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They Fight For Each Other—Jean Simmons & Stewart Granger

While her towering, lusty, free-talking husband was hard at work with Elizabeth Taylor making Beau Brummelin London, Jean Simmons was out on the town. With Frank Sinatra and her agent, the dashing Bert Allenberg, the bewitching, brown-eyed little actress dropped in at the Coconut Grove to hear Lena Horne.

Jean Simmons loves nightclubs and Stewart Granger hates them. So while he was in England, Jean was indulging herself—and enjoying herself.

The very next day Hollywood was trying mightily to blow the Sinatra-Simmons item into an incipient romance. Ava had called it quits with Frankie and flown to Rome, and Granger was in England. Otherwise, Sinatra and Simmons do not seem to have much in common.

Hollywood seers have always insisted that the Stewart Grangers’ marriage simply cannot last.

Is it because Granger is seventeen years older than his wife?

Is it because he does the cooking and all the planning?

Is it because he is over-protective and masterminds his wife’s career?

Is it because two careers in one family rarely mix?

Is it because he is an intellectual and Jean is a talented child? Is it because eventually Jean Simmons will revolt against a marital setup in which she is treated as an innocent child who requires strong supervision?

Undoubtedly all these and many more reasons are the basis for the prediction of a short marriage.

Right now Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger are more in love than ever and they are fighting for each other with such verve and loyalty that it looks as though the prophets of marital dissension have made another error.

Stewart Granger has been reformed. When he first came to Hollywood a few years ago, he was known as “Snarling Stewart,” the most unpopular actor in motion pictures. He fought with practically every director assigned to his films. He seemed to have appointed himself the leading authority on matters cinematic. He refused to see London visitors. He frightened newsmen away from his young wife. In no time at all, he succeeded in making himself as popular as a leper.

He spoke of hunting trips in Africa, of buffalo, of his adventures with Michael Wilding of Her Majesty’s Regent Street Rifles, and he sought to prove that he was more Hemingway than Ernest himself.

It wasn’t long before Hollywood newsmen were giving Mr. Granger a wide berth. They believed that Granger was an uncooperative blow-hard. True, they appreciated his protests. “I’m sorry. My wife and just can’t be demonstrative in public laces. I simply can’t move myself to keep kissing her in a restaurant so that photographers might have visible proof of our affection.”

Yet if a man is a motion picture star, warning his livelihood from his public following, that public is hungry for knowledge of his private life. Surely such a star night drop some crumbs of information.

Not Stewart Granger. Perhaps the drop a Granger’s popularity with movie-goers was the result of his staunch defense of his privacy. One month he was ranked number one on Modern Screen’s popularity doll. Sixty days later he was down to seventy-seven.

Granger receives the same salary from MGM whether he is ranked one or forty. He is not the sort of man who will compromise with principle, but the fact retains that his general attitude was reacted in the press. It may have cost him thousands of admirers.

His youthful, girlish, incredibly talented Jean sometimes gives the superficial impression of being a flighty, irresponsible, absent-minded wife. But Jean Simmons is a sensitive, perceptive girl. Loving her husband and knowing him better than anyone else, she has tried to tell people about him as he really is and not as the press sees him. She is the best press agent Stewart Granger could have. Certainly, she is helping to make friends of his former enemies.

Like everyone else who knew Granger, when his name was James Stewart, she refers to him as Jimmy.

“Jimmy is really a shy man. Now, I know,” she’ll say, “that sounds strange. But he really is.

“When he is afraid of something or merely nervous about it, he hides his nervousness by going to the offense. He attacks with gusto. He argues furiously.

“Some people resent this behavior, but only because they don’t understand what motivates it. It is purely defensive.

“I’ve heard that Jimmy is rude. I have honestly never heard him or seen him in any rude behavior unless someone provokes him. He does retaliate in kind. After all, he is a man who believes in speaking his mind. But he is not the sort who will ever go out of his way to start a fight.

“They say he doesn’t particularly like people. He does, but here again he’s shy about making friends. One must not forget that our backgrounds are British, not American. When Jimmy makes a friend he keeps him forever. Michael Wilding is an example. They’ve known each other for twenty years. He was best man at our wedding.

“As for these stories about our quarrels, Jimmy and I have our tiffs. I’ll scuff his hair and he’ll nip my neck, but ours is a wonderful marriage. And Jimmy is really a fascinating man. But you do not get to know him easily, and you can’t pass judgment on him fairly until you do know him.”

This sort of exposition has persuaded Hollywood to take another look at Stewart Granger.

At first he seemed to be too high-handed in his treatment of his wife. In America wives are treated as equals. In Europe they are not.

