Simone Simon

  1. Barbara Stanwyck, A Message To Garcia, 1935.     The Franco-Italian  beauty got her first good role from  realisateur  Marc Allégret and due to their Ladies Lake, 1933, Darryl Zanuck chased Simone with a seven-year Fox contract (the first of his many French er, discoveries). OK, she said, but you have to wait. She had two more ’35 Allégret films to  make first first: Les yeux noirs and Les beaux jours. Then, Zanuck rushed her before the cameras with only a smattering of English for her LA debut – as a Spanish girl! She was swiftly replaced by Rita Cansino (later known as  Rita Hayworth), then she was elbowed by Stanwyck. (Twenty-one years after SS, Allégret launched another French icon in Future vedettes  and En effeuillant la marguerite – BB. Brigitte Bardot). 
  2. Claudette Colbert, Under Two Flags, 1935.       Simone  was late, two days in a row for her next Hollywood debut, and when she turned up on the third, CC was in SS’s costume. “C’est la vie, darling!” Director Frank Lloyd had insisted that Zanuck fire Simone due to her “temperamental attitude.” (Officially, Fox said she was ill with peritonitis, and even got a $115,000  pay-off from Lloyds of London!). Yes, Simon admitted, she had been  temperamental – because Marlene Dietrich had told her that “a star is only as important as she makes herself out to be.” But rude, difficult to work with – jamais! Never!  And she proved it by conquering all in Girls’ Dormitory, when SS was praised as the best thing since GG.  Garbo.
  3. June Lang, White Hunter, 1935.        The reward for her triumph was a B movie! Closer to a Z. She  worked 16 days, got influenza…and Lang completed the role which, before SS’s arrival at Fox, had been her’s anyway.
  4. Ann Sothern, Danger – Love At Work, 1937.        No one could understand Simone’s Engleesh. Or her name. US posters said it was pronounced: See-Man  See -Moan!
  5. Annabella, The Baroness and the Butler, 1937.       The other new French find in town was first choice for the baroness, then Loretta Young, before  it became  Annabella’s “first American picture.” Hah! She had already debuted in Caravane, 1933. Co-star William Powell was been a (better) butler in My Man Godfrey, 1935. 

  6. Annabella, Suez, 1937.        
    Having dropped the Jnr he’d worn in the Under Two Flags credits, Tyrone Power was now the top star. See-Moan dropped out of the Panama Canal story during a production delay… and Power married Annabella in 1939.  Zanuck then dropped Simon after scandal stories about how     she supposedly gave all her lovers gold keys to her apartment. (Hah! Compared to what he got up to in his own office!) She went home and joined Jean Gabin in Jean Renoir’s classic, La Bête Humaine, 1937. Zanuck was right. SS was a star! She was also distraught by the sudden death of her lover George Gershwin (she was first to sing his Porgy and Bess songs); he greatly resembled the last man in her life, French banker Alec Weisweller.

  7. Nora Grégor, La règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game), France, 1938.       Capricious as ever, she then refused realisateur Jean Renoir’s offer of Christine de la Chesnaye in the French masterpiece,  banned by the Paris government for a month, and then by the occupying Nazi forces, who burnt every print they found. Allied bombing destroyed the negative and the film was lost until Renoir built it back together again  from footage discovered all over France.
  8. Janine Darcy, Cavalcade d’amour (Cavalcade of Love), France, 1939.      Producer Arnold Pressburger booked SS for the three love stories in the one film. Unhappy about a change in writers or the linen or wrong flowers on a table or because it was Thursday… she quit before completing the first sketch. Co-star Michel Simon never forgave her. Her Juliette was completed by a double. Then, Darcy became Julie…
  9. Corinne Luchaire, Cavalcade d’amour (Cavalcade of Love),   France, 1939.        …and Luchaire took over Juni.  The war was coming and SS was Broadway bound after Josef Von Sternberg introduced her to the boss of New York’s Schubert Theatre.  From Broadway, it was back to LA, where Cat People, re-launched her in Hollywood, circa 1942.
  10. Paulette Goddard, North West Mounted Police, 1939.     No, no, CB DeMille told Paulette Goddard (then Mrs Charlie Chaplinyou’re not right for an Indian half-breed.  And yet, somehow, he thought his daughter, Katherine, was. Plus German Marlene Dietrich, Hungarian Steffi Duna, British Vivien Leigh,  Russian Anna Sten (Stench to her foes) and the French Olympe Bradna and  Simone Simon! Goddard refused to give up.  Decked out in full costume, make-up and pidgin English, she stormed  into CB’s office on  the Paramount lot… and soon sashayed  away  with a script, a deal and a triumphant  grin!

