Sunday, July 31, 2011
The 1960's: Actress JEAN SIMMONS had a remarkable year in 1960...
The talented Jean Simmons had a phenomenal year in 1960 with three films: ELMER GANTRY, SPARTACUS, and THE GRASS IS GREENER. All three films were solid hits and presented the exquisite Jean with wonderful characters to portray. Especially in Elmer Gantry and The Grass is Greener. I have always thought of Jean as an actress who never got enough credit. She has given several award worthy performances but never won an Oscar. Which is a crime in itself. Jean had a stellar film career through-out her life with films such as Black Narcissus, Angel Face, The Actress, Guys and Dolls, The Big Country, and The Happy Ending.
She would venture forth into TV during the 80's with parts in The Thorn Birds (winning an Emmy), North & South and even Star Trek:The Next Generation. Yes, Jean appeared on a Star Trek episode. How cool is that?
But back to the year of 1960 in which her first film released that year was Elmer Gantry, which gave Burt Lancaster one of his best roles ever as a con man who becomes an evangelist. He was so good that he picked up an Oscar that year as Best Actor in a Leading Role. Jean was equally good as Sister Sharon Falconer, whose ministry Gantry hooks up with it. Jean was quite effective in her scenes giving sermons in tent revivals all across the country. But the Academy didn't even give her a nomination, which was a shame. Because she really did give a magnificent performance. I mean hers was just as good as co-star Shirley Jones, who not only got a nomination but won as Best Supporting Actress. Elmer Gantry hit theaters in July and was a summer hit.
Three months later would come the epic film Spartacus. With a huge ensemble cast featuring Kirk Douglas as the titular character, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Woody Strode, and Jean as slave woman Varinia, who falls in love with Spartacus and eventually becomes his wife. Spartacus was a huge film with a massive budget and ended up being one of the biggest hits of all time with over $60 million worldwide. Jean's performance was good but was kind of over shadowed by all the men in this large cast. She held her own though with the big boys.
Her final film in 1960 was The Grass is Greener which I think is the best of the three. It's a sophisticated comedy with film veterans Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum and Jean. The story has Cary and Deborah as husband and wife who must rent out their castle for tours due to financial difficulties. Mitchum is an oil tycoon who romances Kerr while Cary's ex-girlfriend shows up as well (played by Jean). Complications ensue. This is one of the better of the films in Cary's late career and Jean is very good in this comedic role. I wished she had done more comedies during her career.
So 1960 turned out to be quite the year for Ms. Simmons and she would continue on with her solid career for another 30 years. It should also be noted Jean had just turned 30 when she made these three films, entering this period of her life with great success and quality. Thank you Jean for your wonderful contributions to film and TV.