Jean Simmons

  1. Hazel Court, Holiday Camp, 1946. Tested for Joan Huggett in  the first of what became  a record-breaking UK series about the Huggett family: Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrispn and  three daughters (including Petula Clark at 15). Ken  Annakin directed all four films – not the ones that influenced George Lucas when creating Star Wars… hence Annakijn Skywalker…  

  2. Yvonne De Carlo, Hotel Sahara , 1950.   The WWII desert comedy planned for Dirk Bogarde and Jean  churned into   a  mess for Peter Ustinov and Yvonne De Carlo – taking a UK break fromher usual Hollywood thrillers and  Westerns.  The   Canadian sang her own  songs but her belly-dance was  cut in America!

  3. Shelley Winters, Winchester ’73, 1950.    At half his age, she was a tad young to be James Stewart’s romantic interest. It was another two years before her Hollywood career truly began.
  4. Mala Powers, Cyrano De Bergerac, 1950.    She was Roxanne opposite Orson Welles as Cyrano, director and writer (with Ben Hecht) until producer Alexander Korda sold it all to Columbia for $150,000 – “hard currency, my dear Orson.”
  5. Marilyn Monroe, All About Eve, 1950.
  6. Ann Blyth, I’ll Never Forget You (UK: The House in the Square),  1950.    Five years earlier, the lively new Brit was seen for Tyrone Power’s  co-star –  with Carol Reed directing the time-travel romance.  Hmm…  Finished up as Power and a Blyth spirit, helmed by Roy Ward Baker.  So it goes. 
  7. Deborah Kerr, The Prisoner of Zenda, 1951.  MGM used the same 1936 script, score and most of the camera angles.  With slight variations.  Simmons (wed to the hero Stewart Granger) and Eleanor Parker lost Princess Flavia to the more regal Kerr. 
  8. Elizabeth Taylor, Ivanhoe, 1952.     Metro decreed only a Brit could be Rebecca. And  the studio had its pick of them: Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons, Liz Taylor.

  9. Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday, 1953.
    Jean Simmons had the dream role when, without telling her, The  Rank Organisation literally sold her to RKO mogul Howard Hughes and  he  would not, as usual, let  anyone else use any of his contracted people. To slip his handcuffs, Simmons and husband Stewart Granger did the undoble. They sued Hughes… and won!  (Frank Capra (and George Stevens) wanted Liz Taylor, William Wyler liked Suzanne Cloutier (the future Mrs Peter Ustinov)  – oh, and Elizabeth Taylor, future Mrs. Everybody Elseor the runaway Princess Ann.   A further 28 actresses were seen, the good, bad and risible – like the current sex-bombs Yvonne De Carlo Diana Dors, Gina Lollobrigida, Sylvana Mangano, Shelley Winters.  Apart from, perhaps, Vanessa Brown, Mona Freeman and Wanda Hendrix (even though  her real name as Dixie), the Hollywood hopefuls  – singer Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt), Jeanne Crain, Nina Foch, Janet Leigh, Joan Leslie, June Lockhart, Dorothy Malone, Patricia Neal, Barbara Rush – were soon discarded, lacking the stature of Euro-royalty. Idem for the Euros – Swedish Bibi Andersson, and the French Capucine, Leslie Caron, Jeanne Moreau. Which left several perfect Brits Claire Bloom, Joan Collins, Glynis Johns, Kay Kendall, Deborah Kerr, Angela Lansbury, Moira Shearer, and, of course, Audrey, I wanted  to hate you,” Jean told her.  “I have to tell you I wouldn’t have been half as good. You’re just wonderful!”

  10. Elizabeth Taylor, Elephant Walk, 1953.  After a month’s location in what was is now Sri Lanka, Vivien Leigh suffered  a breakdown.  Working with her lover, Peter Finch, in a role refused by her husband, Laurence Olivier (who then recommended Finch!) sure  didn’t help her brittle mental condition. SOS calls were sent out to Simmons, Taylor and Claire Bloom.  Liz had been first choice for the film – but pregnant.  Leigh remained  visible in many of the long shots  and when she turned for her close-up – bingo, it’s Liz!
  11. Deborah Kerr,  The End of the Affair, 1954.  Simmons and Gregory Peck were the intended, wartime loversin the film of Graham Greene’s novel, shot in  the UK from June 29 to September 10 1954. They became Kerr and Van Johnson (why not Sonny Tufts?!!) – and in  the 1999 re-make, Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes.  Never the right couple! 

