LOS ANGELES – Jean Simmons, a radiant British actress who as a teenager appeared opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in “Hamlet” and emerged a star whose career flourished in the 1950s and 1960s in such films as “Guys and Dolls, “Elmer Gantry” and “Spartacus,” has died. She was 80.
Simmons, who won an Emmy Award for her role in the 1980s miniseries “The Thorn Birds,” died Friday evening at her home in Santa Monica, said Judy Page, her agent. She had lung cancer.
After Olivier cast her as Ophelia in his 1948 film “Hamlet,” she received the first of two Academy Award nominations. More than 20 years later, she was nominated for her searing portrayal of an alcoholic wife in “The Happy Ending.”
Over a career that spanned more than 60 years, she appeared in about 55 feature films and nearly as many television productions. In the 1950s and 1960s, she made more than 30 movies and displayed her versatility by appearing in costume epics, romances, musicals and dramas.
As she found good movie roles harder to come by, Simmons increasingly turned to television movies and miniseries.
In the 1980s, she appeared in the ABC historical drama “North and South” and its sequel; in a well-reviewed Disney Channel version of “Great Expectations” as the miserable recluse Miss Havisham; and as the mother, Fiona “Fee” Cleary, in the ABC miniseries “The Thorn Birds.”
Simmons was married twice, to actor Stewart Granger and director Richard Brooks. Both marriages ended in divorce.