21 December 2019

Claudine Auger (1941-2019)

On 18 December 2019, French actress Claudine Auger (1941) passed away. She is best known as Bond girl Domino in the James Bond film Thunderball (1965). At 17, she was Miss France 1958 and she became the first runner-up in the Miss World contest. Later she worked mostly in France and Italy. Claudine Auger was 78.

Claudine Auger
Spanish postcard by Postal Oscarcolor, Hospitalet (Barcelona), no. 608, 1966.

Claudine Auger (1941-2019)
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 326. Photo: Sam Levin.

Claudine Auger
Belgian postcard by Edt. Decker, Brussels, no. A. 101. Offered by Korès.

James Bond

Claudine Auger was born Claudine Oger in Paris, France in 1941.

She attended St. Joan of Arc College. At the age of 16 the well-proportioned brunette earned the title of Miss France 1958 and was also the first runner-up in the 1958 Miss World contest. A year later, she married the 41-year-old writer-director Pierre Gaspard-Huit.

She attended the Paris Drama Conservatory, where she performed dramatic roles. Still at school, Jean Cocteau cast her as a tall ballerina in his final film Le testament d'Orphée, ou ne me demandez pas pourquoi!/The Testament of Orpheus (1960), about an ageing poet who knows he is dying.

She had her first leading lady role in the satirical Swashbuckler Le Masque de fer/The Iron Mask (Henri Decoin, 1962) opposite Jean Marais as the ageing musketeer D’Artagnan. She also starred opposite Pierre Étaix in his Tati-esque comedy Yoyo (Pierre Étaix, 1965).

On holiday in Nassau, she met writer-producer Kevin McClory. He recommended her for an audition for Thunderball (Terence Young, 1965), the fourth 007 mission featuring Sean Connery. She auditioned for the role of Domino, the mistress of international business executive and agent of the evil SPECTRE organisation Emilio Largo (Adolpho Celi). Domino was originally to be an Italian woman: Dominetta Petacchi.

Auger impressed the producers so much that they re-wrote the part into a French woman, Dominique Derval. Auger later claimed that she related to her character, as she and Domino were involved with older men. Although she took lessons to perfect her English, her voice was eventually dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl. Immediate by-products of Claudine's stardom were a semi-nude Playboy spread and a guest shot on an American TV special starring Danny Thomas and Bob Hope.

Claudine Auger and Sean Connery in Thunderbolt (1966)
Vintage postcard. Photo: P.A. Reuter. Claudine Auger and Sean Connery in Thunderball (Terence Young, 1966).

Sean Connery
Sean Connery. Vintage German postcard. Photo: P.A. Reuter.

Claudine Auger and Sean Connery in Thunderbolt (1966)
French postcard in the Collection Magie Noire by Editions Hazan, Paris, no. 6377, 1993. Photo: Claudine Auger and Sean Connery in Thunderball (Terence Young, 1966).

The Grandfather of the Modern Slasher Film

Thunderball launched Claudine Auger into a successful European film career, but it did little for her otherwise in the United States. In Europe, she reunited with her James Bond director Terence Young for the British-French Spy film Triple Cross (1966) with Christopher Plummer.

Other trendy sixties films in which she starred were the French-Spanish-Italian thriller L'Homme de Marrakesh/That Man George! (Jacques Deray, 1966), the Italian-French-German caper comedy Operazione San Gennaro/Operation San Gennaro (Dino Risi, 1967), the Italian-French sex comedy Le Dolci Signore/Anyone Can Play (Fausto Saraceni, Luigi Zampa, 1967) opposite Ursula Andress, the French satire Jeu De Massacre/The Killing Game (Alain Jessua, 1967) and the Italian fantastic comedy L'Arcidiavolo/The devil in Love (Ettore Scola, 1968) starring Vittorio Gassman.

One of her best films was Ecologia del delitto/Bay Of Blood (Mario Bava, 1971). This Giallo - an Italian genre of bloody horror-thrillers – is often cited as the grandfather of the modern slasher film. The film is known under several Italian titles, including Antefatto and Reazione a catena, the re-issue title. In English the film is also known as Carnage, Twitch of the Death Nerve and Blood Bath

Robert Firsching at AllMovie: “the film's style influenced countless American slasher films of the 1970s and 1980s. Bava also includes a strangulation by telephone cord, a gory axe decapitation, a man speared to a wall, and five other murders. Antefatto was a trendsetting film, and paved the way for literally hundreds of graphically violent imitations.”

Auger is the scheming daughter of a murdered Countess (played by film legend Isa Miranda). Her staged suicide forms the basis of the film's plot.

With two other Bond girls, Barbara Bach and Barbara Bouchet, she appeared in another Giallo, La Tarantola dal ventre nero/Black Belly of the Tarantula (Paolo Cavara, 1972) starring Giancarlo Giannini.

That year she also co-starred with Christopher Mitchum, the son of Robert Mitchum, in the Italian action film Un verano para matar/Summertime Killer (Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi, 1972).

Claudine Auger
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 3242, 1968.

Claudine Auger
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 3243, 1968. Photo: G.B. Poletto and Peter Basch.

Claudine Auger (1941-2019)
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, no. 232.

Modern Noir

During the following decades, Claudine Auger kept busy in both the Italian and the French cinema. A classic is the French thriller Flic Story/Cop Story (Jacques Deray, 1975) starring Alain Delon and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

She again worked with Jacques Deray on his modern Noir Un Papillon sur l'Epaule/A butterfly on the shoulder (Jacques Deray, 1978) starring Lino Ventura.

James Travers reviews at Films de France: “In many ways, this is one of Jacques Deray’s most sophisticated and appealing films – the cobweb intrigue is masterfully woven, the detached photography evokes the sense of an unseen deadly threat throughout, and the minimalist script emphasises the feeling of isolation and helplessness of the film’s principal protagonist. It is a satisfying and compelling work, but also a profoundly disturbing one”.

In Italy she appeared in the comedy of errors Viaggio con Anita/Lovers and Liars (Mario Monicelli, 1979) starring Goldie Hawn and Giancarlo Giannini, and the domestic comedy Aragosta a Colazione/Lobster for Breakfast (Giorgio Capitani, 1979).

The French comedy L'Associé/The Associate (René Gainville, 1980), featuring Michel Serrault, lead in 1996 to a less successful American remake with Whoopi Goldberg.

In the UK Auger made Secret Places (Zelda Barron, Judith Lang, 1984) and the British-American production The Summer House (Waris Hussein, 1993) starring Jeanne Moreau.

Her last films were the erotic drama Salt on Our Skin/Desire (Andrew Birkin, 1993) with Greta Scacchi, and the Spanish comedy Los hombres siempre mienten/Men Always Lie (Antonio del Real, 1995). Later she worked incidentally for TV.

After her divorce from Pierre Gaspard-Huit, Claudine Auger was married to businessman Peter Brent until his death in 2008. After a long period of illness, Claudine Auger passed away in Paris on 18 December 2019.

Claudine Auger (1941-2019)
Belgian postcard in the Vedettes series of Victoria Chocolates by S. Best. Anvers (Antwerp) / Rotterdam, no. 2.

Claudine Auger
Belgian postcard by Edt. Decker, Brussels, no. A. 109.

Trailer for Thunderball (1965). Source: The Cult Box (YouTube).

Trailer for Ecologia del delitto/Bay Of Blood (1971). Source: Utterfright (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Robert Firsching (AllMovie), James Travers (Films de France), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Les Gens du Cinéma (French), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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