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.
“I’m a girl from a good family who was very well brought up. One day I turned my back on it all and became a bohemian.”
Brigitte Bardot was born on September 28th, 1934 in Paris. She was reared in a practicing Roman Catholic home, and shared her childhood with a younger sister named Marie-Jeanne. As little girls, they enrolled in local dance classes. Although Marie-Jeanne gave up the art, Brigitte continued to pursue ballet as a teenager.
She was accepted to the prestigious Conservatory of Paris and studied ballet with the Russian choreographer Boris Knyazev for three years. Her fellow dancers gave her the affectionate nick name, ‘bichette,’ which means ‘little doe.’ Unfortunately, Bichette was not bound for the dancer’s stage, she was bound for the screen.
In 1949, a family friend invited petite ‘BB’ to model in a fashion show. The event sparked several magazine/photoshoot opportunities for Brigitte, who landed on the cover of ELLE magazine in March of 1950. Professional momentum was gathering for the fifteen year old, when the ELLE shoot was noticed by the film director Roger Vadim. Enchanted by Ms. Bardot, He invited her to audition for an upcoming film.
Her film debut was in Le Trou Normand (Crazy Love) in 1952, and spun her into higher and higher circles. Most memorably, she smoldered in the films And God Created Woman (1956) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mepris (Contempt) (1963). Both were extremely provocative, and garnered acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Sexy Bardot was propelled to the ‘sex-icon’ stratosphere, and thrived as a model and an actress known for her sultry gifts.
Notoriously, she’s known for refusing to work in Hollywood regardless of offers sent her way. This boycott may have been one of the reasons she became so beloved by the French people, who looked to her as a great symbol of their own. Even “Marianne,” the faceless emblem of France was given Bardot’s likeness in honor of her. Simone de Beauvoir called her a “locomotive of woman’s history” and declared her the most liberated woman of post-war France.
At 18 she married Roger Vadim, but it didn’t last. She was found embroiled in an affair with Jean-Louis Trintignant while they worked together on the film And God Created Woman. Tragically, Jean-Louis was also married at the time. Each divorced their spouses, then Jean-Louis and BB lived together. This was also short term, for within two years Bardot was in bed with the musician Gilbert Becaud, and Jean-Louis walked.
“It’s better to be unfaithful than faithful without wanting to be.”
John Gilmore, an Actor/True-Crime author, shared a brief fling with her in the late ’50s, but it was fleeting. He spoke critically of BB (perhaps unfairly), “I felt a beautiful warmth with Bardot but found it difficult to discuss things in any depth whatsoever.” Brigitte’s only son, Nicolas-Jacques, is from her second ex-husband Jacques Charrier whom she married in ’59 and divorced in ’62. In ’66 she shared another 3-year marriage with the German millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs.
In 1973, Brigitte retired from acting. She said it was “a way to get out elegantly.” In the end, she had starred in 47 films, opposite names such as Alain Delon, Jean Gabin, Sean Connery, Claudia Cardinale, Kirk Douglas, and Jeanne Moreau.
BB didn’t marry again until the ’90s (I can’t blame her). She and Bernard d’Ormale tied the last knot in her life in ’92. They are still married presently. The latter part of her life has been dedicated to animal activism.
“I started out as a lousy actress and have remained one.”
- The “Bardot Neckline” is named for her; This is when a shirt has a wide neck that exposes the shoulders.
- Brigitte helped to popularize bikinis, from her wearing them in early films.
- Bob Dylan dedicated the first song he ever wrote to her.
- John Lennon and Paul McCartney idolized her when they were young. Lennon met her later in his life (on LSD) at the Mayfair Hotel in 1968. He recalled, “I was on acid and she was on her way out.” Apparently he was unimpressed with her.
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