27 July 2013

Odile Versois

Delicately beautiful French actress Odile Versois (1930-1980) was the older sister of Marina Vlady. She appeared in some 50 European film and television productions between 1948 and 1980.

Odile Versois
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 138. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Odile Versois
French postcard by Noyer, no. 1296.

Petit Rat
Odile Versois was born Etiennette (according to some sources Tatiana or Katiana) De Poliakoff-Baidarov in Paris in 1930. Her father was Russian-born opera singer Vladimir de Poliakoff and her mother ballerina Militza Evgueïevna de Poliakoff née Envold. She was the second of four Poliakoff sisters, all of whom became renown actresses in their own right: Marina Vlady, Hélène Vallier and Olga Baïdar-Poliakoff. Like her siblings, she started acting at a young age, but she began her career as a ‘petit rat’ (child ballerina) with the Corps de Ballet of the Opéra de Paris under the name of Tania Baydarova. At the age of 18, she subsequently turned to film acting. She proved a natural with a major debut in Les dernières vacances/The Last Vacation (Roger Leenhardt, 1948). Set in the sunny south of France, this devilish drama chronicles the romantic entanglements between two vacationing families. For her role she was awarded with the Prix Suzanne-Bianchetti for the best young actress. She then did an audition for An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951), but her long-time friend Leslie Caron obtained the role. During a vacation in England Versois was hired to play a role in the British film Into the Blue (Herbert Wilcox, 1951) opposite Michael Wilding. In the following decade the serene, light-haired Versois continued to provide charm to such British films as A Day to Remember (Ralph Thomas, 1953), Chance Meeting/ Young Lovers (Anthony Asquith, 1954), the comedy To Paris with Love (Robert Hamer, 1955) with Alec Guinness, Checkpoint (Richard Thomas, 1956), and the dark action thriller Room 43/Passport to Shame (Alvin Rakoff, 1958) starring Eddie Constantine, Diana Dors and Herbert Lom. But she also undertook leading lady parts in several Italian, German and French films. Hal Erickson at AllMovie mentions her role as 13th century Francesca de Rimini in Paolo e Francesca/Paolo and Francesca (Raffaello Matarazzo, 1953) as “one of her more flamboyant assignments”. At IMDb, Gary Brumburgh writes that “she moved audiences most with her portrayals of fragile, often tragic heroines in romantic dramas” such as Bel amour/Beautiful Love (Francois Campaux, 1951), Domenica (Maurice Cloche, 1952), Grand gala (Francois Campaux, 1952) and Herscher ohne Krone/King in Shadow (Harald Braun, 1958) starring Horst Buchholz. In the successful suspense melodrama Toi, le venin/Nude in a White Car (Robert Hossein, 1958), she co-starred with director-writer Hossein and her sister Marina Vlady - known for her sultry roles.

Odile Versois
German postcard by ISV, no. D 6. Photo: Farabola.

Odile Versois
Mexican Collectors card, no. 283.

An Ultimate and Moving Appearance
In the 1960s Odile Versois matured in crime dramas and lively costume films, notably in the murder mystery Le rendez-vous (Jean Delannoy, 1961) starring George Sanders, the swashbuckler Cartouche/Swords of Blood (Philippe de Broca, 1962) starring Jean-Paul Belmondo as a 18th century French bandit chief, and the erotic period piece Benjamin (Michel Deville, 1968) featuring Pierre Clémenti. She also worked on the French, Belgian, Swiss and North African stages. Dogged by ill health, she was seen less frequently into the 1970s. On television, she lend some touching performances, particularly in the British mini-series A Place in the Sun (1972), the family drama Églantine (Jean-Claude Brialy, 1972) and Le confessional des penitents noirs (Alain Boudet, 1977). Her last film was Le Crabe-Tambour/The Crab Drum (Pierre Schoendoerffer, 1977) starring Jacques Perrin. This portrait of an eccentric but courageous warrior involved in the Indochinese and Algerian wars, won several French film industry awards. French magazine Première called her performance “une ultime et émouvante apparition” (an ultimate and moving appearance). Versois was married and divorced twice. First to actor Jacques Dacqmine, and in 1953 to Count François Pozzo di Borgo, with whom she had four children: Barbara (1954), Charles-André (1955), Alexandre (1957) and Vanina (1964). Her last role was in an episode of the French TV series Julien Fontanes, magistrate (Guy-André Lefranc, 1980) starring Jacques Morel. In 1980, Odile Versois passed away of cancer in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a week after her 50th birthday. Gary Brumburgh ends his bio at IMDb thus: “a gentle, beautiful soul [had] gone before her time”.

Odile Versois
German postcard by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. 1862. Photo: Huster / Bavaria / Schorchtfilm. Publicity still for Herrscher ohne Krone/King in Shadow (Harald Braun, 1957).

Odile Versois
German postcard by Ufa/Film-Foto, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FL 3374. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Huster / Bavaria-Schorchtfilm. Publicity still for Herrscher ohne Krone/King in Shadow (Harald Braun, 1957).

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


Beth Niquette said...

What a beautiful woman. She has an interesting face, not your classic beauty, yet lovely all the same.

Thank you for your wonderful posts. I enjoy them every bit.

Happy PFF!

Joy said...

How sad she died so early but in those 50 years she fitted in more than her lifetime.
Never seen the expression petite rat for child ballerinas. I can just imagine some temperamental ballet star calling them that, very funny.

Anonymous said...

Happy Friday, Bob! Thank you for visiting my blog! ~ What a lovely she was ... she led an interesting life! Thank for sharing her biography.

papel1 said...

As usual a very interesting blog entry. Beautiful woman and from such a talented family.

Postcardy said...

I got a kick out of the phrase "petit rat." It made me think of "rugrats" (American slang for toddlers or little kids).

Aimee said...

How beautiful she was! Happy PFF!

Snap said...

Great eyes and I love the different hair styles ... changes her personality a lot ... from sweet young thing to sexy seductress! So sad she died early. Happy PFF!

Mary said...

She doesn't look particularly Russian, although she's very beautiful.

Greyscale Territory said...

Such beautiful expressions on this woman's face! Amazing collection of postcards!

Debs said...

once again, an introduction to an actress i hadn't heard of...thank goodness for your blog which keeps these names alive! happy PFF!

Linda said...

Thought of you when watching Bonjour Tristesse on TCM today! Thank you for another informative post about European cinema and its stars. Interesting that Odile Versois vied for the "American in Paris" role that her pal Caron won.