion and endearing impassioned performances both on screen and on stage gave us a wonderful opportunity to remember the awe-inspiring hope and zealous life of a compassionate, dignified, distinguished and meritorious English starlet of the silver screen in Hollywood’s Golden Age of Films and Television!