Saturday, January 23, 2010

RIP Jean Simmons

Sad to report that the actress who supplied the beating heart of Spartacus (pictured) has passed into legend herself. I always liked her, and my dad recently said she was one of his favorites. Despite many great credits, two Oscar nominations (for her Ophelia in Olivier's 1948 Hamlet, and 1969's The Happy Ending, as a desperate housewife directed by her then-husband Richard Brooks), and an Emmy (for The Thorn Birds) I think she was undervalued, and finding suitable parts was a challenge once her heyday had passed. But look at that resume, in major films and minor diversions: David Lean's Great Expectations, bewitching in Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus, the original Blue Lagoon, So Long at the Fair, malevolent and able to put a scare into Robert Mitchum in Otto Preminger's Angel Face, George Cukor's The Actress, holding unwieldy pictures like The Robe, Guys and Dolls, and The Big Country together with her warmth and good sense, Brooks' Elmer Gantry. All the Way Home and Home Before Dark would be welcome to see.

It was great to see her in 1995's How to Make an American Quilt after a film hiatus and to hear her voice again in the English-language version of Howl's Moving Castle. Bby chance I recently saw her in several episodes of the short-lived revival of TV's Dark Shadows. Big screen or small, she was one English rose who was always in bloom.

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