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Jean Simmons - Star of the Month
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Footsteps in the Fog

Redolent with the menacing Victorian atmosphere of melodramas such as Gaslight (1944) and The Lodger (1944), Footsteps in the Fog (1955) stars Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons, then husband and wife, as a murderous London businessman and his scheming maid. The film begins at the funeral of Stephen Lowry's rich hypochondriac wife, and it soon becomes clear that he's poisoned her. The wife's maid, Lily, finds out and blackmails Lowry to advance her station. They embark on an affair, but there are several fiendish twists before both of them get their comeuppances.

Granger and Simmons met in their native England 1945, when he was third-billed in Caesar and Cleopatra (Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh played the title roles) and Simmons had a bit part. By the time they co-starred in the romantic comedy Adam & Evelyne (1949), Simmons had become a star, earning an Oscar® nomination for playing Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948). They married in 1950 and went to the U.S. when Granger was signed to an MGM contract. By the mid-1950s, they were among Hollywood's top stars, Granger in swashbucklers like The Prisoner of Zenda (1952) and Scaramouche (1952), and Simmons (after going to court to free herself from her contract with Howard Hughes) in the blockbuster biblical epic, The Robe (1953). That same year, they co-starred in >I>Young Bess at MGM.

At the time, Hollywood studios were making films abroad because several European countries demanded that money earned abroad by American studios be spent in the place where it was earned. Homesick for England, Granger asked MGM to use some of those frozen funds on a film shot in England starring him and Simmons. Before that could happen, Mike Frankovich, a producer at Columbia, heard they wanted to work in England, and approached them with the script for Footsteps in the Fog. In his memoir, Sparks Fly Upward, Granger recalls that he and Simmons had reservations about the script, but liked the malevolent characters, and agreed to do it if the script was rewritten. MGM agreed to loan Granger to Columbia. Then Frankovich told Granger that the director was Arthur Lubin, best known for directing "Francis the Talking Mule" films. Granger writes that he and Simmons were horrified, but because they wanted to go home, they agreed. Granger claims that he and veteran Hollywood screenwriter Lenore Coffee rewrote the script in the car on the daily trip from London's Dorchester Hotel to Shepperton Studios, where the film was shot.

Among the pleasures of Footsteps in the Fog are the Technicolor cinematography of Christopher Challis, who worked as camera operator or cinematographer on most of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's stunning color films, and Benjamin Frankel's elegant musical score. The lilting main theme, "Lily Watkins' Tune," was recorded by several British orchestras.

The all-British cast includes some familiar character actors, including Finlay Currie and Peter Bull, as well as two up-and-coming younger players, Bill Travers and Belinda Lee. Travers would go on to star in such international productions as The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957) and Born Free (1966). Lee had been in films less than two years, and was still in her ingénue period. Before long, she would embark on a blonde bombshell phase, rivaling Diana Dors as England's answer to Marilyn Monroe. In the late 1950s, Lee moved to Italy, embarked on a scandalous affair with a married Italian nobleman, made a series of sexually provocative films, and died in a car accident at the age of 26.

The New York Times critic called Footsteps in the Fog "A sad homecoming occasion... for the two British performers, although the lady, at least, manages to hold her own as a Borgia-type wren. She and Bill Travers, as an imaginative lawyer, keep it going, slowly and never too surely." The Time Magazine reviewer was more enthusiastic: "Granger and Simmons have managed to make their evildoers a couple of the year's most attractive film people."

Director: Arthur Lubin
Producer: M. J. Frankovich
Screenplay: Lenore Coffee, Dorothy Davenport, from an original story by W.W. Jacobs, adapted by Arthur Pierson
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Editor: Alan Osbiston
Costume Design: Beatrice Dawson, Elizabeth Haffenden
Art Direction: Wilfred Shingleton
Music: Benjamin Frankel
Cast: Stewart Granger (Stephen Lowry), Jean Simmons (Lily Watkins), Bill Travers (David Macdonald), Finlay Currie (Inspector Peters), Ronald Squire (Alfred Travers), Belinda Lee (Elizabeth Travers), Peter Bull (Brasher).

by Margarita Landazuri



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