24 February 2020

Sophie Desmarets

French actress Sophie Desmarets (1922-2012) played in several popular Sword and Dagger films during the late 1940s. In the following decades she played in dozens of comedies, both on stage and in films, and she also became a popular TV actress in her country.

Sophie Desmarets (1922 - 2012)
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 35. Photo: Films Sirius.

Sophie Desmarets
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 161. Photo: Pathé Cinema.

Sophie Desmarets in Le Capitan
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1222. Photo: Ancrenaz / C.F.C.C. Sophie Desmarets as Marion Delorme in Le Capitan (Robert Vernay, 1946).

Boulevard Star

Sophie Desmarets was born Jacqueline Yvonne Eva Desmarets in Paris in 1922. She was the daughter of Bob Desmarets, director of the Vélodrome d'Hiver, creator of the cycle contest 'Les Six jours de Paris', and later p.r.-manager at the magazine L’Auto.

When she was 16, Louis Jouvet visited the house of her parents, set for sale. He remarked: "Vous, vous avez un physique de théâtre. Si un jour vous voulez jouer, venez me voir." (You have stage appearance. If you want to play, visit me). A few months later, Desmarets started acting classes at the Paris Conservatoire as auditor, as well as classes at the Théâtre de l'Athénée where Louis Jouvet, Jean Meyer and Alfred Adam were teachers.

When Jouvet went to Latin-America, Desmarets became an auditor at the class of Madame Dussane, where she finally was admitted as an ordinary pupil, after being admitted to the Conservatoire in October 1941. Parallel she also followed the Cours René Simon and debuted on stage in 'Leonore de Sylva'. In June 1944 she won the Premier Prix de comédie moderne when leaving the Conservatoire.

From 1945 on, Desmarets became a star at the boulevard theatre, thanks to her performance in Armand Salacrou’s play 'Le Soldat et la sorcière' (The Soldier and the witch), a historical comedy about the tumultuous affair between Marshal de Saxe and actress Justine Favart. She also performed in plays by André Roussin, Marcel Mithois, and in particular in plays by her friends Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy.

Desmarets first appeared in the cinema as an extra in Battement de Coeur/Beating Heart (Henri Decoin, 1940), starring Danielle Darrieux. In 1942 she played her first substantial part in L’Homme qui joue avec le feu/The man who plays with fire (Jean de Limur, 1942), starring Ginette Leclerc.

In the late 1940s, Desmarets specialised in the Sword and Dagger genre, such as the film Le Capitan/The Captain (Robert Vernay, 1946), while on stage she played both in Molière’s 'Misanthrope' and a stage version of 'Ninotchka', previously a famous film with Greta Garbo. She also played the loyal secretary of René Dary in 120 Rue de la gare (Jacques-Daniel Norman, 1946), Baccarat in Rocambole (1948) and the sequel La revanche de Baccarat/The Revenge of Baccarat (1948) both directed by Jacques de Baroncelli and starring Pierre Brasseur.

Sophie Desmarets
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1239. Photo: Ancrenaz. Publicity still for Le capitan (1946).

Sophie Desmarets
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 35, offered by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Igor Kalinine.

Sophie Desmarets
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 170. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Marquise de Baroncelli-Javon

Sophie Demarets played the love interest of Maurice Chevalier in the musical comedy Ma pomme/Just Me (Marc-Gilbert Sauvajon, 1950), then the French mistress of Aldo Fabrizi in Luigi Zampa’s comedy Signori, in carrozza!/Rome-Paris-Rome (1951), and Rose Bertin in Si Paris nous était conté/If Paris Were Told to Us (Sacha Guitry, 1956).

Her filmography counts dozens of B-pictures from the 1950s and 1960s, such as comedies with Jean Richard, Jean Poiret, Michel Serrault and Francis Blanche. In the same years Desmarets triumphed on stage with Fleur de cactus (Cactus Flower) and after that Peau de vache (Bitch) - in 1989 she would star in the TV version of Fleur de cactus/Cactus Flower (Yves-André Hubert, 1989).

In the 1960s and 1970s, Sophie Desmarets’ popularity grew in particular because of her contributions to television productions. In 1962 Desmarets was a member of the jury of the Cannes film festival. A year later she played on TV the title role of Madame Sans-Gêne (Claude Barma, 1963).

From around 1980 on physical constraints forced her to reduce more and more her professional activities. In her last film performance in Fallait pas!.../Should not!... (1996) directed by and starring Gérard Jugnot, she played the mother of Michèle Laroque. Since the 1990s she focused her attention on her antique shop in Paris and she had a passion for gardening. Her memoirs were published in 2004 as Les mémoires de Sophie.

Sophie Desmarets had married to René Froissant in 1942. They had a daughter Catherine, who also worked as an actress. In 1949 Desmarets divorced Froissant and married writer and film critic Jean de Baroncelli, son of filmmaker Jacques de Baroncelli. They met when she was working with Jacques de Baroncelli on his penultimate film Rocambole (1948). The couple remained together till his death in 1998. With de Baroncelli she had a second daughter Caroline. Because of this marriage she became Marquise de Baroncelli-Javon.

Sophie Desmarets died in her hometown Paris in 2012. Her ashes are buried in the family vault in the Montparnasse cemetery (division 15) in Paris. Desmarets was Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

Sophie Desmarets
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 439. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Sophie Desmarets
French autograph card.

Sophie Desmarets
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 721. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Sophie Desmarets
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris.

Sources: Le Monde (French), Les Légendes du Cinéma (French - now defunct), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

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