In Stewart’s first marriage his wife was about ten years older than he. At the outset of their life together, she was a successful actress and he a neophyte. Probably his ego suffered because of that. Anyway, he has come full circle. The next time he married, Granger chose a hero-worshipping girl who had loved him since she was fourteen. As this is being written, nobody knows what will happen to the sound track of The Glenn Miller Story,which was made by a band carefully rehearsed in the Miller manner. Miller’s widow, who still keeps her late husband’s bed made, has flatly refused to permit the soundtrack’s being released in any way that might lead the public to be hornswoggled into thinking it was by the original Miller outfit. Meanwhile, of course, several current bands are not averse to exploiting the fact that they can boast of a connection—even of the vaguest sort—with Glenn. RCA Victor, for example, lets it be known that Bill Finegan of the Sauter-Finegan assemblage once arranged for Miller. Capitol does the same-in the case of its top band, Ray Anthony’s. Anthony, who faintly resembles Cary Grant and who used to blow trumpet with Miller, has come out with an LP called “I Remember Glenn Miller.” Although I think it leaves something to be desired, particularly when compared with the “Glenn Miller Limited Edition,” I must report. that it is an appealing and, on the whole, efficient job that is worth your hearing.

What most movie reviewers have failed to note is that Miss Sadie Thompson offers, in addition to the beguilements of Rita Hayworth, some wonderful jazz in the sequence which has Rita entertaining the Marines with a sensual dance. The open cornet in particular is exciting. In any case, by the time this review reaches print, some company may have put this music on a record. If so, do not miss it. As for Miss Hayworth’s husband Dick Haymes, there is little to report except that he seems to be destroying his career by his lack of responsibility toward his public as well as toward his employers. This is a great shame because Dick has one of the most exciting baritones around.

In the instrument field this month there are several items of more than ordinary interest. Two especially merit your attention. The first is, as they advertise it, “the world’s smallest, lightest, 3-speed portable phonograph.” Called the Capri, it measures 10 x 9 x 4, weighs slightly more than six pounds, and costs only $29.95. It plays all 7-, 10-, and 12-inch records and has “Stereosonic Sound.” This little marvel is quite a buy. The second is RCA Victor’s “PushButton” tape recorder, which retails for $189.95. By merely pushing a button, you can preserve on tape whatever sounds happen to strike your fancy at a given moment—a child’s laughter, a radio broadcast, the audio of a television program, and so forth. It also can handsomely serve another purpose. It can reproduce phonograph records. I’d like to point out the advantages of this. One is that you can take the machine to the home of a friend who has a collection of records that are no longer available, push the button, thereby transferring to tape those records you would like to own. Equally important, you can reduce your own collection of 78 r.p.m.’s into a comparatively small space. Tape requires little room. You can transfer whole operas to tape and save space. This machine is also good fun for those who like to reproduce conversations or what goes on at a party. You might try it once. It’s worth the price in pleasure.

Apparently, Jean Simmons is completely dependent on her husband. In their marriage it is he who handles the finances, he who chooses the furniture for their hilltop house, he who makes and breaks the social engagements, he who runs the home.

This has given rise to talk that “in Jean Simmons, Granger doesn’t have a wife so much as he has a third child.” (Granger has two sons, eight and ten, from his previous marriage.) It has also been said that “he is more a guardian than a husband.” Whether or not this is true, Jean and Granger obviously like their marriage.

Jean Simmons does not particularly relish responsibility. She loves having a fiercely protective husband who will fight to the death for her. Occasionally, this may tire the poor fellow. He may get piqued at what he considers her immature behavior, but when the chips are down, when she’s in trouble, it’s a great relief to her to turn the battle over to a burly two-fisted fighter with broad shoulders and a rapier tongue.

Take Jean Simmons’ fight with RKO. RKO maintained that it had an employment contract with Jean Simmons. Miss Simmons’ husband maintained that no contract had been signed. He said Jean was more or less a free agent, whereupon many studios offered her roles.

One of the best offers came from Paramount. They wanted her for the princess role in Roman Holiday.

RKO maintained that Jean was a contract player, that she was scheduled to work on several RKO pictures, and that they had no intention of permitting another studio to use her.

At this point, Stewart Granger had had enough. His friends begged him not to start a long, costly legal battle with RKO. But Granger was adamant.

“I’m not going to sit by and let them do this to Jean. I’m telling you no written contract was signed. Jean has rights. She should be free to accept offers from other studios. She’s a great actress. I cannot let this happen to her.”

Every argument was tried to dissuade Granger. He was told that it might be years before a final legal decision could be reached. He was told that Jean could be black-balled as a trouble-maker. He was told that Howard Hughes, chief of RKO, had never lost a legal fight in his life.

But Stewart Granger is a fighter, too. He has guts and he has courage and in the face of tremendous pressure, he refused to give an inch.

“I am going through with this,” he announced, “if it takes every penny we have. Jean is entitled to know where she stands. Is she under contract or is she not?”

Content to put her fate in her husband’s hands, Jean went along with the play. When the case finally came to trial, it was shown conclusively that Jean Simmons had never signed a written employment contract with RKO. So the studio had no right to prevent her from making pictures elsewhere.

RKO maintained that there had been an oral understanding but the court declined to accept this as a valid contract. Nonetheless, because RKO had brought Jean to America, Granger agreed that they were entitled to consideration.

