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Deborah Kerr/ Jean Simmons ~ Hollywood’s Brit Hits

July 23, 2014

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Talent…

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… These are the lovely ladies and gorgeous girls of eras gone by whose beauty, ability, electricity and all-round x-appeal deserve celebration and – ahem – salivation here at George’s Journal

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In a long overdue move, this nook of the ’Net is, yes, folks, finally paying its dues to two of the finest – both most certainly in terms of looks and acting chops – female stars to have crossed the pond and plied their trade in Tinseltown. And my, how they made a splash over there – and, frankly, everywhere and for all-time. Yup, it is, of course, the flame-haired fantasy that was Deborah Kerr and the lovely as a sunny summer’s day Jean Simmons – undoubtedly, then, they’re the latest double-entry in this blog’s Talent corner

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Profiles

Names: Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer/ Jean Merilyn Simmons

Nationalities: Scottish/ English

Professions: Actresses

Born: September 30 1921, Glasgow (Died: October 16 2007)/ January 31 1929, London (Died: January 22 2010)

Known for: Deborah – undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s greatest female stars of the ’50s; she lent her beauty, class, grace, intelligence and outstanding talent to every one of her roles (often subtly suggesting a fragility and sexuality beneath their ice-cool exteriors), most famously, governess extraordinaire Ann Leonowens opposite Yul Brynner’s Thai monarch in monster hit musical The King And I (1956) and disloyal military wife Karen Holmes in drama From Here To Eternity (1953) – which saw her, against type, notoriously romp in the surf with Burt Lancaster. She also, to great popular acclaim, romanced Cary Grant in comedy An Affair To Remember (1958), played three different roles in Powell and Pressburger’s wartime masterpiece The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943), portrayed a repressed nun tested to the limit in the same filmmakers’ Black Narcissus (1947), was a Christian martyr in ancient epic The Robe (1953) and shone as the oldest ever Bond Girl (at 46) opposite David Niven in 007 spoof Casino Royale (1967). Nominated for the Best Actress Oscar six times (for 1949’s Edward, My Son, From Here To Eternity, The King And I, 1957’s Heaven Knows, Mr Allison, 1958’s Separate Tables and 1960’s The Sundowners), but never winning, she finally received a long overdue honorary statuette in 1994. Her greatest love, though, as with many of the best actors, was the stage.

Jean – blessed with big, brown eyes, a glorious grin and often a marvellously mischievous expression, the preternaturally beautiful Ms Simmons enjoyed a long career in cinema and on TV, even though it rarely featured the great roles and acclaim her talent suggested it should. Most memorably, she burst on to the screen as a teenager opposite Deborah Kerr in Black Narcissus and as surely the ultimate Estella in David Lean’s adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations (both 1946) and then exceeded many’s expectations by going blonde to play Ophelia in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948), for which she was Oscar-nominated. Moving to Hollywood with husband (and fellow Brit movie star) Stewart Granger, she was snapped up by a smitten Howard Hughes for a terrific femme fatale turn in Otto Preminger’s film noir Angel Face (1950), sang and hoofed it up with Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in Guys And Dolls (1955), essayed Burt Lancaster’s and Kurt Douglas’s love interests in, respectively, Elmer Gantry and Spartacus (both 1960) and co-starred with Kerr again in both Young Bess (1953) and The Grass Is Greener (1960). Later, she married filmmaker Richard Brooks (whom directed her to another Oscar nom in 1969’s The Happy Ending), appeared in legendary TV serials The Thorn Birds (1983) and North & South (1995-86) and battled and beat alcoholism.

Strange but true: Deborah was reputedly offered a fee as much as the rest of the cast’s combined to appear in Carry On Screaming! (1966), but turned it down in favour of a stage play that was eventually aborted/ Jean dubbed the voice of lead character Sophie in the English-language version of Studio Ghibli’s animation Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Peak of fitness: Deborah – utterly charming and beguiling in her tri-character-turn in The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp/ Jean – finally free from Roman servitude, frolicking in a lake with her hero lover Kurt Douglas in Spartacus

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CLICK on images for full-size

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Deborah's Patience

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