The same year Simmons had been in four British films, all successful.

In So Long at the Fair she was a tourist at the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1889 who awakens to find her brother missing and hotel staff denying all knowledge of him.

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Shortly afterwards, she went to Hollywood, where she and Deborah Kerr were the only two British actresses of the time to achieve truly international stardom – a few years later they were joined by the Anglo-Dutch Audrey Hepburn.

Her first marriage, to the actor Stewart Granger, ended in 1960 when she divorced him to marry director Richard Brooks, who later recalled, "Every man I would meet would say to me, 'I have always loved your wife.'" The youngest of four children, she was born Jean Merilyn Simmons in Crouch Hill, London, in 1929.

In Hollywood, Simmons and Granger were shocked to find that Rank and Gabriel Pascal, who shared contractual rights on Simmons, had "sold" her to Howard Hughes (who confessed an unrequited passion for the star) and his company, RKO.

The dull film version of Androcles and the Lion was released in 1952, but while Granger fought Hughes with a lawsuit, Hughes prevented Simmons from making films for other studios and forced her into mediocre fare, with one exception, Otto Preminger's masterly thriller, Angel Face (1952), in which Simmons startled audiences with her powerful portrayal of a homicidal, father-fixated psychopath.

In 1949 he suggested they star together in Adam and Evelyne, in which a penniless orphan is raised with the support of a mysterious benefactor.

It proved a perfect showcase for the couple, and demonstrated Simmons' expert handling of romantic comedy.Simmons later said she regarded filming as "fun and games" and did not take it seriously until Great Expectations, "when I realised I could make a career in acting." It was her portrayal of Estella that convinced Olivier to cast her in Hamlet, though she had never read or seen the play.When the film opened in the US (where it was to win the Best Film Oscar), she was on the cover of Time magazine, the journal's critic James Agee stating, "Compared with most of the members of the cast, she is obviously just a talented beginner.Granger departed for Hollywood laterin 1949 after being signed by MGM, and in 1950 Simmons joined him when cast by Gabriel Pascal in a screen version of Shaw's Androcles and the Lion.Granger and the actress Elspeth March had divorced in 1948, and in December 1950 he and Simmons eloped to Tucson.But she is the only person in the picture who gives every one of her lines the bloom of poetry and the immediacy of ordinary life." She won the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival.