Claire Bloom


  1. Jean Simmons, The Blue Lagoon, 1948.       Four years before Chaplin “discovered” her for Limelight, Claire was seen for Emmeline in the second of three versions of the shipwrecked children growing into lovers on a desert isle. Children?  Simmons was 19 and Donald Houston. 25!!! Molly Adair, the first Emmeline, was 17 in the 1922 silent version.  Hollywood finally got it right in  the 1980 ”story of natural love” –  Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins were 15 and 19.
  2. Jean Simmons, Hamlet, 1948.    For his legendary take on Shakespeare’s Danish prince – the first British sound version – Laurence Olivier spurned Claire Bloom and even his wife, Vivien Leigh (”you’re  too famous,  darling!”) and chose the  teenage Jean Simmons for Ophelia.   Far too old at 41, Olivier was never keen on following his Henry V with Hamlet (in a blonde rinse and black-and-white) but Orson Welles had already grabbed Macbeth and Othello.  Eight years later, Bloom was The Lady Anne (instead of Leigh again) opposite Olivier’s (again too old) Richard III.  Sher was  his off-screen lover –   convinced he seduced her because that is what a great actor was supposed to do!  Furthermore, Claire was the mother of Derek Jacobi’s TV Hamlet, Prince of Denmark in 1980.
  3. Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday, 1952.   Frank Capra (and George Stevens) wanted Elizabeth Taylor, William Wyler liked Suzanne Cloutier (the future Mrs Peter Ustinov) for 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, … soon gracing the Time cover, hailed by the New York Times as a “slender, elfin and wistful beauty, alternately regal and childlike” with, added Variety, a “delightful affectation in voice and delivery, controlled just enough to have charm and serve as a trademark,” (And, Indeed, it did for evermore).
  4. Dinah Sheridan, Genevieve, 1953.      The first notion (Claire,  Dirk Bogarde, Guy Middleton)  became  the classical Sheridan,  John Gregson, Kenneth More.
  5. 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 Bloom, Taylor and Jean Simmons. Liz  had been first choice for the film – but pregnant.  As per tradition, Leigh remained  visible in many of the long shots  and when she turned for her close-up – bingo, it’s Liz!
  6. Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957.       Although a trifle old at 26  for the Maid of Orleans, the tyrannical producer-director Otto Preminger was intrigued by the Chaplin discovery in Limelight, 1952, and her often Shakespearean on  both large and small screens: Caesar and Cleopatra, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet.
  7. Jeanne Moreau, Jovanka e le altre (US: Five Branded Women, Italy-US, 1959.      With their heads shaved for sleeping with German soldiers during WWII, five Yugoslav women then bravely fought for their homeland with the very partisans who had humiliated them.  Bloom was the sole Brit among suggestions for the heroines: Ava Gardner, Julie Harris,  Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Barbara Nichols, Lee Remick.  (Moreau and Barbara Bel Geddes were not shaven for the film, they  wore bald-wigs). 
  8. Yvonne Mitchell, Genghis Khan, 1964. Momentarily part of the line-up. A memorable movie for me as it began many meetings with the great Bond film stuntichian Bob Simmons. (That was also him in Sean Connery’s gun-barrel sequence).
  9. Anjanette Comer, The Loved One, 1964. “The motion picture with something to offend everyone…”  Comer, 25, won the young embalmer, Aimee Thanatogenous (“death by bleeding” in Greek) from such unlikely candidates (and ages) as Carroll Baker and Claire Bloom, 33; Diane Cilento, 32; Joy Harmon (Cool Hand Luke’s car-washer!), 24; Julie Harris, 39; Shirley MacLaine, 30; Nina Shipman, 26; and Elizabeth Taylor, 32, when Richard Burton was up for the British poet hero. Based badly on Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 satire of American funeral homes, this is the only Hollywood movie that Jayne Mansfield was cut out of!
  10. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.  

  11. Kim Hunter, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  12.  Honor Blackman,  Shalako,  1968.      She swiftly gave up being choked by her own jewels in the Bardot-Connery Western when Anne Heywood quit for  Cliff  Robertson-Charly‘s therapist.
  13. Therese Ann Savoy, Caligula, 1989.
  14. Barbara Murray, Doctor Who #120: Black Orchid, TV, 1982.     Despite a wish-list of 18 actresses, this was not a rehash of Sophia Loren’s 1958 Hollywood melo, but an adventure (with cricket!) in 1925 England for Doc5 Peter Davison. The choices for Lady Cranleigh were inevitable – such definitive ladies as Bloom, Jean Anderson, Renee Asherson, Honor Blackman, Faith Brook, Kathleen Byron, Rachel  Kempson (Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave’s mother),Virginia McKenna, Muriel Pavlow, Maria Redmond, Dinah Sheridan, Elizabeth Spriggs… and 40s’ UK screen queens Phyllis Calvert and Joan Greenwood. But also two comic character stars Beryl Reid and Joan (Carry On) Sims and a Hammer horror icon, Barbara Shelley!


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  14