  12. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.   
  13. Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, 1955.   MGM went through an odd mix of actresses and ages! (from Piper Laurie at 23 to Jane Wyman at 38) to play the 30s’ alcoholic singer Lilian Roth.  Piper Laurie, 22; Grace Kelly (!) and  Jean Simmons, 25; Janet Leigh, 27; Jane Russell, 33; and Jane Wyman, like Allyson and Hayward, 37.. Director Charles Walters quit when his choice of June Allyson (no, really!) was rejected (obviously) while Ava Gardner stopped trying to win another 30s chanteuse, Ruth  Etting  in  Love Me or Leave  Me,  to battle  for Roth. After winning Best Actress at the 1956 Cannes festival, Hayward won her fourth Oscar nomination. She won one for  the similar sounding but way heavier I Want to Live! about the 1955 gas chamber execution of alleged killer Barbara Graham. Said her producer Walter Wanger: ‘Thank goodness, we can all relax, Susie’s won the Oscar she has been chasing for 20 years.” 22; Grace Kelly (!) and  Jean Simmons, 25; Janet Leigh, 27 ; Jane Russell, 33; and Jane Wyman, like Allyson and Hayward, 37. On Oscarnight, Hayward lost a fourth time.
  14. Dana Wynter, D-Day the Sixth of June, 1956.    Or 1944, to be precise. And that is the only thing that is, as D-Day is used not as in The Longest Day, much less Searching For Private Ryan, but as mere backdrop for a soppy tale of two Allies officers Richard Todd and  Robert Taylor – in love with the same dame.  Dana said  the “unresolved love story” was the favourite  of her  83 screen roles.  But Todd, who took part  in  the real D-Day, should have known better. This soap was no tribute  to his fallen comrades. 
  15. Kay Kendall, Les Girls,  1956.   Original line-up for Gene Kelly’s classy MGMovie finale was Leslie Caron, Simmons and Cyd Charisse  They became: Mitzi Gaynor,  Kay Kendall and Taina Elg.  Carol Haney was also up for the Kendall’s  kiss-and-tell writer, Lady Sybil Wren.
  16. Heather Sears,  The Story of  Esther Costello,  1956.    Sam Fuller was due  to writer-direct  in 1955 `but could never obtain any of the actresses on his short-list for the mute and blind heroine: Simmons, Joan Collins, Susan Strasberg,  Natalie Wood.  Romulus made it a UK film and Sears won the British Academy Best Actress Award.  Joan Crawford played her wealthy protector.
  17. Anita Ekberg, Valerie, 1956.      A year earlier, The Hollywood Reporter said that Simmons had won the lead in the Rashamon-esque Western. But when push came to shove, it was Ekberg spilling out of Simmons’ costumes. If the idea was to cash in on the much headlined marriage of Ekberg and her wooden UK co-star, Anthony Steel, posters did not agree… “ANITA EKBERG is the hottest tornado that ever ripped through the West as Valerie.”
  18. Susan Strasberg, Stage Struck, 1957.  The succulent Brit was selected for Eva – then switched to another movie, Dr Spock, which was never made! Strasberg complained that Susan’s  work was hampered by her Method-teacher father,  Lee Strasberg, forever  visiting the set. (She agreed). 
  19. Carroll Baker, The Miracle, 1959.    Director Irving Rapper wanted Jean. She was keen on the Napoleonic venture – suggesting, of course, husband Stewart Granger,  as her  co-star.  No, said Rapper, and lost  both of them.
  20. Joan Collins, Seven Thieves, 1959.  Inbetween Anne Bancroft’s stripper and  thieves Richard Widmark, Fredric March becoming   Joan Collins, Rod Steiger and Edward G Robinson – Jean Simmons and her husband, Stewart Granger, were booked  to heist  a Monaco casino. Except their thunder was totally stolen by Frank Sinatra’s Clan as Ocean’s Eleven… robbing five Vegas casinos in one night.
  21. Haya Harareet, Ben-Hur, 1959.    Stewart Granger’s producer pal, Sam Zimbalist,   asked him to be Messala – and, to sweeten the deal, his wife could have the female lead.  By  the time the Grangers agreed, it was too late – the   film that might have saved their marriage had passed them by. 
  22. Janette  Scott, The Devil’s Disciple, 1959.      Lost out as the Reverend Burt Lancaster’s wife, desired by the titular Kirk Duglas, in a total re-write of George Bernard Shaw. Douglas – co-producing with Lancaster – kept Simmons on ice for his next epic. Spartacus.
  23. Kim Novak, Middle of the Night, 1959.  Broadway and TV writer Paddy Chayefsky adapted his play for his second movie (after The Bachelor Party, 1956). He wrote it Marilyn.  She passed.  (Because  she  – and husband Arthur  Miller – loathed  his 1957 Goddess film, based on her rise and fall – which he foolishly tried to deny). How about Elizabeth Taylor?  She passed.  OK, Jean Simmons?  No, she was (like Liz) part of MGM.   As this was a Columbia production, that meant Novak. Whose real name was… Marilyn.
  24. Shirley Jones, A Ticklish Affair, 1963.    Or Moon Walk, when Simmons was due to be  the young widow  getting an US Navy once-over when one of her three sons accidentally issues a distress call in  Morse code.
  25. Deborah Kerr, The Grass Is Greener, 1960.     Cary Grant wanted her for Lady Hilary, his screen wife.  Jean was in the midst of divorcing Stewart Granger and asked Cary  if a smaller  role was available. There was – Hilary’s confidant, Hattie.  Bond and Superman scenarist Tom Maniewicz said of Simmons: “She seemed to have an affinity for men who didn’t treat her  well” – referring not to himself but Stewart Granger  and director Richard Brooks.
  26. Leslie Caron, The L-Shaped Room, 1962.     Like the character, she was really pregnant.
  27. Joanna Dunham, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1964.   First announced for Mary Magdalene when Richard Burton was offered Jesus (a year after refusing it in King of Kings). The two Brits had already suffered one Schmollywood epic (and the obligatory affair), The Robe, 1952. 
  28. Joan Hackett, Will Penny, 1967.     Unavailable. “The woman should be plain, which Jean (God knows) is not,” Charlton Heston noted in his diary, “but she’s a helluva good actress, no matter what [Paramount’s] Bob Evans thinks.”  
  29. Jessica Walter, Pro (UK: Number One), 1967.     Chuck Heston’s diary alludes to Simmons being suggested “through some agent’s shennanigans of the kind  that amaze me, and that [his agent Herman] Citron wouldn’t dream of condoning…  She’d be good… if it’s at last to be actually submitted to her.”
  30. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.  
  31. Kim Hunter, Planet of the Apes, 1967.

