25 October 2015

Annie Girardot

French star Annie Girardot (1931-2011) was a sympathetic, perky, and talented actress. With her typical gravelly voice she appeared in many French and Italian quality films of the 1960s and 1970s. Unforgettable is her role as the tragic prostitute Nadia in Visconti’s classic Rocco e i suoi fratelli (1960), loved by two brothers played by Alain Delon and Renato Salvatori.

Annie Girardot
French postcard by Ed. EDUG, Paris. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Annie Girardot
French postcard.

Annie Girardot
French postcard by St. Anne, Marseille. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Need to Take Risks and Experiment

Annie Suzanne Girardot was born in 1931, in Paris, France. In 1954 she graduated with honours from the Conservatoire de la rue Blanche (the Paris conservatory). That year she made her professional debut with the distinguished Comédie-Francaise.

Her performance in Jean Cocteau’s La Machine à écrire in 1956, opposite Robert Hirsch, was admired by the author who called her “The finest dramatic temperament of the postwar period”. She remained with the Comédie-Francaise troupe through 1957, occasionally taking time off to perform in films, on radio, television and in Parisian cabarets and revues.

Her inability to contain her need to take risks and experiment within the rigid dictates of the Comédie propelled Girardot toward the cinema. She had made an inauspicious film debut in the comedy Treize à table/Thirteen at the Table (André Hunebelle, 1955). The following year she won the Prix Suzanne Bianchetti for her role as a blackmailing vamp opposite Pierre Fresnay in L'homme aux clés d'or/The Man With the Golden Keys (Léo Joannon, 1956). In her early film roles, Girardot was typically cast as a doomed woman of dubious morals in dark films like Le rouge est mis/The red Light is On (Gilles Grangier, 1957) and Maigret tend un piège/Maigret Lays a Trap (Jean Delannoy, 1957), both starring Jean Gabin.

On stage she worked with famous director Luchino Visconti in Deux sur la balançoire/Two for the Seesaw (1958), at the side of Jean Marais. In the cinema she finally had her breakthrough when she played Nadia the prostitute in Visconti's epic family drama Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960). Nadia's beauty drives a wedge between Rocco (Alain Delon) and his brother Simone (Renato Salvatori), who eventually rapes her and stabs her thirteen times. Her depiction of the reformed prostitute suffering in her humiliation was both poignant and compelling.

During filming Girardot and Salvatori became romantically linked and they married in 1962. The couple later separated, but never divorced. In 1988 Salvatori died. Their daughter is Giulia Salvatori (1962).

Annie Girardot
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no 611. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Annie Girardot
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 851. Photo: Bernard-Vauclair, Paris.

Annie Girardot in Rocco e i suoi fratelli (1960)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 1696, 1962. Photo: publicity still for Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and his brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960).

Dad's cinema

Through the early 1960s, Annie Girardot never worked with the young directors of the Nouvelle Vague, by whom she was seen as the actress of the Cinéma de Papa (Dad's cinema). And indeed she worked regularly with older directors like Christian-Jaque in La Française et l'Amour/Love and the Frenchwoman (1960), and Guerre secrète/The Dirty Game (1965) and Marcel Carné in Trois chambres à Manhattan/Three Rooms in Manhattan (1965). For her role in the latter film as the neurotic Kay discovering love, she won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival.

She also played leads in Italian pictures directed by Marco Ferreri likeLa donna scimmia/The Ape Woman (1963), Il seme dell'uomo/The Seed of Man (1969), and Dillinger è morto/Dillinger Is Dead (1969), Mario Monicelli in I compagni/The Organizer (1963), Duccio Tessari in Una voglia da morire (1964) and again by Luchino Visconti in the anthology Le streghe/The Witches (1966).

Girardot became a box office magnet in France with Vivre pour vivre/Live for Life (Claude Lelouch, 1967). She gave a reserved, dignified performance as the deceived but forgiving wife of Yves Montand. Another big hit was the sentimental melodrama Un homme qui me plaît/A Man I Like (Claude Lelouch, 1969) in which she was the vivacious Françoise destined to finish unhappily with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

In the 1970s, Girardot was one of the most popular stars of the French cinema, associated with the directors Lelouch, Philippe de Broca, and André Cayatte, and with actor Philippe Noiret. Her biggest international hit was the fact-based tale Mourir d'aimer/Death of Love (André Cayatte, 1971) about the Gabrielle Russier affair. Very convincingly she played the middle-aged literature teacher who was accused of corrupting a minor, one of her students with whom she had an affair, and who, out of despair, committed suicide in jail. In the late 1960s the affair had become a much debated subject, even president Georges Pompidou referred to it. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Each new film of ‘La Girardot’ was eagerly awaited for. Girardot typically played strong-willed, independent, hard-working, and often lonely women, giving her characters an earthiness and reality that endeared her with women undergoing similar daily struggles. Girardot became thus one of the symbols of the early-'70s feminist movement in France - though in personal life Girardot was not terribly involved with feminists.

