Success is like reaching an important birthday and finding you’re exactly the same. – Audrey Hepburn
As Varinia in Spartacus
Later “discovered” from the Aida Foster School of Dancing in Golders Green in North London, she would become known to the world as Jean Simmons, the beautiful, radiant actress who made a name for herself especially through British and Hollywood movies working with some of the greatest talents in the film business.
In a career that flourished more than 60 years, she would go on to receive numerous award nominations, and also win an Emmy Award (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie) for her role in the 1983 mini-series, The Thorn Birds. The British honoured her with an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 2003 for her services to acting. Although I had seen David Lean’s film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” (1946), it was her role as the passionate Kanchi, the Indian servant girl in the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film “Black Narcissus” (1947 – starring Deborah Kerr) that brought Simmons to my attention.
With Richard Burton in The Robe
Soon after, I saw her in The Robe (1953 – D: Henry Koster), the Biblical film she is most known for. Indeed, it was the potent mixture of Biblical events in addition to the presence of talents like Richard Burton and Victor Mature that impelled me to see this film adaptation of Lloyd Cassel Douglas’ (The Big Fisherman) Roman epic novel about the magic robe of Christ.
With Richard Burton in The Robe
In that first CinemaScope movie, Jean Simmons, with her startlingly attractive dark looks and screen presence, performed well amidst a fine troupe of stars. She played the graceful Diana, a noble Roman with Christian beliefs, in love with Roman centurion Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton) who wins the robe worn by Jesus in a dice game.
With Carroll Baker in The Big Country
Later, I saw her captivating beauty and talent in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948 – as Ophelia); in the screen version of George Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion (1952 – D: Gabriel Pascal); Angel Face (1952 – D: Otto Preminger); The Egyptian (1954 – D: Michael Curtiz); with Marlon Brando in Désirée (1954 – D: Henry Koster), in Guys and Dolls (1955 – D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz); The Big Country (1958 – D: William Wyler); Elmer Gantry (1960 – D: Richard Brooks); Spartacus (1960 – D: Stanley Kubrick); etc. Then there were many lost opportunities for her like the role of Princess Ann in Roman Holiday (1953) which director William Wyler wanted Simmons to play. But as fate had it, the role eventually went to Audrey Hepburn and earned Hepburn the Best Actress Academy Award for 1953. Simmons once summed up her career with a quote, “My career has had a lot of ups and downs, but basically it has been wonderful.”
With Kirk Douglas in Spartacus
January 31 also marks the birthdays of several popular personalities: Tallulah Bankhead; Suzanne Pleshette; James Franciscus; Kelly Lynch; Portia de Rossi; Carol Channing; Mario Lanza; Derek Jarman; Daniela Bianchi; …. Austrian Composer Franz Schubert; Authors Zane Grey and Norman Mailer; etc. As Jean Paul Richter quotes, “Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.” Bye for now, Jo Notes:
a) The DVDs of this movies referred above are available with main dealers such as amazon.com, TCM Shop, etc.
b) This illustrated article is meant for the promotion of the movies mentioned above. Please refer to “About” for more details.
With Kirk Douglas in Spartacus
(© Joseph Sebastine/Manningtree Archive)
Bangalore (Bengaluru*) is the capital of the State of Karnataka in India which shares the border of our State, Kerala, with Tamil Nadu. I have enjoyed the temperate climate and higher elevation of Bangalore many times since my teen days, but more often from the time our daughter Bianca enrolled at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Bangalore in 2010. This time around, in June 2014, we had gone there to attend the NIFT Graduation Day/Convocation Ceremony 2014.
NIFT, which is unique and special, provides the best training for budding Indian designers with a sense of fashion, ideas and dreams. It gave them hope that one day they could also become fashion pacesetters of the future like established designers such as Manish Malhotra, Rohit Bal, Ritu Kumar, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Tarun Tahiliani, J J Valaya, Manish Arora, etc.
My tryst with a major fashion event was back in September 2002 at Colchester, England, which sparked a long dissertation over the subject of “dressing for dinner”, which extended across that day’s dinner with Carina at the Prince of Wales (8 Kensington Church Street, London). That dinner had concluded with the opinion that good taste and judgment is of supreme importance if one wishes to be well-dressed.
We could also endorse the dictum that men should be kept in mind while designing clothes for women!
The show at Colchester later prompted me to read the autobiography of Paramount / Universal Pictures costume designer, Edith Head (Edith Claire Posener). Winner of eight Academy Awards, she had not only transformed glamorous stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day, Cary Grant, Yul Brynner, etc, into the characters they play on the screen but also designed costumes for opera and circus. Who could fail to notice the everyday girl style of Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” (1953) or Yul Brynner’s Pharaoh in ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956)?. Soon I my attention was drawn to the works of Edith’s contemporaries such as Irene Sharaff, Ann Roth, etc.
