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In yet another notable picture, this time for MGM,
Simmons played Barbara Leslie Forbes in UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957), a
homefront story by James Mitchener about four sisters living in New
Zealand during World War II. Co-starring Joan
Fontaine, Piper Laurie, Sandra Dee and Paul
Newman, UNTIL THEY SAIL's screenplay by Robert Anderson suffers a
little in its attempt to describe the experiences of four characters over
a five-year period -- almost too much to cover in a 94-minute film --, but
its post-war take on wartime morality is well-presented and exceedingly
interesting from a social history standpoint. Simmons also has a
number of very poignant dramatic moments, and her sincere performance
gives the otherwise melodramatic, tear-jerking story a certain credibility
which holds the film together.
- "You may kiss me if you like... Now you are to go
home." --as Young Estella in GREAT EXPECTATIONS.
- "Flirting bores me." --as Miss Bishop in TRIO (1950).
- "I'm going to be somebody wonderful -- like you read
about. And nobody can stop me, not even my own family." --as Ruth Gordon
Jones in THE ACTRESS.
- "If I knew one single man that wanted a mistress, I'd go in Boston and be
kept!" --as Ruth Gordon Jones in THE ACTRESS.
- "I'd rather die than be lonely all my life." --as
Elizabeth I in YOUNG BESS.
- "I don't pretend to be a siren, Mr. Blakeley, but I
don't happen to be a hermit either." --as Carolyn Parker in AFFAIR WITH
A STRANGER (1953).
- "Do I look fuzzy to you?" --as Corby Lane in SHE
COULDN'T SAY NO.
- "You taste just like chocolate." --as Corby Lane in
SHE COULDN'T SAY NO.
- "Oh, I always seem dazed at first. You'll get used to
me." --as Corby Lane in SHE COULDN'T SAY NO.
- "Can't you believe in a love that asks for nothing?" --as Meryt
in THE EGYPTIAN.
The following year, Simmons was tapped by William
Wyler to play the pivotal role of Julie Maragon in his landmark
western THE BIG COUNTRY (1958), about two cattle barons feuding over water
rights. Co-starring Gregory Peck, Carroll
Baker, Charlton Heston, Charles Bickford
and Burl Ives, THE BIG COUNTRY is not just another widescreen Technicolor
western and has been vastly underrated over the years.
More complex than the usual testosterone
tale of good versus evil in the Old West, THE BIG COUNTRY is a fascinating
statement on bravery, violence and revenge made all the more impressive by
Wyler's shot selection, Franz Planer's cinematography and Jerome
Moross' lyrical score.
Although Simmons and
Wyler did not get on together, she did some of her best work in THE BIG
COUNTRY, and in some of the film's most pivotal scenes. The body
language with which she expresses her indecision about selling her
grandfather's ranch (above) and her
intensity of emotion while under attack by Chuck Connors (left) make these
scenes in THE BIG COUNTRY among the best of her career.
Music Clips from THE BIG COUNTRY (1958):
Big Muddy" (clip) by Jerome Moross (a .MP3 file).
Welcoming" (clip) by Jerome Moross (a .MP3 file).
Title" (clip) by Jerome Moross (a .MP3 file).
(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins
Simmons returned to soapy melodrama in THIS EARTH IS MINE
(1959), co-starring Rock Hudson
(with Simmons at left), Dorothy McGuire and
Claude Rains. Based on a
novel by Alice Tisdale Hobart, the film is the story of a winemaking
dynasty crippled by Prohibition and anxious to consolidate its vineyard holdings by marrying
Simmons off to a neighboring landowner. Though intelligently written
and respectably acted, it is once again Simmons' performance which saves
the film from drowning in its own suds.
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