12 July 2016

Nicole Courcel (1931-2016)

On 25 June, French actress Nicole Courcel (1931-2016) died. She appeared in 43 films between 1947 and 1979. Though Courcel is mostly unknown outside of France, she graced the screen with a number of sensitive performances through the 1950s and 1960s. Courcel was 84.

Nicole Courcel
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 809, 1960.

Nicole Courcel
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 808, 1958. Retail price: 0,20 DM.

Nicole Courcel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 58A. Offered by Les carbones Korès Carboplane. P.I. was the French licency holder for the UFA. Photo: Unifrance Film / UFA.

Nicole Courcel (1931-2016)
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 660. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Youth Culture

Nicole Courcel was born Nicole Marie-Anne Andrieux in Saint-Cloud, a western suburb of Paris, in 1931. Her father was a French journalist and her mother came from Monaco. Some of her early childhood was spent in Catholic boarding schools and with her grandmother in the small township of Martel.

While in her mid-teens, Nicole began acting in amateur theatre. She studied acting at the Cours René Simon in Paris, and from 1947, she served as an extra in a few films.

At 18, she won a major role in Rendez-vous de juillet/Appointment with Life (Jacques Becker, 1949), opposite Daniel Gélin and Brigitte Auber. Rendez-vous de juillet has been credited as the first post-war European film to accurately depict the ‘youth culture’. The teenagers in the film shuttle between theatre classes, jazz bars and coffee houses and seem rather ill-equipped for ‘real life’. The film won the critics' award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Nicole adopted the stage name Courcel from her character (Christine Courcel) in Rendez-vous de juillet (1949). Under this name, she worked with neorealist writer-director Marcello Pagliero at the drama Les Amants de Brasmart/The Lovers of Brasmart (1950) in which she played the girl of Franck Villard.

The following years, she had notable parts in such productions as the romantic drama La Marie du port/Marie of the Port (Marcel Carné, 1950) opposite Jean Gabin, Sacha Guitry's historical spectacle Si Versailles M'Etait Conté/Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954), the Jean-Paul Sartre drama Huis clos/No Exit (Jacqueline Audry, 1954) with Arletty, and La Sorcière/The Blonde Witch (André Michel, 1956) starring Marina Vlady.

I.S. Mowis at IMDb: "An actress of considerable poise, beauty and sensitivity, Courcel reached the peak of her popularity just prior to the beginning of the New Wave movement." A popular success was Papa, Maman, la Bonne et Moi/ Papa, Mama the Maid and I (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1954) with Robert Lamoureux.

Nicole Courcel
French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 151. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Nicole Courcel (1931-2016)
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 1713. Photo: Sam Lévin / Unifrance Film.

Nicole Courcel (1931-2016)
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 3897. Photo: Sam Lévin / Unifrance Film.

Nicole Courcel
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 99. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Compassionate But Possessive and Jealous

Nicole Courcel is best known for her complex role in Les Dimanches de Ville d'Avray/Sundays and Cybele (Serge Bourguignon, 1962), based on a novel by Bernard Eschasseriaux. The exquisitely photographed Les Dimanches de Ville d'Avray won the Best Foreign Film Academy Award in 1962.

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “Her most widely circulated film was also one of the most hauntingly beautiful French productions of the 1960s. In René Clement's Sundays and Cybele, Nicole Courcel played Madeleine, the compassionate but possessive and jealous nurse of mental patient Hardy Kruger.”

Courcel made a few international appearances. She played a French piano teacher in the Heinz Rühmann comedy, Ein Mann geht durch die Wand/The Man Who Walked Through the Wall (Ladislao Vajda, 1959), and a nurse in the cold war drama, Verspätung in Marienborn/Stop Train 349 (Rolf Hädrich, 1963), starring Sean Flynn, son of Errol Flynn and Lily Damita. She also had a small part, as Raymonde, in the psychological thriller The Night of the Generals (Anatole Litvak, 1967) starring Peter O’Toole.

In the following decade Nicole Courcel was seen in the adventure comedy L'aventure, c'est l'aventure/Money Money Money (Claude Lelouch, 1972) and the coming-of-age comedy La Gifle/The Slap (Claude Pinoteau, 1974) with Lino Ventura and Isabelle Adjani. However, she confined her acting from then on more and more to the small screen. She could often be seen in period drama, notably in the title role of the Gustave Flaubert adaptation Madame Bovary (Pierre Cardinal, 1974).

Later in life, she appeared in different TV films, including Credo (Jacques Deray, 1983) with Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Mini-series such as Les Thibault/The Thibaults (Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe, 2003) with Jean Yanne. Her final screen appearance was in the Alexandre Dumas adaptation Milady (Josée Dayan, 2004) as Jeanne De Breuil, the grandmother of the title figure (Arielle Dombasle).

Nicole Courcel died on 25 June 2016 in Paris, France. She was 84. Courcel was the mother of French television personality and food critic Julie Andrieu. In 1980, Courcel published a memoir dedicated to her daughter, Julie tempête.

Nicole Courcel
French postcard by O.P., Paris, no. 93. Photo: Teddy Piaz, Paris.

Nicole Courcel
Yugoslavian postcard by Studio Sombor.

Nicole Courcel
French postcard by Imp. de Marchi Frères, Marseille.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), I.S. Mowis (IMDb), Thomas Sotinel (Le Monde - French), Culturebox (French), Wikipedia and IMDb.


Bunched Undies said...

In some pictures she resembles Ingrid Bergman, in some Ann Margaret. I can't think of better people to look like :)

Bob of Holland said...

She is wonderful. Yesterday I resaw Basic Instinct with my son, and Nicole Courcel also reminds me of Sharon Stone. Basic Instinct is an underrated masterpiece. Only some of the cars in it have dated. And Stone's so sweet and at the the same time so devilishy tempting. She deserved an award for that part.