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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 12:45 GMT
Jean Simmons: Silver screen star
Jean Simmons and Joan Hickson
Simmons (right) was in the Miss Marple series with Joan Hickson
Veteran actress Jean Simmons, 73, is being made an OBE. A child star of the early 1940s, she starred in Great Expectations, Black Narcissus, and Guys and Dolls. BBC News Online looks back at her career.

Jean Simmons was born in London in 1929, and had made her decision to be an actress by an early age.

But the time she was 14 she plucked out of her dance classes to make her first film appearance in Give Us the Moon, to play a precocious teenager.

Her acting talent and good looks quickly got her noticed, and by 1946 she won plaudits for her key role in Great Expectations as the haughty servant Estella alongside Sir John Mills' Pip.

1948: Venice Film Festival - best actress for Hamlet
1953: National Board of Review - best actress for Young Bess, The Robe and The Actress
1955: Golden Globe - best actress in musical or comedy for Guys and Dolls
1957: Golden Globe - most versatile actress
1982/3: Emmy - outstanding supporting actress for The Thorn Birds
By 1947 she was playing the sultry Kanchi in Black Narcissus, about a group of nuns moving to the Himalayas with disastrous results.

This was followed with a starring role opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in Shakespeare's Hamlet the following year.

Her role as Ophelia led to her first Oscar nomination, for best supporting actress.

Simmons also starred in epic Biblical film The Robe in 1953, a movie which has become a staple of Easter TV schedules.

The actress' personal life was also undergoing big changes and in 1950, she married actor Stewart Granger, who she co-starred in several films with.

Five years later they had a daughter, Tracy, but by the time the child was five her parents had divorced.

Despite these difficulties, Simmons' career had been going from strength to strength.

Jean Simmons
She was a familiar face on the big screen by 1950
In 1955 she starred alongside Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando in the musical Guys and Dolls, in which she sang, earning her a Golden Globe award.

By 1960 she married her second husband, the writer and director Richard Brooks, and went on to have another daughter, Kate, in 1961.

Simmons continued to make films throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including the Stanley Kubrick's Roman epic Spartacus with Kirk Douglas in 1960, as his lover Varinia.

In 1969 Simmons received her second Oscar nomination - this time for best actress - for a film by her husband called The Happy Ending.

She also appeared on stage, including her role as Desiree in the London première of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music in 1974.

Great Expectations

Her marriage faltered during this period, however, and she and Brooks split in 1977.

By the 1980s her film work had begun to dry up and so the actress appeared in several TV min-series and shows including Valley of the Dolls, North and South and The Thorn Birds.

She also made her second appearance in Great Expectations - this time the 1989 Disney TV remake - in which she played the aged, eccentric Miss Haversham.

Other notable TV appearances include Hawaii Five-O (1968), The Odd Couple (1970) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).

In 1991 she also starred in the BBC series Miss Marple, alongside Joan Hickson, in an episode called They Do It With Mirrors.

Four years later, Simmons made a return to the big screen in How to Make an American Quilt, which co-starred Winona Ryder and Anne Bancroft.

She now lives in the US, but has continued to work in TV shows including a part in hit series Xena: Warrior Princess as Varinia - the same name as her 1960 character in Spartacus.

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