The British actress Jean Simmons died from lung cancer yesterday, aged 80. She appeared in more than 70 films, among them Désirée in 1954, where she had the lead role as Désirée Clary, the merchant’s daughter from Marseilles who was engaged to the young General Napoléon Bonaparte and through her marriage to Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became Queen of Norway and Sweden.
The film was based on Annemarie Selinko’s bestselling novel from 1951, which brought Queen Désirée great international fame. But, like NRK’s much-discussed recent Harry & Charles, this was one of those historical films where only the main events are facts and everything else fiction. Elderly ladies in particular seem to believe that what happened in the film was what happened to Désirée in real life, but this is far from true: she did become engaged to Napoléon, she did marry Bernadotte and she did become Queen of Sweden and Norway, but in real life nothing of it happened in the way it happens in the film.
Désirée was anyway not one of Simmons’s greatest roles and in The Guardian Philip French writes more about the life of this British actress: