Jean Simmons, who has died aged 80, had a bounteous moment, early in her career, when she seemed the likely casting for every exotic or magical female role. It passed, as she got out of her teens, but then for the best part of 15 years, in Britain and America, she was a valued actress whose generally proper, if not patrician, manner had an intriguing way of conflicting with her large, saucy eyes and a mouth that began to turn up at the corners as she imagined mischief — or more than her movies had in their scripts. Even in the age of Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor , she was an authentic beauty. And there were always hints that the lady might be very sexy. But nothing worked out smoothly, and it is somehow typical of Simmons that her most astonishing work — in Angel Face — is not very well known. At first, she was a schoolgirl given her dream.
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At age 14, soon after she entered the Aida Foster School of Dancing, Simmons was persuaded by a talent scout to audition for what would be her debut film role, in Give Us the Moon In she went to the United States to begin her Hollywood film career, and six years later she became a U. She married the actor Stewart Granger in After their divorce in , she married the director and writer Richard Brooks ; the couple divorced in Simmons earned a second Academy Award nomination, for best actress, for The Happy Ending , written and directed by Brooks. Simmons made her television debut in Soldier in Love and in the late s began appearing chiefly in television movies. Print Cite. Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites.
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As a year-old dance student, she was plucked from her school to play Margaret Lockwood 's precocious sister in Give Us the Moon , and she went on to make a name for herself in such major British productions as Caesar and Cleopatra , Great Expectations as the spoiled, selfish Estella , Black Narcissus as a sultry native beauty , Hamlet playing Ophelia to Laurence Olivier 's great Dane and earning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination , The Blue Lagoon and So Long at the Fair , among others. Simmons divorced Granger in and almost immediately married writer-director Richard Brooks , who cast her as Sister Sharon opposite Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry , a memorable adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel. Off the screen for a few years, Jean captivated moviegoers with a brilliant performance as the mother in All the Way Home , a literate, tasteful adaptation of James Agee 's "A Death in the Family". Jean continued making films well into the s.