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Lower Holloway, London
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Jean Merilyn Simmons was a charming and captivating British actress who rose to prominence as one of the mid-twentieth century’s screen goddesses. In her twenties, she appeared on the covers of ‘Time’ and ‘Life’ magazines. While she was primarily featured in films produced in the United Kingdom during and after ‘World War II,’ she worked extensively in Hollywood beginning in the 1950s. She collaborated with numerous renowned directors over the course of her six-decade career, including Val Guest, David Lean, and Stanley Kubrick, and starred opposite leading actors such as Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, and Richard Burton. This elegant and talented actress made a name for herself in major motion pictures such as ‘Great Expectations,’ ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Guys and Dolls,’ and ‘The Happy Ending.’ In 1956, she won a ‘Golden Globe Award’ for her memorable performance in ‘Guys and Dolls’. She also appeared in a number of television films, including ‘Inherit the Wind’ and ‘A Small Killing,’ as well as television series such as ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘The Thorn Birds. The latter was the recipient of her ‘Primetime Emmy Awards.’ In 2003, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire for her contributions and services to film.

Childhood & Adolescence

She was born in Lower Holloway, London, on January 31, 1929, to Charles Simmons and Winifred (née Loveland) Simmons as their fourth child.

Her father was a gymnast who won a bronze medal at the 1912 Summer Olympics and later taught gymnastics and physical education.

She grew up with her three siblings Edna, Lorna, and Harold and was a very exuberant and lively child.
She attended Golders Green’s ‘Orange Hill School for Girls’.

When the ‘Second World War’ began in 1939, her family was evacuated to Winscombe, a village in North Somerset, where her father taught for a time at the ‘Sidcot School.’ Little Simmons used to accompany her elder sister and sing songs on the village stage during this time period.

In 1943, she returned to London with her sister Edna and enrolled in the ‘Ada Foster School of Dance.’ After a few weeks, filmmaker Val Guest paid a visit to the school.

He was looking for a vivacious young lady to play Heidi, Nina’s precocious younger sister, in his upcoming comedy film, ‘Give Us the Moon’ (1944). Simmons was chosen, and despite her inexperience, she impressed everyone with her implicit talent at such a young age.

Career of Jean

Between 1944 and 1945, she appeared in a number of other British films, including the most expensive British Technicolor film of the era, Gabriel Pascal’s ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ (1945). Pascal inked a seven-year deal with Simmons.

Her next notable role was as Estela in David Lean’s film ‘Great Expectations.’ On December 26, 1946, the film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel was released. According to her, this film altered her perception of filmmaking, which she had previously dismissed as ‘fun and games,’ and from that point on, she seriously considered taking up acting as a career.

Laurence Olivier decided to cast her as Ophelia in his 1948 film ‘Hamlet’ after seeing her performance as Estela. He requested thirty days of her time from the ‘Rank Organization,’ with whom she was contractually bound. The film catapulted her to international stardom and earned her her first ‘Academy Award’ nomination. She was featured on the cover of ‘Time’ magazine following the film’s release in the United States.

Other notable performances during this time period include 1947’s ‘Black Narcissus’ and ‘Uncle Silas’; and 1949’s ‘The Blue Lagoon’ and ‘Adam and Evelyne’.

Although Laurence Olivier extended her opportunities to work and study at the ‘Bristol Old Vic’ theatre company in the United Kingdom, the ‘Rank Organization’ with whom she was contractually bound opposed the idea.

In 1950, Simmons was voted the fourth most popular celebrity in the United Kingdom. In 1951, ‘Rank’ sold Simmons’ contract to American business magnate Howard Hughes, who owned the American film production and distribution company ‘RKO Pictures’ at the time.

Since the early 1950s, she has been transitioning from a predominantly British to an American film career. She starred in a number of films over the years, including ‘Angel Face’ (1952), ‘The Robe’ (1953), ‘The Egyptian’ (1954), ‘Guys and Dolls’ (1955), ‘Elmer Gantry’ (1960), and ‘All the Way Home’ (1961). (1963).

During this time period, she received numerous awards, including the ‘Golden Globe Award,’ the ‘National Board of Review Award,’ and the ‘Laurel Award.’ Her performance in her husband Richard Brooks’s drama film ‘The Happy Ending’ (1969) earned her her second ‘Academy Award’ nomination.

Following the 1970s, she shifted her focus to television and stage performances. She starred as Desiree Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music’ national tour. She starred in the musical for three years, including the production’s run in London’s West End.

In 1983, for her portrayal of Fee Cleary in the television miniseries ‘The Thorn Birds,’ she won a ‘Primetime Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.’ She also appeared in ‘North and South’ (1985), ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ (1991), ‘Dark Shadows’ (1991), and ‘In The Heat of the Night’ (1991). (1994). The Easter Promise (1975), ‘A Small Killing’ (1981), ‘Inherit the Wind’ (1988), and ‘Shadows in the Sun’ (1989) are among her television films (2009).

‘The Dawning’ (1988), in which she co-starred with Hugh Grant and Antony Hopkins, and ‘How to Make an American Quilt’ (1995), in which she co-starred with Winona Ryder, Anne Bancroft, and Ellen Burstyn.

She voiced Grandma Sophie in the 2004 Japanese animated fantasy film ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and Shepway in the Hong Kong–produced 3D-CGI feature film ‘Thru the Moebius Strip’ (2005).

Personal History and Legacies

On December 20, 1950, in Tucson, Arizona, she married English film actor Stewart Granger. She co-starred in a number of films with Granger. In 1956, the couple became citizens of the United States, and the following year, their daughter Tracy Granger was born. In 1960, they divorced.

On November 1, 1960, she married Richard Brooks, an American film director and screenwriter, for the second time. Their daughter Kate Brooks was born in 1961. In 1980, the couple divorced.

Though she lived in and owned a home in New Milford, Connecticut in the late 1970s, she eventually settled in Santa Monica permanently.

On January 22, 2010, she died at her home of lung cancer. Her cremation took place in Santa Monica, and her remains were interred in London’s ‘Highgate Cemetery.’

Humanitarian Action of Jean

Simmons, who faced her own obstacles and battled alcoholism, never shied away from speaking publicly about her own ordeal. She became a patron of ‘Release’ in 2003, a British drug and human rights charity that is the world’s oldest independent drugs charity.

In 2005, she signed a petition to then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair pleading with him not to upgrade cannabis or marijuana from a class C to a class B drug.

Estimated Net Worth

Jean is one of the wealthiest film actresses and is ranked among the most popular film actresses. Jean Simmons’ net worth is estimated to be around $14 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.