Hollywood legend ethereal British beauty, star Jean Simmons, passes at 80 Friday evening from lung cancer.
A stunning beauty at 14, she got her first break when legendary director David Lean gave her the breakthrough part of Estella, Miss Havisham’s companion in the 1946 version of Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations.
Wowing auds and crix alike, Jean followed with the exotic Black Narcissus and then Sir Laurence Oliver’s Hamlet, in which Jean dazzled as the mad beauty Ophelia, receiving her first of many Oscar noms for best supporting actress.
Simmons left the UK for Tinsel Town in 1950 with then future hubby action star Stewart Granger who were befriended by reclusive aviation/film tycoon Howard Hughes, who arranged a surprise wedding for them.
But Jean soon discovered that Hughes had bought her contract “owning her like a piece of meat,” she said in an interview.
After appearing in a string of so-so flicks, she fought Hughes for control and won her freedom in court to appear in whatever film she wanted.
Becoming a Hollywood notable, Jean romanced Gregory Peck in The Big County, gave Burt Lancaster’s con man a thorough Christian going -over in Elmer Gantry and sang and dance in musical Guys and Dolls reforming Marlon Brando’s Runyonesque gambler.
Other films included Spartacus, This Earth is Mine with Rock Hudson, Rough Night in Jericho with Dean Martin, Angel Face, Queen Bess and The Robe – the first epic filmed in Cinemascope.
In her later career Jean appeared mostly on TV in such notables as toplining a remake of Dark Shadows as Elizabeth Stoddard-Collins, as well as guesting on Murder She Wrote, Xena: Warrior Princess and In the Heat of the Night.
When married to Grangrer she had a daughter Kate. Simmons later married her Elmer Gantry director Richard Brooks and produced a daughter, Tracy.
Au voir Jean your undefinable beauty will be missed by your legion of fans.