14 February 2014

Martine Carol

One of the French cinema's most beautiful women was Martine Carol (1920–1967). During the early 1950s the French sex symbol was a top box office draw as an elegant blonde seductress in many films. Her private life was filled with turmoil including a suicide attempt, drug abuse, a kidnapping, and a mysterious death.

Martine Carol
Yugoslavian postcard by Studio Sombor, no. 314.

Martine Carol
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 132. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Martine Carol
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 210 H. Photo: Lucienne Chevert, no. 456.

Martine Carol
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 690. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Martine Carol
Vintage card. Photo: still for Lucrèce Borgia/Lucretia Borgia (Christian-Jaque, 1953).

Anti-Semitic Propaganda

Martine Carol was born in 1920 as Maryse Louise Mourer in Saint-Mandé, Val-de-Marne, France.

A chance meeting with comedian André Luguet steered her toward a career in the theatre. Trained by René Simon, she made her 1940 stage debut with Phèdre, billed as Maryse Arley.

She subsequently caught the eye of film director Henri-Georges Clouzot who hired her for his film Le Chat/The Cat, based on the novel by Colette, but the project was scrapped.

She made her first film appearance in the anti-Semitic propaganda film Les Corrupteurs (Pierre Ramelot, 1941), but she first attracted attention in La ferme aux loups/Wolf Farm (Richard Pottier, 1943), which takes advantage of her photogenic beauty and ease in front of the camera despite a limited acting ability.

Throughout the 1940s she was a pin-up goddess and support actress in films like the comedy Voyage surprise (Pierre Prévert, 1947) and Les amants de Vérone/The Lovers of Verona (André Cayatte, 1949).

She also appeared on the stage of the Theatre of the Renaissance. In 1947 a torrid affair with actor Georges Marchal, who was married to actress Dany Robin at the time, ended disastrously and she attempted suicide by taking an alcohol/drug overdose and throwing herself off a bridge into the Seine River. She was saved by a taxi driver who accompanied her there. Ironically, the unhappy details surrounding her suicide attempt renewed the fascination audiences had with Martine up until that time.

She was also kidnapped by gangster Pierre Loutrel (aka ‘Crazy Pete’), albeit briefly and received roses the next day as an apology.

Martine Carol
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 357. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Martine Carol
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 364. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Martine Carol
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 564. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Martine Carol
Dutch postcard by DRC, no. F192-657, posted in 1958.

Martine Carol
German postcard by Kunst un Bild. Berlin, no. A 1146. Photo: Allianz-Film. Publicity still for Madame du Barry/Madame Dubarry (Christian Jacque, 1954).

Martine Carol
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 432. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Taunting, Kittenish Sexuality

In 1950 Martine Carol scored her first huge film success with the French Revolution epic Caroline Cherie/Dear Caroline (Richard Pottier, 1950) - no doubt prompted by her semi-nude scenes and taunting, kittenish sexuality - and she was off and running at the box office.

Her film romps were typically done tastefully with an erotic twinge of innocence and gentle sexuality plus an occasional bubble bath thrown in as male bait. She continued spectacularly with an array of costumed teasers such as Adorables créatures/Adorable Creatures (1952), Lucrèce Borgia/Sins of the Borgias (1953), Madame du Barry (1954), and Nana (1954), all guided and directed by second husband Christian-Jacque, whom she married in 1954.

Martine later divorced the director due to professional conflicts and long separations. She also starred in Belles de Nuit/ Beauties of the Night (René Clair, 1952) opposite Gérard Philipe, and in the last comedy directed by Preston Sturges, Les Carnets du Major Thompson/The Diary of Major Thompson (1955), based on the best-seller by Pierre Daninos.

One of her last major roles was as the title character in Lola Montés (Max Ophüls, 1955), the tragic and true story of the great adventurer, circus attraction and lover of various important men.

Martine Carol
German postcard by Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. CK-2. Retail price: 30 Pfg. Photo: Gérard Décaux/Ufa.

Martine Carol
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam (Dutch licency holder for Ufa/Film-Foto, Berlin-Tempelhof), no. 3611. Photo: Sam Lévin / Unifrance Film.

