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The Bride Grew Up—Jean Simmons & Stewart Granger

Tongues on both sides of the Atlantic started wagging about the marriage of Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger when Granger went to England this Spring to make “Beau Brummell” for MGM. He went alone. And, while he was there, he saw a great deal of his first wife, Elspeth March, and their two children James, who is nine years old, and Lindsay, who is eight.

This isn’t to infer that Jimmy, as Stewart is known to his friends, will break up with Jean to go back to his first wife and their children. True, the last person Jimmy spoke to in London before he returned to Hollywood and his present wife was his first wife, Miss March. Also, the night before that he had taken her and their daughter, Lindsay, to the opening of a play, Edgar Wallace’s “The Frog.” And then, after he had taken off on his flight across the Atlantic back to Jean, Elspeth and Lindsay spent their last night in London in the fashionable Mayfair apartment that Granger always maintains, This is in addition to his Hollywood home.

Just before driving to London Airport, Granger had remarked to one of his chums: “I’m still terribly fond of Elspeth,” and on arriving at the airport he had phoned a final goodbye to Elspeth and Lindsay in his apartment. After the phone call he told a reporter, “Of course I saw a good deal of my former wife and my children while I was here. Why shouldn’t I? But now I am longing to get back to my wife in America. Incidentally, she may be coming over here herself next September to make a movie, in which case I will accompany her. And, in the meantime, my children may be coming over to America to visit Jean and myself on their vacation.”

There you have it: the sought-after male and the two women in his life. It’s all very basic and pat. But it doesn’t quite add up that way. For Jean Simmons is no longer, at twenty-five, a child bride. And to stay married, Jimmy and Jean have had to grow in their marriage as they have grown professionally.

Granger, you see, belongs to the old-fashioned, courtly school in which the male in the family is lord and master. He has, accordingly, equipped himself for that role. In the case at hand, the husband went out and bought a huge house in Bel-Air, near the fabulous Conrad Hilton estate. It was a tremendous estate, sprawling over six acres and costing $150,000. Jean was heard to say that she would have settled for a much smaller house—also that she just plain outright didn’t like it! But she kept her feelings about the house to herself for a long, long time, because she knew he loved it so much.

Granger’s personality was stamped on practically everything in the house and on the grounds. There were leather chairs all over and stuffed animals and guns and trophy racks and heavy leather-bound books. It was ninety-five percent Granger, five percent Simmons. He not only selected the house but he furnished it—even the silverware. He did most of the cooking too, and still does, as a matter of fact. He loves to cook, especially outdoors over his barbecue.

He also has a great deal to say about what kind of clothes Jean should wear, both indoors and out, and what not to wear.

He also was heard telling her the Hollywood people she should have for friends and the ones she shouldn’t have—and I just hope that what I’ve written about Granger so far doesn’t make him sound like a heel, because he’s anything but that. It’s more a case of a man trying hard to make his marriage work.

Finally Jean got across to Jimmy the idea that she didn’t like the big house. Always anxious to please, he went right out and bought another one.

This house has less of the Granger personality stamped upon it than the other. It includes Jean, too, although Jimmy visualized and ordered every piece of furniture made to order, selected the drapes and material that covers the chairs and couches and beds, and also bought enormous, rare roots that he had highly polished at great expense and then transformed into modern tables and lamps. Jimmy, you see, is a very skillful decorator, in addition to being a devoted husband and good provider, and this attribute is evident wherever you turn in the house.

It’s the kind of house you would expect two top movie stars to live in. But here atop their mountain knoll, with all the fabulous equipment and all the accoutrements indigenous to being movie stars, I have a feeling that Jean and Jimmy, while living in the style their fans dream they should live in, have been very determinedly putting up a struggle to keep their marriage intact.

When Jean was a little girl and just starting in the theatre and Jimmy was a big star in England, she looked up to him all the time. It became a sort of game, because he told her everything to do. He coached her in her lines, read the scripts to her, and explained all the stage business and camera angles and makeup tricks.

But then Jean started developing and growing on her own. Hollywood turned out to be different from England. She found herself in demand here. Howard Hughes offered her $125,000 per picture. And still Jimmy kept ordering her meals for her in restaurants.

Jimmy, who has been known to be more or less anti-social, turned down one party invitation after another at first. He just didn’t want to go to them. He’d had all the social life he ever wanted in England. Now he had a beautiful wife and a beautiful home and he wanted to stay home and enjoy them. But Jean wanted to go to the parties—well, at least some of them! So, in a few cases, he would ask their prospective host and hostess who was on the guest list and off they would go.

It seemed to their intimates, about this time, that Jean was slipping away from Granger, and that he was devising programs of entertainment and recreation to keep her amused at home. After he bought the new house, as an example, he bought a few horses and they would go out and ride part of the day—this, of course, when they weren’t busy making movies. He bought all the gear that goes with horses, including a stable.

Then they took up tennis and joined the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. This didn’t last long either.

They had a long discussion along about this time, their friends confide, and decided on a “probationary period,” during which time they would gear themselves for a new start.

Their circle of friends was growing, to Jean’s delight. A typical dinner party at their house would include Liz Taylor and Mike Wilding, Vincente and Georgette Minnelli, Joe Mankiewicz, Pamela and James Mason, George Cukor—although they haven’t had the Masons lately. This is an interesting sidelight: Pam Mason is very gregarious; Stewart Granger is hearth-hugging. And when Pam and James returned the compliment by having the Grangers over to their house Pam would have almost half of Hollywood there! So, finally, the Grangers and the Masons called the whole thing off.

Something else happened to spoil things. It seemed that whenever Jean and her Jimmy were about to get together, and when everything was rolling along fine, his studio, MGM, would decide to send him abroad to make a picture. He was sent overseas twice in the last year and a half, and for long periods of time on each jaunt. Now he’s going to South America for “Green Fire.”

So the “new start” stretched over a long period of time. But they still played games. One game in particular. That’s the one where, while out in public, he’ll go into an act that sounds to an outsider as if he’s bawling her out. It’s this game, incidentally, that has made them known here and there as The Battling Grangers.

Lately, however, the act has worn a little thin, and Jimmy, meanwhile, has been pulling the reins tighter. Some think he’s pulling them too tight, and that once you do this with the kind of a woman Jean has become you’re losing ground. Jean, you see, is no longer a child.

Each of the Grangers faces a brilliant future in Hollywood—and everyone in Hollywood hopes that together they can make that “new start” on their marriage work. 





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