But my real interest in fashion was awakened when Carina and I were staying in Milan with a friend who often did promotions/networking for major fashion shows in Milan. Since then, apart from being fascinated by fashion window displays in many World capitals, I had kept a climatic eye on the dressing of women. One is never bored!
Fast-forward to Bangalore: the aggressive monsoon showers that lashed onto the NIFT Campus on that June evening did not cause hindrance to the students, their guardians converging from around the country, their confrere, the NIFT faculty and other consultants/volunteers/technicians, pouring into the main auditorium for the KNIT MODA / FASHIONOVA Graduation Show 2014 – the most important event in the knitwear/fashion curriculum of NIFT.
Apart from the opportunity to the budding designers to enhance their specialised learning by participating in their first fashion event, the show provided them with a creative platform for designing; fabric research; to create dresses with fantastic fit and impeccable construction; and also strikes a fine balance between backstage work and catwalk presentation. The event acted as a lever for aspiring talents to make fresh impressions and move forward into the public eye – ready to take their life to a whole new level.
And really, during the past few days, the prestigious NIFT campus had seen visits from recruiters interested in fresh ideas and new blood which is integral to their business. They had interviewed the undergraduate designers which had provided them with opportunities to hear about the emerging talents’ awareness in fabric, textiles and fashion trends in addition to their views on creativity; the cycles of fashion; the glamour of the job – the type of designer they aspire to be. Some of these inexperienced fashion enthusiasts will eventually go through all the apprentice stage and tough employment conditions of the industry to master the dictates of fashion before, driven by an unprejudiced joy of fashion, establish their own fashion service.
As we entered into the excited atmosphere of the auditorium, we could see that apart from the cunningly lit lights and sound, a platform was installed as the runway that would showcase the little debut collections of Womenswear and Menswear derived from the hard work and talent of the Resident fashionistas. A battery of photographers with their gadgets was shuffling around the runway like the organisers of the event. This is going to be fun!
After the preliminary introductions, the show commenced with presentation of the Knitwear collections followed by Fashion apparels. Presented on time, the collections came into focus one after the other attired by fabulous models adorned with trend-led accessories and fascinators. Their movements crackled with energy while their faces displayed emotions of joy, anger, sadness and pensiveness in synergy with each theme.
The collection was a mixture of Western and traditional cuts. Some featured the vibrant colours inspired by the summer festivals of India while one attired her models with dresses that would fit into the modern architecture and rooms currently in fashion in emerging cities of India. Some showed great deal of personal originality while others almost fantastic in their novelty.
The entire show was highlighted with coloured spotlights, and during occasional breaks from pumping Asian-Western soundtrack, well-known commentator Prasad Bidapa enchanted the spectators with the salient features of each presentation before the designer, cheerful, full of gusto, full of zip, appeared on the runway to endorse his/her collection. Indeed, shows like this being part of the curriculum will continue to exist. However, some media news has raised the issue that fashion shows could possibly become endangered events since its survival is threatened by scheduling complications, technological advances and infighting.
Fashion is a glamorous but tough industry and it has grown into a huge industry and worked at so many tiers. The idea is that, a degree in Fashion design is not just about fashion design anymore as there are so many other directions to take you off considering the various elements connected to fashion. These new aspects have undoubtedly made fashion an unbounded turf for motivated students where people would be their passion – their curiosity would be in peoples’ personality and their figure.
The NIFT show had begun, as such shows should, quite mildly but its conclusion was marked with whistles and thunderous applause as the audience rejoiced. Well, the event of the day has come to an end, mission accomplished with ease and grace, but there would not be a let-down in the energy and enthusiasm of these undergraduates. When the Earth turns on its axis one more time, it will be the Graduation Day for them and the successful culmination of their dream.
These students are coming fast into focus and hopefully, one day may provide a new fashion experience surmounting the existing line-up. This is an age of creativity and the ground is always fertile for the inspired designers. Essentially, they can get inspiration from almost everything. Besides, there is no age in clothes today. An elegant blessing is that fashion creates its own demand. Till next time, Jo
Nothing captures the moments of the Show better than photographs – some of the best are here below.
1) A 9th century Ganga inscription refers to Bangalore as “Bengaluru”. “Bangalore” is believed to be an anglicised version.
2) Manningtree Archive congratulates the winners and each one who made the KNIT MODA / FASHIONOVA Graduation Show 2014 a memorable event.
(Photos: © Joseph Sebastine/Manningtree Archive)