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21 December 2015

Jacqueline Bisset

English actress Jacqueline Bisset (1944) has been an international film star since the late 1960s. She received her first roles mainly because of her stunning beauty, but over time she has become a fine actress respected by fans and critics alike. Bisset has worked with directors John Huston, François Truffaut, George Cukor and Roman Polanski. She received France’s Légion d'honneur in 2010.

Jacqueline Bisset
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Jacqueline Bisset
East-German postcard by Progress Film-Verleih, Berlin, no. 99/77, 1977.

Jacqueline Bisset
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Miss Goodthighs


Jacqueline Bisset was born Winifred Jacqueline Fraser Bisset in Weybridge, Surrey, England, in 1944. She was the daughter of Arlette Alexander, a lawyer turned housewife, and Max Fraser Bisset, a general practitioner. Her mother taught her to speak French fluently, and she was educated at the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in London. She took ballet lessons as a child. During her teenage years her father left the family when her mother was diagnosed with disseminating sclerosis. Jacqueline worked as a model to support her ailing mother and eventually her parents divorced, an experience she has said she considered character-strengthening.

Bisset began taking acting lessons and started her film career in 1965. She appeared uncredited as a prospective model in The Knack ...and How to Get It (Richard Lester, 1965) with Rita Tushingham. The following year, Bisset made her official film debut with a small role in Roman Polanski's psychological comic thriller Cul-de-sac (1966). In 1967, she appeared in the comedy drama Two for the Road (Stanley Donen, 1967), and she played Miss Goodthighs in the the widely panned James Bond satire, Casino Royale (John Huston a.o., 1967).

That same year, she played her first lead role in the spy film The Cape Town Affair (Robert D. Webb, 1967), opposite James Brolin. In 1968, Bisset gained mainstream recognition when she replaced Mia Farrow for the role of Norma MacIver in The Detective (Gordon Douglas, 1968), opposite Frank Sinatra. In the same year, she co-starred in the counter-culture drama The Sweet Ride (Harvey Hart, 1968), with French-Canadian actor Michael Sarrazin, with whom she became romantically involved for several years. Her role brought her a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer.

Bisset played Steve McQueen's girlfriend in the popular action film Bullitt (Peter Yates, 1968), which was among the top five highest-grossing films of the year. Bullitt is notable for its car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco, regarded as one of the most influential in movie history. At 25, Bisset played her first ‘older woman’ in the sex comedy The First Time (James Neilson, 1969). She was one of the many stars in the disaster film Airport (George Seaton, 1970). She played a pregnant stewardess carrying Dean Martin's love child. The film was one of the biggest box office hits of the year. Following films included the horror film The Mephisto Waltz (Paul Wendkos, 1971) with Alan Alda, the Western The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (John Huston, 1972) starring Paul Newman as the real-life, self-appointed frontier judge, and The Thief Who Came to Dinner (Bud Yorkin, 1973) with Ryan O'Neal.

In France, she appeared in François Truffaut's La nuit américaine/Day for Night (1973) which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. With her role, she earned the respect of European critics and filmgoers as a serious actress. In France, she also appeared with Jean-Paul Belmondo in the action comedy Le Magnifique/The Man from Acapulco (Philippe de Broca, 1973), a slapstick spoof of B-series espionage movies and novels. In Great-Britain, she was among the all-star cast of the Agatha Christie mystery Murder on the Orient Express (Sidney Lumet, 1974), starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot. In Italy, she co-starred with Marcello Mastroianni in the thriller La donna della domenica/The Sunday Woman (Luigi Comencini, 1975). Then she returned to Hollywood for the action film St. Ives (J. Lee Thompson, 1976) with Charles Bronson.

Jacqueline Bisset
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen in Rich and Famous (1981)
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, no. c-de 43 139. Photo: publicity still for Rich and Famous (1981) with Candice Bergen.

Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen in Rich and Famous (1981)
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: publicity still for Rich and Famous (1981) with Candice Bergen.

The wet T-shirt craze


In 1977, Jacqueline Bisset had her definitive breakthrough in America with The Deep (Peter Yates, 1977). Her swimming underwater wearing only a white T-shirt for a top, helped to make the film a box office success. Newsweek magazine declared her "the most beautiful film actress of all time" and the film inspired the wet T-shirt craze. Reportedly, Bisset hated the wet T-shirt scenes because she felt exploited.

By 1978, she was a household name. In that year she received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the comedy Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (Ted Kotcheff, 1978). She also starred opposite Anthony Quinn in The Greek Tycoon (J. Lee Thompson, 1978), loosely based it on Aristotle Onassis and his relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy.

With Paul Newman, she played in the disaster film When Time Ran Out (James Goldstone, 1980). It was a commercial flop. Bisset served as a co-producer for the drama Rich and Famous (George Cukor, 1981) with Candice Bergen. In 1983, she starred in Class (Lewis John Carlino, 1983), as Rob Lowe's attractive mother who seduces her son's best friend (Andrew McCarthy).

She earned another Golden Globe nomination for her role in John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984) opposite Albert Finney. She also earned praise and success for her starring role in the British film High Season (Clare Peploe, 1987).

Since the mid-1980s, Bisset has appeared in many made-for-TV movies. One of her later TV movies was America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story (Eric Laneuville, 2003), in which she again portrayed Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Bisset's other television work includes the Biblical epics Jesus (Roger Young, 1999) and In the Beginning (Kevin Connor, 2000), and the miniseries Joan of Arc (Christian Duguay, 1999), which earned her an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

In 1996, Bisset was nominated for a César Award for her role in the French film La Cérémonie/The Ceremony (Claude Chabrol, 1996) with Isabelle Huppert. She also appeared in Dangerous Beauty (Marshall Herskovitz, 1998) with Catherine McCormack, and in the Domino Harvey biographical film Domino (Tony Scott, 2005) with Keira Knightley. In 2006, Bisset had a recurring role on the TV series Nip/Tuck as the ruthless extortionist James, and two years later, she starred in the lead role of Death in Love (Boaz Yakin, 2008).

In 2010, Bisset was awarded the Légion d'honneur insignia, one of France's highest honours. She returned to the UK to film Stephen Poliakoff's 1930s jazz drama series, Dancing on the Edge (2013). For her work, she won a Golden Globe. Jacqueline Bisset has never married. She had lengthy romances with actor Michael Sarrazin, Russian-American dancer and actor Alexander Godunov, real estate magnate Victor Drai, actor Vincent Pérez, and martial arts instructor Emin Boztepe.


DVD Trailer Bullitt (Peter Yates, 1968). Source: Sam Jones (YouTube).


Trailer La nuit américaine/Day for Night (François Truffaut, 1973). Source: Jordi Puig (YouTube).


Trailer The Deep (Peter Yates, 1977). Source: Joakim46 (YouTube).

Congratulations to...


Marlène Pilaete at L'encinémathèque. She just published her 100th gallery. It is dedicated to American film actress Patricia Morison, who became a centenarian this year.

Sources: Roger Burns (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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