Yesterday, French actress Sophie Desmarets has passed away. She was 89. Desmarets played in several popular Sword and Dagger films during the late 1940's. In the following decades she played in dozens of comedies, both on stage and in films, and she also became a popular TV actress in her country.
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 35. Photo: Films Sirius.
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 161. Photo: Pathé Cinema.
Sophie Desmarets was born Jacqueline Yvonne Eva Desmarets in Paris in 1922. She was the daughter of Bob Desmarets, director of the Vélodrome d'Hiver, creator of the cycle contest Les Six jours de Paris, and later p.r. manager at the magazine L’Auto. When she was 16, Louis Jouvet visited the house of her parents, set for sale. He remarked: "Vous, vous avez un physique de théâtre. Si un jour vous voulez jouer, venez me voir." [You have stage appearance. If you want to play, visit me]. A few months later, Desmarets started acting classes at the Paris Conservatoire as auditor, as well as classes at the Théâtre de l'Athénée where Louis Jouvet, Jean Meyer and Alfred Adam were teachers. When Jouvet went to Latin-America, Desmarets became auditor at the class of Madame Dussane, where she finally was admitted as ordinary pupil, after being admitted to the Conservatoire in October 1941. Parallel she also followed the Cours René Simon and debuted on stage in Leonore de Sylva. In June 1944 Desmarets won the Premier prix de comédie moderne when leaving the Conservatoire. She became a star at the boulevard theatre from 1945 on, in her performance in Armand Salacrou’s play Le Soldat et la sorcière (The Soldier and the witch), a historical comedy about the tumultuous affair between marshal de Saxe and actress Justine Favart. She also performed in plays by André Roussin, Marcel Mithois, and in particular plays by her friends Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy. Desmarets first appeared in the cinema as an extra in Battement de Coeur/Beating Heart (1940, Henri Decoin), starring Danielle Darrieux. In 1942 she played her first substantial part in L’Homme qui joue avec le feu/The man who plays with fire (1942, Jean de Limur), starring Ginette Leclerc. In the late 1940's, Desmarets specialised in the sword and dagger genre, such as the film Le Capitan/The Captain (1946, Robert Vernay), while on stage she played both in Molière’s Misanthrope and a stage version of Ninotchka, previously a famous film with Greta Garbo. She also played the loyal secretary of René Dary in 120 Rue de la gare (1946, Jacques-Daniel Norman), Baccarat in Rocambole (1948) and the sequel La revanche de Baccarat/The Revenge of Baccarat (1948) both directed by Jacques de Baroncelli and starring Pierre Brasseur.
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1239. Photo: Ancrenaz. Publicity still for Le capitan (1946).
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 170. Photo: Studio Harcourt.
Sophie Demarets played the love interest of Maurice Chevalier in the musical comedy Ma pomme/Just Me (1950, Marc-Gilbert Sauvajon), then the French mistress of Aldo Fabrizi in Luigi Zampa’s comedy Signori, in carrozza!/Rome-Paris-Rome (1951), and Rose Bertin in Si Paris nous était conté/If Paris Were Told to Us (1956, Sacha Guitry). Her filmography counts dozens of B-pictures from the 1950's and 1960's, such as comedies with Jean Richard, Jean Poiret, Michel Serrault and Francis Blanche. In the same years Desmarets triumphed on stage with Fleur de cactus (Cactus Flower) and after that Peau de vache (Cow Hide) - in 1989 she would star in the TV version of Fleur de cactus (1989, Yves-André Hubert). In 1962 Desmarets was member of the jury of the Cannes film festival. A year later she played on TV the title role of Madame Sans-Gêne (1963, Claude Barma). In the 1960's and 1970's Sophie Desmarets’ popularity grew in particular because of her contributions to television productions. From around 1980 on physical constraints forced her to reduce more and more her professional activities. In her last film performance in Fallait pas!.../Should not!... (1996) directed by and starring Gérard Jugnot, she was the mother of Michèle Laroque. Sophie Desmarets had married René Froissant since 1942. They had a daughter Catherine. In 1949 Desmarets divorced Froissant and married writer and film critic Jean de Baroncelli, son of filmmaker Jacques de Baroncelli. With him she had a second daughter Caroline. Because of this marriage she becamemarquise de Baroncelli-Javon. Sophie Desmarets was Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. Since the 1990's she focussed her attention on her antique shop in Paris and she had a passion for gardening. Her memories were published in 2004 as Les mémoires de Sophie. Sophie Desmarets died in her hometown Paris on 13 February 2012.
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 439. Photo: Sam Lévin.
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris.
Sources: Le Monde (French), Les Légendes du Cinéma (French), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.