During World War II, Jean Simmons was just fourteen years old when she started acting. However, she hadn't considered it a road that she would be traveling for long until she worked with David Lean on "Great Expectations" (1944) at seventeen years old.
Based on the Charles Dickens tale, the film adaptation follows a young good-natured orphan, Pip, who is threatened by escaped convicts to obey their orders, and then is inclined to become the playmate to Estelle (played by Simmons) of a filthy rich Miss Havisham on her estate. Simmons had once 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 that convinced me to go on". The film headlines John Mills and Alec Guiness, and is considered to be one of the best Dickens'
Simmons' career kicked off to stardom at the ripe age of seventeen, with the start of "Great Expectations". For nearly seven decades afterwards, she went on to captivate audiences, in motion pictures, big and small, musicals, comedies, and dramas.
In 1949, only after playing several small roles in films, Simmons was nominated for her first Academy Award for her performance of Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" (1949). Though she lost to Claire Trevor for "Key Largo"(1949), Simmons admitted once that she didn't even know what an Oscar was at the time. However, it would be less than ten years later that Simmons would discover exactly what a Golden Globe was when she won for her Best Actress role in "Guys and Dolls" (1955) as Sergeant Sarah Brown. With Kirk Douglas in the epic historical drama "Spartacus" (1960), Simmons played a slave girl Varinia who falls in love with the man in hiding. Simmons' role in the Oscar-winning picture had previously been rejected by Ingrid Bergman. In other pictures such as "Elmer Gantry" (1960) and "The Happy Ending" (1969), Simmons continued to garner several awards, and at least, a dozen nominations from the BAFTAs, Academy Awards, and Golden Globes.
Dubbed "The English Rose", Simmons continued making films and television appearances as recent as 2009. However, in 2010, Simmons lost the battle with lung cancer at eighty years old. Though she may be gone, Simmons' charm, her wide-ranging dramaticism, and powerfully soothing voice made an indelible mark in film.