Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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The Life Story of Jean Simmons
As found in Picture Show magazine, August 21st, 1948
The life story of little Jean Simmons sounds like a fairy tale. She was just a little schoolgirl in a London suberb when the big chance came her way to become a film actress - a dream of many little girls but one that rarely comes true.
Born in Hampstead, London, on January 31st, 1929, [Jean was actually born in Crouch End and brought up in Cricklewood] Jean had no theatrical background whatsoever, and no idea of becoming an actress ever entered her head. The youngest of four children, she was evacuated with her sister Edna to Somerset during the war. Edna, who is two years older than Jean, organised dancing classes for the other evacuees and the village children. Jean started attending the lessons, first of all just for fun, but she became really interested, and in a short while had made such good progress that instead of being a pupil she was able to help her sister with the teaching. By the time the two girls had returned to London, Jean had decided that she would like to take up a dancing career. Her very understanding mother therefore decided that instead of sending her little girl back to the local private school she had been attending before she went away, she would be sent to a school in Golders Green, where as well as doing ordinary lessons children are taught dancing and given a stage training. [Mrs. Aida Foster's school]
Her First Film
The principal of the school was immediately impressed by her new pupil. She realised that she had unusual talent, and that her lovely oval face was very photogenic. The result was that when the principal was asked to send a little girl to the studios to playe the part of Margaret Lockwood's sister in Give Us the Moon, she had no hesitation in taking Jean. Without even having a test, Jean was given the role, much to her own surprise.
She did not expect to be very good in the part for she had never thought of playing in a film. She did not worry very much for she said she knew there wee many good business opportunities for young girls. Jean's work, however, proved to be so good that other parts rapidly followed.
Among the films in which she has played are Kiss the Bride Goodbye, Meet Sexton Blake, The Way to the Stars, Great Expectations, Hungry Hill, Black Narcissus, Uncle Silas, The Woman in the Hall and Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, in which she playes the role of Ophelia. When this film was finished, Jean went to the Fiji Islands to make scenes for the film version of H. de Vere Stacpool's novel The Blue Lagoon.
Her Home Life
Only nineteen years old and the posessor of an important contract with the J. Arthur Rank organisation, it would not have been surprising if all this success had gone to her head, but little Jean Simmons has not altered in the slightest. She still lives with her mother, who is a widow, in a small suburban house, and when she is not working at studios helps with the "chores". She loves her family very much and when she gets home from the studio she rushes into the house and calls "Mummy, I'm home." [Oh come on now, this must be made up by the studio publicity department] When somebody once suggested she could afford a bachelor-girl flat, she was horrified. Even the thrill of going off to the Fiji Islands was spoilt a little for her because she was homesick.
Apart from the time that Jean spends filming, her time is fully occupied. She still takes dancing lessons, is fond of riding and skating and is a keen tennis player. At home she is always busy - her energy is inexhaustible. A needlewoman, she is especially interested in embroidery work although she does a lot of plain sewing as well, and makes quite a number of her own clothes.
A Swing Fan
If you want to find her when she is not on the set at the studio, you only have to listen until you hear some swing music, for Jean is a swing fan, and wherever her garmaphone is, she is usually to be found. She hates the idea of ever being taken for a "Bobby-soxer", but she thinks Frank Sinatra has "got something", and in common with millions of other teen-agers she collects his records. [But most of those millions of other teen-agers didn't finish up working with Frank Sinatra. Jean did, on Guys and Dolls (1955).]
Jean plays the piano, although she says she is not much good at it. She also has a repertoire of funny little songs, remembered from her school-days, which, after all, are not so very far away. [Was that where the song & dance in The Way to the Stars came from?]
Excitable, a little highly strung - what true artiste isn't? Jean is an enthusiast. When a little girl of fourteen, and her first film part in Give s the Moon was completed and she was told she need not come to the studio any more, she wept bitterly. Although five years have passed since then she has not lost any of her enthusiasm for film making. In fact she is always ready for another day's work. Her enthusiasm does not diminish even at the end of a tiring day.
She is gay and friendly. She is fond of dogs and babies. Her dislikes include spinach, although she will eat it because it is good for her.
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