Jennifer Aniston and John Aniston in Hollywood in 2012
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Jean Simmons, the British actress involved in films such as Guys and Dolls, Hamlet, and The Happy Ending, passed away on January 22, 2010, aged 80. She lived a colourful life, becoming a US citizen during her first marriage to Stewart Grainger, and collecting a string of awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Actress, and an Academy Award nomination. But despite her legacy, which saw her awarded an OBE for her services to acting, the London-born star lacked confidence when it came to being an actress in her own right.
She discussed the influence of and different opinions from her two husbands — the second Richard Brooks — during an interview in 1984, which was given while filming her then-upcoming flick, Going Undercover.
The actress said: “It may be simplistic, but you could sum up my two marriages by saying that, when I wanted to be a wife, Jimmy (Stewart Granger) would say: ‘I just want you to be pretty.’
“And when I wanted to cook, Richard (Brooks, her second husband) would say: ‘Forget the cooking. You’ve been trained to act – so act!’
“Most people thought I was quite helpless – a clinger and a butterfly – during my first marriage. It was Richard Brooks who saw what was wrong and tried to make me stand on my own two feet.
“I’d whine: ‘I’m afraid.’ And he’d say: ‘Never be afraid to fail. Every time you get up in the morning, you are ahead.'”
Sadly, both relationships ended in divorce, but from the two marriages, she bore two daughters, Tracy Grainger, who became a film editor, and TV production assistant and producer, Kate Brooks.
Her career began in Britain, where she was cast to star in some of the country’s most iconic films, including 1946’s Great Expectations. It would become one of the nation’s biggest of the year, with Simmons earning rave reviews.
Yet, she still wasn’t sure whether acting was a profession she could get involved in. For her, it was just a job that paid handsomely.
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According to the 1989 Christmas edition of Women’s Weekly, Simmons said: “I thought acting was just a lark, meeting all those exciting movie stars, and getting £5 a day which was lovely because we needed the money.
“But I figured I’d just go off and get married and have children like my mother. It was working with David Lean- (Great Expectations’ director) that convinced me to go on.”
Among the many highlights of her career in Tinsel Town came when starring opposite Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in the iconic musical, Guys and Dolls.
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Yet, in the years that followed her incredible rise to stardom, Simmons’ life was plagued by alcoholism. Fresh from the acclaim she earned in the 1967 Dean Martin film Rough Night in Jericho, she earned a second Academy Award nomination for The Happy Ending.
After winning an Emmy for her turn in the 1983 flick The Thorn Birds, Simmons went into a spiral of depression, seeking treatment for alcoholism by 1986.
Despite her brilliant resilience, many believe Simmons could have enjoyed a more illustrious career in Hollywood, including film critic Barry Norman who wrote a column questioning that after she passed away.
Writing for the Daily Mail, Mr Norman described how she was “too rarely given the opportunity to carry a film herself,” and that “time after time she seemed so much better than the material she was given”.
He continued: “In any event, she was a considerable actress, the last of a small, exclusive group of British women, including Kerr and Audrey Hepburn, who around the same time went to Hollywood and conquered it.
“And she was certainly a star – just not quite as big a star as she might have been.”
Simmons, who moved to California during her 60-year career, died of lung cancer.
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