Jeanne Moreau, Femme Fatale of French New Wave, Is Dead at 89

Ms. Moreau spent little time in Hollywood. She starred in John Frankenheimer’s war drama “The Train” (1964) opposite Burt Lancaster, played an aging European star in “The Last Tycoon” (1976) and did a cameo as an elderly descendant of Cinderella in “Ever After” (1998). Although she was directed by Orson Welles at least four times, the films were European productions.

She continued to perform into her 80s, including in a French television series in 2013 and “Le Talent de Mes Amis” in 2015. She acted onstage, winning the Molière award in France for her performance in “Le Récit de la Servante Zerline,” in 1988, and had a singing career, releasing several albums. She directed three films, including a 1983 documentary about the silent-screen star Lillian Gish.

Ms. Moreau received a Legion of Honor and was the first woman inducted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

Photo

Photographers surrounding Ms. Moreau in 1962, during her highly publicized romance with the designer Pierre Cardin.

Credit
Reg Lancaster/Express, via Getty Images

Jeanne Moreau was born in Paris on Jan. 23, 1928, the daughter of the owner of a Montmartre hotel and restaurant and his British-born wife, a dancer at the Folies Bergère. When Ms. Moreau was 15, she saw her first play, “Antigone,” and decided to become an actress. When she told her father about her ambition, he slapped her.

His opposition was an advantage, in her eyes. “It forces you toward excellence,” she told a reporter for the French newspaper Le Figaro in 2001. “All my life I wanted to prove to my father that I was right.”

She studied at the Conservatoire National d’Art Dramatique and, at 20, became the youngest-ever full-time member of the Comédie-Française, making her debut in Turgenev’s drama “A Month in the Country.” She later joined the Théâtre National Populaire. In 1953, she distinguished herself in a production of “L’Heure Éblouissante,” when the other leading lady became ill and Ms. Moreau managed to play both the wife and the mistress. Fortunately, the two characters had no scenes together.

Louis Malle cast her after seeing her in Peter Brook’s 1956 Paris production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Ms. Moreau believed in surrendering to her directors, requiring what she called “a complete, unquestioning rapport.”

The respect was usually mutual. In 1965,…

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