January 20, 2017

Actress Jean Simmons dies at 80

Actress Jean Simmons, an Emmy Award winner whose career included roles in “Hamlet” and “Spartacus,” died in California Friday. She was 80.

Simmons, who earned two Oscar nominations during a long career that spanned seven decades, died at her home in Santa Monica after losing a battle to lung cancer.

Although she worked mostly in television in her later years, appearing in the hit 1983 mini-series “The Thorn Birds,” for which she obtained an Emmy Award, Simmons gained fame in the 1950s and 1960s after starring in several hit films.

Her career took off after she appeared as the doomed Ophelia opposite Laurence Olivier in the legendary actor’s 1948 production of “Hamlet.” Simmons’s performance earned her the first of two Academy Award nominations.

Among her notable early roles were playing the young Estella in David Lean’s classic 1946 adaptation of “Great Expectations.” That was followed by the exotic “Black Narcissus,” and then Olivier’s Oscar-winning “Hamlet” in 1948, for which Simmons was nominated as best supporting actress.

She would be nominated for another Oscar, for best actress for 1969′s “The Happy Ending,” before moving largely to television roles in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

Her other notable films included “Elmer Gantry” (with Burt Lancaster), “Until They Sail” (with Newman), “The Big Country” (Peck), “Spartacus,” (Douglas), “This Earth Is Mine” (Rock Hudson), “All the Way Home” (Robert Preston), “Mister Buddwing” (James Garner) and “Rough Night in Jericho” (Dean Martin).

In 1956, she became a U.S. citizen and while married to Granger lived on an Arizona ranch.
In 1986, she underwent treatment for alcoholism at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage. “All I can say is thank God for Mrs. Ford,” Simmons said in the People interview.

For years, she lived in a Santa Monica home that she decorated in a style she once described as “early mishmash.”

“It was extraordinary for a Cockney kid from Cricklewood to have this happen,” she said in a 1989 Times interview as she expressed amazement over the life she had lived. “If I hadn’t gone to that dancing school, I would have married and had children like my mum and had a normal life.

“My career has had a lot of ups and downs,” she said, “but basically it has been wonderful.”

Copyright 2010 AFP

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