The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.
“Money doesn`t buy happiness. But happiness isn`t everything.”
Jean Seberg was born on November 13th, 1938 in Marshalltown Iowa to working class parents. Her mother was a substitute teacher, and her father was a pharmacist. She didn’t make her film debut until 1957, when she appeared in Saint Joan after being discovered by Otto Preminger (who conducted a $150,000 dollar talent search). She said of the experience:
“I have two memories of Saint Joan. The first was being burned at the stake in the picture. The second was being burned at the stake by the critics. The latter hurt more. I was scared like a rabbit and it showed on the screen. It was not a good experience at all. I started where most actresses end up.”
After facing considerable criticism for her acting in the States, she spent time filming overseas; most notably her roles in the French New Wave. She most famously appeared as Patricia in Godard’s Breathless (1960) opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo. The film went on to become an international success, and she was praised worldwide for her performance. This notoriety led to her continued work in the genre, opening up many pleasing offers that otherwise would have remained closed to her in the U.S..
What happened next is a matter of great debate: At the height of her fame, she suddenly stopped acting in Hollywood. Many point to a FBI smear campaign that was directed at Jean because of the great financial support she offered various Civil Rights groups (NAACP, The Black Panthers, Mesquaki Bucks). Other potential reasons for the campaign were alleged interracial sexual relationships Jean was said to have had. From the wiki:
“The FBI operation against Seberg used COINTELPRO program techniques to harass, intimidate, defame and discredit the well-known actress. The FBI’s stated goal was an unspecified “neutralization” of Ms. Seberg; all intended to be done while hiding FBI involvement. One stated FBI subsidiary objective was to “cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the public,” while taking the “usual precautions to avoid identification of the Bureau.” FBI strategy and modalities can be found in FBI inter-office memos, since declassified and released to the public under FOIA.”
In 1970, when Ms. Seberg was pregnant, the FBI created a false story that the child she was carrying was actually fathered by a member of The Black Panther party and not her then husband Romain Gary. She gave birth to an infant girl named Nina, who died after only 2 days. Jean held an open casket burial so that onlookers would see the child’s white skin and put the rumors to rest. According to those closest to Jean, she suffered years of intimidation, break-ins, wiretapping, and tailing by FBI operatives. In one document released to the public, Ms. Seberg is referred to as “the alleged promiscuous and sex-perverted white actress.”
With such a body of horrifying evidence before us, it’s difficult to believe that the FBI had nothing to do with the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death. In August 1979, she went missing for eleven days. She was eventually found dead in the back of her car, parked outside her apartment in Paris. Her official cause of death was noted as an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol leading to suicide. A note was found in her hand that read, “Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves.” Questions have risen concerning the enormous alcohol levels in her blood and her lack of driving glasses as potential signs of foul play; for how could she have operated the vehicle? Why was she in the back seat?
Jean Seberg is a modern icon of style, and most definitely an incredible femme fatale. I feel so disgusted that she could be the victim of such bullying at the hands of an institution we currently uphold.
“I am taken up into all the beauty and terror. I am riding in blue-dust clouds.”
*All biographical details were obtained from : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Seberg
*All quotes were obtained from: http://quotes.lucywho.com/jean-seberg-quotes-t16737.html and http://violentwavesofemotion.tumblr.com/