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Jean Simmons

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Unfortunately for Simmons, 20th-Century Fox seemed very enamored with the costume drama genre, and in 1954, cast her in two more.  THE EGYPTIAN features Simmons as a tavern maid in love with a young physician (Edmund Purdom) who witnesses the emergence of monotheism in Egypt centuries before the birth of Christ.

Music Clips from THE EGYPTIAN (1954):

Click here"Prelude" (clip) by Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann (a .MP3 file).
Click here"The Ruins" (clip) by Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann (a .MP3 file).

(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins page.)

Simmons and Marlon Brando in DESIREE

DESIRÉE (1954), another of Fox's DeLuxe color Cinemascope costumers, is the story of the rise and fall of Napoleon (played by Marlon Brando, left). The film features Simmons as the title character, a seamstress beloved by the emperor, but who marries another man.  It earned Oscar nominations for art-set direction and costume design, and it is for these and other elements of its elaborate production that it is best remembered.


As a related aside, it appears that Jean Simmons co-holds two Academy Award records.  First, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Simmons has appeared in more films to receive Academy Award nominations for their art-set direction (10) than any other actors or actresses.  At least, I can't find anyone else with a record to match.  Second, to the best of my knowledge, only actresses Elizabeth Taylor and Deborah Kerr have appeared in as many films with Oscar-nominated costumes (8) as Simmons.  (Charlton Heston wins this category on the actor's side however, with 11 nominations.)  

This information may appear trivial, but it actually demonstrates just how many significant, large-budget films Simmons has appeared in over the course of her career, and it gives a little insight into her reputation as an actress.  Some of these pictures may have been short on plot or characterization, but the fact that studio executives so often cast Simmons as the star of films with substantial investments in production quality (in this case, art-set direction and costumes) demonstrates the confidence the studios had in her ability to carry the storyline of a large-scale production without being overwhelmed by her surroundings.

Brando, Simmons, Sinatra and Blaine in GUYS AND DOLLS

In 1955, in an effort to move her career in a new direction, Simmons appeared with Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine (right) in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's lavish musical GUYS AND DOLLS. As missionary Sarah Brown, whom Sinatra bets that Brando (playing a no-good gambler) can't win over, Simmons did her own singing and earned "adequate" marks from critics for her dance and vocal contributions. The film version of this musical wasn't as successful as its Broadway predecessor but is still fondly remembered today.

Multimedia Clips from GUYS AND DOLLS (1955):

Click here "A Woman in Love" with Marlon Brando (a .AVI file courtesy MGM/UA).
Click here"I'll Know" (clip) sung with Marlon Brando (a .MP3 file).
Click here"A Woman in Love" (clip) sung with Marlon Brando (a .MP3 file).

(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins page.)


The following year, Simmons returned to Fox to star as the title character in HILDA CRANE (1956), the story of a twice-divorced young woman who returns to her hometown and begins relationships with two old flames, a former high school classmate (played by Guy Madison) whose mother strongly disapproves of their plans to marry, and an older French professor (played by Jean-Pierre Aumont).  Though THE MANY LOVES OF HILDA CRANE (as it was called for its UK release) was not as significant or controversial as other such small-town-revealed films like PEYTON PLACE (1957), it was commercially successful and earned praise from critics for Simmons performance.  Today the film is most notable for its surprisingly liberated and independent central character, unusual for films of mid-1950s.

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Last updated: June 09, 2011.
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