  32. Noel Coward, Boom,  1968.      For the Witch of Capri…  in a terrible version (for the Burtons) of Tennessee Williams much flawed The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. (No wonder!). Chicago critic Roger Ebert said: “It  isn’t successful, it doesn’t work, but so much money and brute energy were lavished on the production that it’s fun to sit there and watch.”
  33. Geneviève Bujold, Anne of a Thousand Days, 1969.    Before Hal Wallis won the rights to Maxwell Anderson’s 1948 Broadway play, the BBC tried to mount a TV production in 1957, when trying to woo Peter Sellers into… well, anything, including Henry VIII. Simmons was invited to be Anne. Twenty years after the play opened, Wallis considered Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway, Olivia Hussey and Elizabeth Taylor for the queen who lost her head over Henry.
  34. Nanette Newman, The Raging Moon, 1971.    Scenarist Bryan Forbes was directing… so obviously his star would be his wife.  
  35. Piper Laurie, Tim, Australia, 1979.    Producer Michel Pate (the Hollywood actor returned home) talked to Jean about being the friend of a newcomer called… Mel Gibson.
  36. Judi Dench, As Times Goes By, TV, 1992-2005.   Dame Judi and Geoffrey Palmer made an excellent late-age couple in the BBComedy series… repeated more often  than  even Dad’s Army! .


 Birth year: 1929Death year: 2010Other name: Casting Calls:  36