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Movie Mom

The sensitive and elegant Jean Simmons died this week at age 80. The Washington Post’s Adam Bernstein wrote a graceful tribute calling her “a beguiling actress of quiet emotional power.” She was exquisite as a teenager in the great David Lean production of “Great Expectations,” playing Estella, the marred beauty who was raised to be incapable of love. Later, she would return to that story to play Estella’s guardian, the disheveled Miss Havisham, in a 1989 miniseries.

In between she appeared in a remarkable wide-ranging collection of classic films, the quiet slave consort to Kirk Douglas in Spartacus, the conflicted Sister Sarah opposite Marlon Brando in the musical Guys and Dolls, a barnstorming evangelist in Elmer Gantry, and the housewife who wants more in “The Happy Ending.” I especially loved her in a gentle comedy about an innocent young woman who gets a job in a nightclub, “This Could Be the Night,” and in one of the most underappreciated satires of the 1960’s, Divorce American Style.

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