05 November 2014

Véra Clouzot

Brazilian born French actress and screenwriter Véra Clouzot (1913-1960) only appeared in three films. Despite her very short career, she starred in such unforgettable classics as Le Salaire de la Peur/The Wages of Fear (1953) and Les Diaboliques/Diabolique (1955). All her films were directed by her husband, French master of suspense Henri-Georges Clouzot.

Vera Clouzot
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 492. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Coup de Foudre

Véra (also Vera) Clouzot was born as Véra Gibson-Amado in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1913.

She was the daughter of one of Brazil's most notorious political figures, Gilberto Amado. Amado was a congressman, writer, journalist and lawyer, and the ex-President of the United Nations' International Law Committee. In 1915, he shot to death fellow writer and poet Aníbal Teóphilo in an official ceremony at the Jornal do Commercio for disagreeing with his opinions on literature. Amado was acquitted.

His daughter met in 1941 the French actor Léo Lapara. He was a member of the theatre company of Louis Jouvet, which happened to be on tour in Rio de Janeiro. They married shortly after and she then joined the company for a tour in South America that lasted for nearly four years.

After the Second World War they returned to France and Vera settled in Paris. Louis Jouvet took over the direction of the Theatre Athenée and he continued to give Véra small roles.

In 1947, Lapara played a role in the film Quai des Orfevres/Quay of the Goldsmiths (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947). When Véra met the director on the set it was a ‘coup de foudre’: love at first sight. Clouzot hired her as a script girl for his next film Miquette et sa mere/Miquette (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1949) starring Louis Jouvet. Vera divorced Lapara, and in 1950 she married Clouzot.

Vera Clouzot
French postcard by Cinédis. Clouzot is coiffed as her character in Le Salaire de la Peur/The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953).

The French Hitchcock

Véra Clouzot would play the female lead in her husband's next film, Le Salaire de la Peur/The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953).

Her co-stars in this magnificent thriller (#166 in IMDb’s Top 250) were Charles Vanel and Yves Montand. They played Frenchmen stranded in South-America, who are hired to transport an urgent nitro-glycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.

Véra Clouzot did her own stunts in the film, which included getting on a moving truck and being pushed away to the ground.

IMDb reviewer Dennis Littrell writes about her performance: “Véra Clouzot plays Linda who first appears scrubbing the floor in an open-air bistro. She is rather extraordinary herself, finely made up and creamy white like a star of the silent film era. She grovels a lot, especially for Mario (Montand). She provides the counter-point, the contrast for the testosterone action of the movie.”

At AllMovie, Hal Erickson adds about the film: “The first half of the film slowly, methodically introduces the characters and their motivations. The second half -- the drive itself -- is a relentless, goosebump-inducing assault on the audience's senses.”

Le Salaire de la Peur was the winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Festival and made Henri-Georges Clouzot known as ‘the French Hitchcock’.
Yves Montand
Yves Montand. German postcard by Ufa (Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft), Berlin-Tempelhof, nr. FK 658. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Sam Lévin, Paris. Publicity still for Le salaire de la peur/The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953).


Véra Clouzot’s most famous film is undoubtedly her next, Les Diaboliques/Diabolique (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955).

This horror thriller (#179 in IMDb’s Top 250) was an adaptation of a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, on whose novel D'Entre Les Morts (Among the Deaths) Alfred Hitchcock later based Vertigo (1958).

Clouzot played the long-suffering invalid wife of a cruel headmaster (Paul Meurisse). She conspires with his mistress (Simone Signoret) to kill him. After the murder is committed, his body disappears, and strange events begin to plague the two women.

Véra Clouzot then appeared in a supporting part in her husband’s next film, Les espions/The Spies (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1957), starring Curd Jürgens and Peter Ustinov. She played a mute mental patient in this parody of espionage and political ideology set in a nursing home. It would be the last film in which she could be seen.

However she contributed to another film of her husband. She co-wrote the screenplay for La vérité/The Truth (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1960). In this film Brigitte Bardot played a girl on trial for the murder of her lover.

In 1960 Véra Clouzot suddenly died of a heart attack in Paris. A morbid detail was that her character in Les Diaboliques had died the same way. Véra Clouzot was only 47.

In 1977 Hollywood remade Le Salaire de la Peur as Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 1977) and two decades later followed a Hollywood remake of Les Diaboliques, Diabolique (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1996) with Sharon Stone as the mistress and Isabelle Adjani in Véra Clouzot’s role. Both remakes could not stand in the shadow of the original versions.

Vera Clouzot
German postcard by Film und Bild, Berlin, no. A 816. Photo: Lucienne Chevert / Unifrance film.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), John Jameson (IMDb), Wikipedia (French), and IMDb.


Joy said...

I was wondering why she had made so few films until you told of her early death (if only I had taken notice of her year dates early on!)

Snap said...

It's always fun to visit and see the French star featured on Friday. Wow ... folks I recognize today ...Simone Signoret and Yves Montand. Too bad about Véra Clouzot's early death ... I might have recognized her too! Happy PFF!

Dorincard said...

"Enjoy while you can!", Vera...:)

Sheila said...

She died so young, no wonder I didn't know her. It a real shame when her films were so good.