Actress. Born January 31, 1929, in London, England. Simmons made an instant and indelible impression with an early screen appearance in the war drama The Way to the Stars (1945). The following year, she landed the star-making role of the young Estella in Great Expectations. Impressed with her screen presence, Laurence Olivier commissioned Simmons to play Ophelia in his classic version of Hamlet (1948)—a role for which she won an Academy Award nomination.
In 1950, after her film contract was sold to Howard Hughes, Simmons moved to Hollywood. Shortly after her arrival, she married fellow British actor Stewart Granger. During the 1950s, Simmons' career flourished and she was cast opposite such A-list actors as Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls (1955), Paul Newman in Until They Sail (1957), and Gregory Peck in The Big Country (1958).
After divorcing Granger, in 1960, Simmons wed director Richard Brooks. Later that year, Brooks cast her opposite Burt Lancaster in the acclaimed film adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ novel Elmer Gantry. Throughout the 1960s, Simmons’ projects ranged from comedies like The Grass in Greener (1960) with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr to Westerns like Rough Night in Jericho (1967) with Dean Martin. In 1969, she received an Oscar nomination for her performance as a suicidal suburban housewife in The Happy Ending.
After a handful of forgettable films during the 1970s, Simmons turned her attention toward television work, appearing in the epic miniseries The Thorn Birds (1983)—for which she won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress—and North and South(1985). Simmons’ most recent film appearance was in the coming-of-age drama How to Make an American Quilt (1995), which paired her with an ensemble cast that included Anne Bancroft, Maya Angelou, Kate Nelligan and Ellen Burstyn.
BACK TO JEAN SIMMONS