Martine Carol
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 4064. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for The Stowaway (Ralph Habib, Lee Robinson, 1958).

Martine Carol,  Ivan Desny
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H. Minden/Westf., no. 1719. Photo: Gamma / Union / Vogelmann. Publicity still for Lola Montez (Max Ophüls, 1955) with Ivan Desny.

Martine Carol
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden-Westf., no. 1723. Photo: Gamma / Union / Vogelmann. Publicity still for Lola Montès (Max Ophüls, 1955).

Martine Carol
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. F 5. Photo: Collignon.

Severe Decline

By the mid 1950s, Brigitte Bardot had replaced Martine Carol as the national Sex Siren, and the voluptuous blonde's career went into a severe decline.

Although such mature roles as Empress Josephine in Austerlitz/The Battle of Austerlitz (Abel Gance, 1960) and Contessa Vitelleschi in Vanina Vanini (Roberto Rossellini, 1961) followed, nothing revived audience interest.

Depressed, she turned alarmingly reclusive while a third marriage to French doctor Andre Rouveix also soured by 1962. Problems with substance abuse and a severe accident in the 1960s also curtailed her career dramatically.

Her last film was Hell Is Empty (John Ainsworth, Bernard Knowles, 1963). Production was briefly halted due to her illness. This is why the film has two directors. Although filmed in 1963 it was not released until 1967. (By the time of the release of the film, two of the leading ladies, Patricia Viterbo and Martine, were already dead.)

Martine Carol’s last marriage to fourth husband Mike Eland, an English businessman and friend of first husband Steve Crane, seemed hopeful, but in 1967, she died of cardiac arrest at age 46 in the bathroom of a hotel in Monaco. Her husband discovered her.

Newspapers hinted at a possible drug overdose but nothing was ever proven. She was initially buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery of Paris. But her grave was violated (some media reported that she had been interred with her jewels). Martine Carol was then buried in the Grand Jas Cemetery of Cannes.

Martine Carol
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no.58. Retail price: 50 Pfg. Photo: G.B. Poletto / Ufa.

Martine Carol
French postcard by Edition du Globe (EDUG), Paris, no. 320. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Martine Carol
French postcard by Edition du Globe (EDUG), Paris, no. 321. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Martine Carol
French postcard, no. 651. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Martine Carol
German postcard by ISV, no. D 9. Photo: Farabola.

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.


Linda said...

A tumultuous life that ended young--and then to have her grave violated as well. What a tragic tale.

Paula said...

How very sad ... such parallels in her life. For she was incredibly beautiful but her life was treacherously sad.

Congratulations on Holland's Champion Soccer win!! Yahooo!! Indeed, that is a reason to celebrate! ~ Happy Friday to you!

Snap said...

Tragic! What a beauty ... the smile!!!! Happy PFF!

Sheila said...

Another unhappy life - so sad!

I've just been watching the Netherlands this afternoon with our good Dutch friends - gearing up now for the next round! Uruguay - Ghana drawing at the moment.

Joy said...

So beautiful that even her kidnappers send roses. Another fascinating story.
Congratulations on the Oranje victory. Only another step to the final.

Mary said...

She looks like a cross between Grace Kelly and Doris Day!

Bob: I was sorting through my postcards this last week and found an old postcard of "roger moore" in "Ivanhoe". He can't be more than 25. If this is something you would want, let me know, send me an email with your mailing address(mfdoan (at) hotmail. com) and I'd be happy to send it to you (in an envelope of course!). It would mean more to you than me.

viridian said...

Such a beautiful woman. It seems a film biography of her life would have potential at the box office.

papel1 said...

Her life is like a tragic movie. UTube really adds to your posts

Greyscale Territory said...

What a tragic life for such a beautiful woman who seemed to age so gracefully as far as her looks were concerned anyways!

Dorincard said...

Your world-class cinemaphil blog proves that postcards with actors can lead us to discover or remember true stories of their dramatic life, on-screen and off-screen.

Alexendre said...

Bonjour et merci pour ce rappel concernant l'inoubliable Martine Carol.
Nous lui avons consacré un blog: http://martinecarol.unblog.fr/