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By 1960 Simmons was at the peak of her career, starring in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus, The Grass is Greener and Elmer Gantry.The latter was directed by Richard Brooks, who became her second husband.Finally won over by the movie world, she ditched her second name Merilyn in 1950, packed her suitcases, bought a one way ticket and sailed across the Atlantic where she became one of tinsel town's most popular and sought after actors.Though hugely talented - she won an Emmy Award for her role in the 1980s mini series The Thorn Birds, a Golden Globe and a second Oscar nomination - Simmons' appeal was her tantalising mix of the wanton seductress and the vulnerable ingenue.She was particularly wonderful in Great Expectations.She might not always have got the more heavyweight roles she wanted, as the studios controlled everythng and they hired people for their eyelashes back then.Her death will bring great sadness to her many fans.'' When legendary film maker David Lean cast her as the mischievous but aloof young Estella, companion to the reclusive Miss Haversham in Great Expectations, a nation of schoolboys quivered with anticipation when she shyly proffered her cheek to a wide-eyed Pip, primly telling him: ''You may kiss me if you like.'' Similarly, when she appeared naked from the back as the sultry slave girl in Spartacus, a generation of male movie-goers swooned.
She accepted parts in several major British films - Caesar and Cleopatra, Black Narcissus and Great Expectations - but it was her role in Hamlet, for which she won an Oscar nomination, that took Hollywood by storm. She appeared several times on the cover of the prestigious Time magazine and became the sweetheart of the American press.
The thing that always stuck in my mind about Jean was her dignity.
She belonged to that illustrious band of British actresses who were utter stars and were so very ladylike.
In the 2003 New Year Honours List Simmons was awarded an OBE.
She and Brooks had a daughter Kate, although that marriage, too, ended in divorce in 1977.
Val Guest, the movie director who discovered her when he chanced upon her dance troupe practising routines in a back street theatre, begged her to drop her ambitions to study.