Star of the Month Jean Simmons is back on Turner Classic Movies this Tuesday evening, with five more films. Like last week, these are all from Simmons’ British period: Trio, featuring three stories by W. Somerset Maugham; the thriller So Long at the Fair; Adam and Evelyne, which paired Simmons with future husband Stewart Granger; Laurence Olivier’s Best Picture Oscar winner Hamlet; and Gabriel Pascal’s film version of George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra.
In Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) Simmons has what amounts to a bit part as a harp player. Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh are the capable stars, while Stewart Granger has an important supporting role.
Leigh reportedly wanted to play Ophelia in husband Olivier’s great-looking (and very long) film version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1948), but was deemed too old for the role. Enter Jean Simmons, who went on to receive an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress of 1948.
Hamlet end up winning a controversial Best Picture Oscar – nativists were furious that the Academy (or enough of its members) would give their top award to a foreign film, even if it happened to be one distributed by an American studio (Universal). If that weren’t enough, Hamlet won three other Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Olivier in the title role. (Olivier lost the Best Director Oscar to John Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.)
Antony Darnborough and Terence Fisher’s So Long at the Fair is a forgotten little gem, an intriguing thriller about a young Englishwoman whose brother (Mary Poppins’ David Tomlinson) mysteriously disappears while they’re vacationing in Paris. Simmons is quite effective as the distraught young woman; Dirk Bogarde provides her with the appropriate emotional support and manly good looks.
Schedule and synopses from the TCM website:
8:00 PM Trio (1950) W. Somerset Maugham introduces three more of his stories about human foibles. Director: Ken Annakin Cast: James Hayter, Kathleen Harrison, Felix Aylmer. Black and white. 92 mins
9:45 PM So Long at the Fair (1950) A woman searches for her missing brother in Paris despite the fact that nobody believes he exists. Director: Antony Darnborough Cast: Jean Simmons, Honor Blackman, Dirk Bogarde. Black and white. 86 mins
11:30 PM Adam and Evelyne (1949) When a friend dies, a gambler adopts his daughter. Director: Harold French Cast: Stewart Granger, Jean Simmons, Edwin Styles. Black and white. 93
1:15 AM Hamlet (1948) The melancholy Dane flirts with insanity while trying to prove his uncle murdered his father. Director: Laurence Olivier Cast: Laurence Olivier, Eileen Herlie, Basil Sydney. Black and white. 154 mins
4:00 AM Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) Julius Caesar gives the famed Egyptian queen lessons in government. Director: Gabriel Pascal Cast: Vivien Leigh, Claude Rains, Stewart Granger. Color. 128 mins
Turner Classic Movies website.