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Jean Merilyn Simmons, OBE (born 31 January 1929) is an English actress. Simmons was named an Officer in the Order of the British Empire in 2003.


Born in Lower Hollowaymarker, London, England, to Charles Simmons and his wife Winifred (Loveland) Simmons, Jean Simmons began acting at the age of 14. During WWII, the Simmons family had been evacuated to Winscombemarker in Somerset. Her father, a physical education teacher (who had represented Great Britain in the 1912 Summer Olympics), taught briefly at Sidcot Schoolmarker, and sometime during this period Jean followed her older sister on to the village stage and sang songs like 'Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow'. Returning to London and just enrolled at the Aida Foster School of Dance, she was talent-spotted by the director Val Guest, who cast her in the Margaret Lockwood vehicle Give us the Moon. Prior to moving to Hollywood, she played the young Estella in David Lean's version of Great Expectations (1946) and Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948). It was the experience of working on Great Expectations that caused her to pursue an acting career more seriously:
"I thought acting was just a lark, meeting all those exciting movie stars, and getting £5 a day which was lovely because we needed the money.
But I figured I'd just go off and get married and have children like my mother.
It was working with David Lean that convinced me to go on."

Playing Ophelia in Olivier's Hamlet made her a star, though she was already well-known for her work in other British films, including her first starring role in the film adaptation of Uncle Silas. Olivier offered her the chance to work and study at the Bristol Old Vicmarker, advising her to play anything they threw at her to get experience, but it was not to be. She was under contract to the Rank Organisation. In 1950 Britain lost their young star to America, and Rank sold her to Howard Hughes who then owned the RKO studio.

In 1950, she married the English actor Stewart Granger, with whom she appeared in several films, successfully making the transition to an American career. She made four films for Hughes, including Angel Face, directed by Otto Preminger. In 1953 she starred alongside Spencer Tracy in The Actress, a film that is one of her personal favourites. Among the many films she appeared in during this period were The Robe (1953), The Egyptian (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Big Country (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960), (directed by her second husband, Richard Brooks), Spartacus (1960), and The Happy Ending, again directed by Brooks and for which she received her second Oscar nomination.

By the 1970s, Simmons turned her focus to stage and television acting. She toured the United States in the well-reviewed A Little Night Music, then took the show to London, and thus originated the role of Desirée Armfeldt on the West Endmarker. Doing the show for three years, she said she never tired of Stephen Sondheim's music; "No matter how tired or off you felt, the music would just pick you up." For her appearance in the mini-series The Thorn Birds, she won an Emmy Award. In 1985 and 1986 she appeared in North & South. In 1988 she starred in The Dawning with Anthony Hopkins and Hugh Grant and in 1989 she again starred in a miniseries, this time a version of Great Expectations, in which she played the role of Miss Havisham, Estella's adoptive mother. Simmons made a late career appearance in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Drumhead" as a witch-hunt-inspiring investigator named Admiral Norah Satie.

Personal life

She was married twice: in 1950 to Stewart Granger, divorcing in 1960, and in 1960 to director Richard Brooks, divorcing in 1977. Both men were significantly older than Simmons but she has denied she was looking for a father figure. Her father had died when she was just sixteen but she's said: "They were really nothing like my father at all. My father was a gentle, soft-spoken man. My husbands were much noisier and much more opinionated ... it's really nothing to do with age ... it's to do with what's there - the twinkle and sense of humour." And in a 1984 interview, given in Copenhagen at the time she was shooting the film Yellow Pages, she had elaborated slightly on her marriages. "It may be simplistic, but you could sum up my two marriages by saying that, when I wanted to be a wife, Jimmy (Stewart Granger) would say:'I just want you to be pretty.' And when I wanted to cook, Richard would say: ' Forget the cooking. You've been trained to act - so act!' Most people thought I was helpless - a clinger and a butterfly - during my first marriage. It was Richard Brooks who saw what was wrong and tried to make me stand on my own two feet. I'd whine : 'I'm afraid.' And he'd say: 'Never be afraid to fail. Every time you get up in the morning, you are ahead." She has two daughters, Tracy Granger (born 1956) and Kate Brooks, one by each marriage, - their names bear witness to Simmons' friendship with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Simmons moved to the East Coast in the late 1970s, briefly renting a home in the Litchfield County town of New Milford, Connecticut, and later to Santa Monica, California.


Awards and nominations

  • Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Series/Special, The Thorn Birds (1983)
  • Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy Actress, Guys and Dolls (1956)



  1. Picturegoer 2 August 1947 'Are They Being Fair To Jean Simmons?'
  2. as told to Gloria Hunniford in 'Sunday, Sunday' television interview LWT, Autumn 1985
  3. Val Guest So You Want to be in Pictures p.58.ISBN 1-90311-115-3
  4. Woman's Weekly, Christmas 1989
  5. Sondheim Guide - A Little Night Music
  6. "Woman's Weekly Christmas 1989"

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