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In 1959, two weeks into filming on Kirk
Douglas' Roman slave rebellion epic SPARTACUS, Simmons signed on to replace
German actress Sabine Bethmann as Spartacus' wife Varinia. Also featuring Laurence Olivier,
Peter Ustinov (both with Simmons at right), Charles
Laughton and Tony Curtis, the film earned four Oscars and was a box-office smash.
Once again, amidst award-winning sets, epic battle
sequences, and heavy-weight performances from her male co-stars, Simmons
manages to hold her own in SPARTACUS. Her onscreen chemistry with
Douglas (left) proved magnetic, and her warm, heartfelt performance added a
much-needed touch of humanity to the film.
Music Clips from SPARTACUS (1960):
Theme" (clip) by Alex North (a .MP3 file courtesy MCA
to Battle" (clip) by Alex North (a .MP3 file courtesy MCA
(For help opening these files, visit the plug-ins
In one of the most impressive performances of her
career, Simmons next took on the role of Sister Sharon Falconer, a 1920s Midwestern
evangelist whose revival circuit is joined by Burt
Lancaster, a drunk, skirt- chasing, traveling salesman, in ELMER GANTRY, the
highly controversial Best Picture nominee of 1960.
Lancaster (as the title character) takes over Sister Sharon's flock with his gift of oratory
in an Oscar- winning performance, but Simmons (unjustly overlooked for a
nomination) again holds her own as the innocent, devoted evangelist
tempted to ruin by Gantry's excesses. Also featuring Shirley
Jones, this film was made before MPAA film ratings, but United
Artists advised exhibitors not to admit anyone under sixteen due to
what it deemed the "adult nature" of the film. Further, the issues it
raises continue to be potent today.
Also in 1960, Simmons joined Cary Grant, Deborah
Kerr and Robert Mitchum
in THE GRASS IS GREENER, a delightful drawing room comedy about an
American tourist (Mitchum)
who threatens to break up the marriage of an aristocratic English couple (Grant
Kerr) when he takes a guided tour of their castle. Simmons is a
delight as Kerr's flighty, flippant,
flirtatious best friend who attempts to counsel her about her new-found
romance. The film itself is obviously adapted from a play, but the
lines are so fun one hardly notices the staginess.
Video Clip from THE GRASS IS GREENER (1960):
the Original Theatrical Trailer
for THE GRASS IS GREENER (a .MOV file courtesy AMC).
(For help opening this file, visit the plug-ins
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