January 23, 2010

Jean Simmons (1929-2010)

May this beautiful and talented woman rest in peace.

I don't really do obituaries because, frankly, I'm not that great at them and there are plenty of other people out there who write wonderful obits and mine wouldn't add anything that you couldn't get somewhere else and better.

When a great film artist such as Miss Simmons dies, I think the best thing to do to honor that person's life is to simply go and watch his/her movies. So that's what I say now. Go and watch some of Jean Simmons's movies and see what made her so great.

Here she is in "Guys and Dolls":

Not a great voice, admittedly, but not bad for a non-professional singer. In fact, she really sells the song. I think "Guys and Dolls" might be my favorite Jean Simmons performance. She grounds the whole crazy cartoon world of Damon Runyon with a realness that is at times heartbreaking.

Also, I just watched David Lean's "Great Expectations" (1946) for the first time the other day and I have to say, when the very young and ethereally beautiful Simmons was on screen she was electric. The movie suffers greatly once Estella is grown and played by an adult actress. No matter what Valerie Hobson does in the film, she simply cannot match the presence of young Jean Simmons. Young Estella is unforgettable: other-worldly in her beauty, proud and haughty but irresistibly bewitching -- like Young Pip, we, the audience, can't get her out of our minds.

"Do you think she is pretty, Pip?"

More than pretty. Miss Simmons was a rare and unforgettable actress, as talented as she was beautiful. She will be missed.

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