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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.        Claire tested for Ophelia with an extremely helpful Laurence Olivier. She was 16 and “certainthat my life was over. Everyone must know that I had been… found wanting.” Seven years later she was Lady Anne to Larry’s Richard II. And his off-screen lover. She was convinced that he only seduced her because that is what a great actor was supposed to do.
  3. Dinah Sheridan, Genevieve, 1953.      The first notion (Claire,  Dirk Bogarde, Guy Middleton)  became  the classical Sheridan,  John Gregson, Kenneth More.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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). 
  7. 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).
  8. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.  
  9. Kim Hunter, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  10.  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.
  11. Therese Ann Savoy, Caligula, 1989.
  12. 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!


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