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25 December 2014

Françoise Dorléac

Chic and stylish French actress Françoise Dorléac (1942-1967) is best known as the elder sister of Catherine Deneuve with whom she sang and danced in the musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort/The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). Actually Françoise was the first to become a star in the 1960s with films by François Truffaut and Roman Polanski. She seemed set for international stardom when she suddenly died in a car accident at the age of 25.

Francoise Dorléac
French postcard by E.D.U.G., offered by Corvisart, Epinal, no. 319. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Francoise Dorléac
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 1142. Photo: Vallois.

Francoise Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, no. 120. Photo: publicity still for Les Demoiselles de Rochefort/The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967) with Catherine Deneuve.

Slim, Brunette Stunner


Françoise Dorléac was born in Paris in 1942. She was the daughter of screen actor Maurice Dorléac and Renée Deneuve, and the sister of Danielle Dorléac, Catherine Deneuve and Sylvie Dorléac.

Françoise first appeared on stage at the age of 10. She entered the film industry with the short film Mensonges (1957) and made her stage debut in Gigi by Colette at the Théâtre Antoine, Paris, in 1960. Meanwhile she studied at the Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique (1957-1961).

The slim, brunette stunner modeled for Christian Dior, and also graced a number of films including Arsène Lupin contre Arsène Lupin/Arsène Lupin Contra Arsène Lupin (Edouard Molinaro, 1962) opposite Jean-Pierre Cassel, with whom she was engaged for a while.

In 1964 she hit stardom with her roles in François Truffaut's melodrama La peau douce/The Soft Skin (1964) and the James Bond-like spy spoof L'homme de Rio/That Man from Rio (Philippe de Broca, 1964), in which she showed a razor-sharp comic timing.

At IMDb, reviewer Gary Brumburgh writes: “The two films showed the polar sides of Francoise's incredible allure and talent. In the former she played an airline stewardess who falls into a tragic affair with a married businessman (Jean Desailly) and in the latter she played a fun and flaky heroine opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo.”

She branched out in international productions such as Genghis Khan (Henry Levin, 1965) featuring Omar Sharif, and Where the Spies Are (Val Guest, 1965) with David Niven.

Another highlight was her part as the adulterous wife of Donald Pleasence in the black comedy Cul-de-sac (Roman Polanski, 1966).

Hal Erickson of AllMovie reviews: “Drawing upon two of Polanski's favorite themes-isolation and latent insanity--Cul de Sac actually improves upon each viewing, assuming that the viewer has the intestinal fortitude to sit through it once.”

Francoise Dorleac
Small collectors card.

Francoise Dorléac
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin.

Francoise Dorléac
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2528, 1965. Retail price: 0,20 MDN.

Francoise Dorléac
East-German postcard by VEB progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 3292, 1968.

Unbridled Sense of Joie-de-vivre


While her sister Catherine was cool, calm, remote, and possessed with an edge of mystery about her, Françoise Dorléac proved a fun, carefree, outgoing presence both on and off camera. Known for her chic, stylish ways and almost unbridled sense of joie-de-vivre, she continued making strong marks.

Françoise and Catherine starred together in the musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort/The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967) opposite Gene Kelly and George Chakiris.

This colourful follow-up to Demy’s earlier success Les Parapluies de Cherbourg/The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964) paid homage to the Hollywood musicals of the 1940s. Françoise and Catherine, who looked quite similar, played singing twins who dream about living in Paris.

The next film of the luminous Dorléac was the spy film Billion Dollar Brain (Ken Russell, 1967) starring Michael Caine as Harry Palmer.

Then her thriving career came to an abrupt and tragic halt when she suddenly died in a car accident. She had lost control of her sports car. The rented Renault crashed and burned on a roadway in Nice, France. She had been en route to Nice airport and was afraid of missing her flight. She had intended to fly to London to complete her work on Billion Dollar Brain, and to attend the British premiere of Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Dorléac was seen struggling to get out of the burning car, but was unable to open the door. According to Wikipedia the police later identified her body only from the fragment of a check book, a diary and her driving license.

Gary Brumburgh writes: “Her early death at age 25 most certainly robbed the cinema of a tried and true talent and incomparably beautiful mademoiselle who showed every sign of taking Hollywood by storm, as Catherine later did.”


Françoise Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve in the delicious Les Demoiselles de Rochefort/The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). Source: aya0021 (YouTube).


Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasance in Cul-de-Sac (Roman Polanski, 1965). Source: Klautenbogg (YouTube).


Hilarious sixties video clip: Françoise Dorléac sings Mario j'ai mal. Source: petiteteigne (YouTube).


Because we adore them: one more clip of Françoise Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort/The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). Source: Amatissta (YouTube).

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

2 comments:

Bunched Undies said...

Oh, to be a young person in Paris in the 60s. Wonderful post Bob. Thank you.

Sheila said...

I remember some of her films. It's so sad that her life came to such an abrupt end. What an appalling way to die!