Annie Girardot
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Annie Girardot
East-German postcard by Progress Filmverleih, Berlin, no. 64/79, 1979.

Annie Girardot in Le Vent des moissons (1988)
French postcard by Editions Atlas, Evreux, no. 43. Photo: publicity still for the TV Mini-Series Le Vent des Moissons/The Wind of Harvest (Jean Sagols, 1988).

Adept Comedienne

Annie Girardot started to play mother roles of young stars like Claude Jade in Les feux de la Chandeleur/Hearth Fires (Serge Korber, 1972) or Isabelle Adjani in La gifle/The Slap (Claude Pinoteau, 1974). She played Isabelle Huppert's mother in two films: Docteur Françoise Gailland/No Time for Breakfast (Jean-Louis Bertucelli, 1975) and La pianiste/The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001).

For portraying the title character in Docteur Françoise Gailland she won the César, the French Oscar, for Best Actress in 1977. Though she gave solid performances in many dramas, Girardot proved herself also an adept comedienne in such films as La vielle fille/The Old Maid (Jean-Pierre Blanc, 1972), Tendre Poulet/Dear Inspector (Philippe de Broca, 1977), La zizanie/The Spat (Claude Zidi, 1978) and L'ingorgo - Una storia impossibile/Traffic Jam (Luigi Comencini, 1979). Her success as the female detective Lise Tanquerelle, comically caught between personal and professional roles, in Tendre Poulet led to the sequel On a volé la cuisse de Jupiter/Jupiter's Thigh (Philippe de Broca, 1980).

She also helped young film directors making their first films. On stage she had a triumph in 1974 with Madame Marguerite, her signature role, which she reprised many times till 2002. That year she was awarded the Molière award for her role.

By the 1980s, her cinema career was in sharp decline and her film appearances became sporadic. She published her autobiography Vivre d'aimer in 1989, followed by Ma vie contre la tienne in 1993. However, in 1995 she made a come-back playing a peasant wife in Les Misérables (Claude Lelouch, 1995). The role won her a Cesar for Best Supporting Actress. Upon accepting the award, a joyous and tearful Girardot expressed her happiness that she had not been forgotten. She also offered her heartfelt thanks to her many film industry colleagues.

In 2002, she was again awarded this award for her role as the nightmarish mother in La pianiste/The Piano Player (Michael Haneke, 2002). She collaborated with Austrian director Haneke again, in Caché/Hidden (Michael Haneke, 2005) starring Juliette Binoche. In 2006

Annie Girardot revealed in magazine Paris Match that she was suffering since 2003 from Alzheimer's disease. The following year Giulia Salvatori published, with journalist Jean-Michel Caradec'h, the biography La Mémoire de ma mère about her mother. Annie Girardot appeared for the last time in the TV documentary Annie Girardot, ainsi va la vie/Annie Girardot, as life goes (2008). Since 2008, she lived in a sanatorium in Paris.

In 2011, Annie Girardot passed away. She was 79. At Flickr, Kay Harpa commemorated Annie: "Annie could make us laugh and cry - she was a beautiful lady full of generosity and interest for other people. She could be many women - she was the first feminine actress to play lawyer, surgeon, doctor,........ great parts they usually give to men. She had a beautiful and sensitive way of looking at people, things,...... her soul and heart were reflected in her beautiful brown eyes."

French trailer for Maigret tend un piège (1957). Source: lbena65 (YouTube).

Trailer for Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (1960). Source: Filmmuseum Amsterdam (YouTube).

Scene from La donna scimmia/The Ape Woman (1963). Source: Alex Settantasette (YouTube).

French trailer for Les Novices (1970) with Annie Girardot and Brigitte Bardot. Source: Modcinema (YouTube).

French language scene from Docteur Françoise Gailland (1976). Source: Romuald MAHLER-GLEY (YouTube).

Sources: Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), R. F. Cousins and Kelly Otter (Filmreference.com), Sol (IMDb), Ephraim Katz (The Film Encylopedia), Wikipedia, and IMDb.


Blogaire said...

As always, a fascinating and very informative post. How do you manage to collect so much info? Excellent.

Terry said...

Happy PFF to you.
I always get so caught up in reading your post.
They are so full of wonderful little extra details.
Thank you for all the research and the time that you put into your fabulous blog.
It is always such a joy to come by and discover another intresting biography.
Have a fantastic weekend.
Happy Trails

Marie Reed said...

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Debby said...

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