  11. Vera Ralston, The Fighting Kentuckian, 1940.         For his second John Wayne Production, Duke wanted a French actress for Fleurette De Marchand. With a light Paris accent – Simon, Corinne Calvet, Danielle Darrieux? But his old Republic boss, Herbert J Yates wanted his future wife in the rôle. “I don’t wanna malign her,” said Duke. “She didn’t have the experience. She talked with this heavy Czech accent… It hurt the picture, because we now had to hire other Czech and Austrian actors to play French characters so her accent would be matched. [Pause] Yates was one of the smartest businessmen I ever met. But when it came to the women he loved, his business brain went flying out the window.” The $1.3m movie lost a bundle. And the best accent came from Georgia – in a solo sidekick rôle for… Oliver Hardy!
  12. Dorothy Lovett, Call Out The Marines, 1941. As the (unknown) directors kept changing, the father-son team of Jack and Jim Holt churned into Victor McLaglen and Edmund Lowe. Just as their gals went from Anne Shirley and the French Simon to London’s Binnie Barnes and Rhode Island’s Dorothy Lovett… best remembered as nurse Judy Price in Jean Hesholt’s six Dr Christian movies.
  13. Carole Landis, A Gentleman At Heart, 1941.   The treatment written for Don Ameche (as a Runyonesque bookmaker) had him opposite Simon – or Annabella, Next draft? Annabella’s ex-husband, Tyrone Power and Loretta Young. Finally, Romero had Carole Landis.

  14. Signe Hasso, Heaven Can Wait, 1942.      She rejected Ernst Lubitsch’s offer. Which is not what one did with an offer from Lubitsch. Nor was she supposed to push him around… demanding  an expansion of her role of Mademoiselle and higher billing.  Fox sent SS packing and borrowed MGM’s Hasso.  Maybe she was right. “Lubitsch was a tyrant on the set, the most demanding of directors,” said the film’s top star, Gene Tierney in her 1979 memoirs, Self-Portrait.  “After one scene, which took from noon until five to get, I was almost in tears from listening to Lubitsch shout at me. The next day I sought him out, looked him in the eye, and said: Mr Lubitsch,  I’m willing to do my best but I just can’t go on working on this picture if you’re going to keep shouting at me. ‘I’m paid to shout at you,’ he bellowed. Yes, I said, and I’m paid to take it – but not enough.’ After a tense pause, Lubitsch burst out  laughing. From then on we got along famously.”
  15. Anne Baxter, Five Graves To Cairo, 1942.         Next, she said No to Billy Wilder!  She tested, being hit five times in the face by a whip and decided that was enough of Wilder’s sadism that  she could take.
  16. Carol Thurston, The Story of Dr Wassell, 1943.        And then, refused another mighty icon. CB DeMille.  Well, the role was a native girl called Tremartini.  Aka, Three Martini (ho! ho!)  Apart from New York Times critic Bosley Crowther calling it “hoopla warfare in a Technicolor blaze,” this is the Gary Cooper film no one remembers. As her offers became more and more mediocre she returned home and back to her beginnings – Marc Allégret directing her opposite Fernandel in Petrus, the stage and, indeed, to Gershwin’s old hobby of painting.

  17. Valentina Cortese, La nuit americaine/Day For Night, France, 1973.          French nouvelle vague icon François Truffaut had great difficulty encouraging veteran French stars into his hymn to cinema. Louis Jourdan fled the aging, gay matinee idol Alexandre, Simon Simon (unseen since 1956) refused any idea of a comeback as his over-the-hill ex-mistress Sèverine – and Renaud could not substitute her due to a stage tour.   Cortese was superb…. acting by numbers, Italian style


 Birth year: 1910Death year: 2005Other name: Casting Calls:  17