For $200,000 his wife agreed to make three films, not for RKO, but on loanout from them between February, 1953, and February, 1954. This arrangement was signed.

Jean went to MGM and made Young Bess with Stewart Granger, then to 20th Century for The Robe with Victor Mature, then back to MGM for The Actress with Spencer Tracy. Reportedly, she got $100,000 for each of these films, none of which had any connection with her RKO loanout deal.

Late in October, Stewart Granger was sent to London to star opposite Liz Taylor in the re-make of Beau Brummel. Stewart wanted his wife to accompany him, but if Jean left Hollywood and RKO exercised its right to loan her out, she would lose $200,000. If she remained in Hollywood, RKO would have to loan her out or pay her $200,000.

On October 1, RKO began to pay Jean Simmons $10,000 a week, although she had no work to do.

Late in November, it was announced that she was to make a film called A Bullet Is Waiting for Fidelity Productions. She will play opposite Rory Calhoun.

How much Fidelity Productions paid to borrow Jean, no one knows. By February 26, Jean will be $200,000 richer. With her earnings from her previous films, there is little doubt that she will be Hollywood’s biggest earner for the 1953-1954 period.

When Stewart Granger arrived in London without his beautiful young wife, everybody wanted to know why she wasn’t with him.

“It broke her heart not to be able to come home,” he said. “But she’s sitting out her contract. What a contract that was! It helped waste her first three years in Hollywood.”

“How do you feel about Hollywood?” Granger was asked. Instead of the vituperation expected from him, Granger said mildly, “I’ve no complaints. I’ve been very lucky there. It’s nice to be home. I’m just sorry Jean isn’t with me.”

The Grangers’ third wedding anniversary has passed. Some of the memories are pleasant, some sad.

In England four or five years ago, Jean Simmons was one of J. Arthur Rank’s leading lights. She was smiling and gracious and cooperative through her tremendous birthday party with Arthur Rank and 200 other guests and a five-tiered birthday cake and magnum after magnum of champagne.

Suddenly, “I can’t stand it any longer,” she cried. And bursting into tears she ran from the room. Everybody was a little shocked.

“Don’t breathe a word of this,” a press agent said. “But she’s hopelessly in love with Stewart Granger He’s the one person she wanted to see at this party and apparently he hasn’t been able to get here.”

At that time no one could imagine a more unlikely love affair. Granger was much older than Jean. He was worldly, experienced, adventurous, a man who knew all the angles. Jean was a talented, naive, simple girl.

Jean Simmons was born at Crouch End, London, the fourth child of a gymnastics teacher. She lived in Cricklewood, attended school at Edgeware.

At the beginning of the war the family was evacuated to Somerset. There Jean developed a great love for animals and decided on her life’s work.

“When I grow up,” she used to say, “I’m going to become a kennel maid.” But she began to take dancing lessons, and when the family was moved back to London, she decided, “I should prefer rather to become a dancer.”

Jean’s mother sent her to Aida Foster School of Dancing where she won a prize as the most popular girl in the school.

When Mrs. Foster heard that the Gainsborough Studios wanted a girl to play Margaret Lockwood’s sister in Give Us The Moon, she recommended Jean Simmons for an interview. There were 150 applicants for the job but on Friday, 13, Jean won it and went to work on the film.

One afternoon, Stewart Granger who had been acting on a nearby sound stage, dropped by to say hello to Margaret Lockwood. Jean, sitting alone in a corner, summoned up enough courage to approach him. “I wonder,” she said, “if I might have your autograph?” She fell in love with the tall handsome actor right then and there.

‘Her performance in Give Us The Moon was so good that she received other film offers. By the time she was sixteen she had played in six films and was given a starring part in Great Expectations.

And by the time she was sixteen she had seen Stewart Granger on many occasions, at film premiéres, at studio gatherings, at various canteens, but supposedly she was still a happily-married man. She held her young heart in check.

In 1948 Jean Simmons played Ophelia to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. Her performance in that one is an all-time great.

The following year at Manchester, she made her only stage appearance and that was opposite Stewart Granger. She cried as the audience applauded, but only she knows whether it was because she was happy or because she was sad. Granger had decided to go to Hollywood to work for MGM.

By this time he was divorced and reporters asked Jean when she planned to marry. All she would say was: “I met him when I was fourteen. I thought then that he was the most wonderful person in the world. I have known him really well for three years now, and I still think that. One couldn’t find a nicer, kinder man or better friend.”

Six months later, Howard Hughes flew them to Tucson, Arizona, where they were harried in a simple ceremony. The only friend present was Mike Wilding who flew but from New York where supposedly he had been enjoying the company of Marlene Dietrich.

Three eventful, jampacked years have lapsed since their quiet wedding. In those three years Jean and her Jimmy have experienced tremendous changes in their financial and professional status. In what they feel for each other, however, there was been no change. Their love still turns very defeat into a victory, every tear into smile.





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