Annie Girardot

Active - 1956 - 2006  |   Born - Oct 25, 1931 in Paris, France  |   Died - Feb 28, 2011   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy

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More handsome than beautiful, versatile Annie Girardot was one of the most popular female stars in France during the 1970s. Girardot typically played strong-willed, independent, hard-working, and often lonely women, imbuing her characters with an earthiness and reality that endeared her with women undergoing similar daily struggles. It is small wonder, then, that Girardot became one of the symbols of the early-'70s feminist movement in France.

Girardot made her professional debut with the distinguished Comedie-Francaise theater troupe in 1954 after she graduated with honors from the Conservatoire de Paris. She remained with the troupe through 1957, occasionally taking time off to perform on radio, television, and in Parisian nightclubs. She made an inauspicious film debut in Trieze a Table in 1955. In early roles, Girardot was typically cast as doomed women of dubious origins in dark films, but she didn't make much impact until she played Nadia, a prostitute whom meets a tragic end in Luchino Visconti's Rocco et Ses Freres (Rocco and His Brothers) (1960). During filming she became romantically linked with co-star Renato Salvatori, who played the character who stabbed her character 13 times. They married, but divorced many years later.

Through the early '60s, Girardot played leads in a few Italian pictures directed by either Visconti or Marco Ferreri. Girardot also played leads in numerous run-of-the-mill French films. After 15 years, Girardot finally became a star when she was cast as the tragic teacher Danielle in Andre Cayatte's Mourir d'Aimer (Death of Love) (1970), the fact-based tale of a middle-aged teacher whose affair with a much younger student made her the object of bourgeoisie ridicule and harassment and led her to suicide. Though she appeared in many dramas during the '60s and '70s, Girardot never forgot her Comedie Francaise experiences and proved herself an adept comedienne in such films as La Vielle Fille (1971), Cause Toujours Tu M'Interesses (1979), and Tendre Poulet (1977). Through the '70s and into the early 1980s, she worked with some of her country's best directors, and she also occasionally turned up with supporting roles in English-language productions, such as a memorable turn as the French teacher in the Gene Hackman-Barbra Streisand comedy All Night Long (1981). By the mid-late '80s however, her career was in sharp decline and her film appearances became sporadic. In 1995, Girardot did experience a brief comeback playing a peasant wife in Claude Lelouch's Les Misérables. The role won her a Cesar (the French Oscar) for Best Actress. Upon accepting the award, a joyous and tearful Girardot expressed her happiness that she had not been forgotten. She also offered her heartfelt thanks to her many film industry colleagues.

In subsequent years, Girardot predominantly retired from the screen. She developed Alzheimer's Disease, which further crippled her inability to act. Upon the actress's death at age 79 in Paris, French president Nicolas Sarkozy referenced one of her final projects - her participation in a documentary about Alzheimer's - as a testament to the strength of her magnanimity.

Movie Highlights

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  • Elle débute des études d'infirmière pour devenir sage-femme, comme sa mère, mais abandonne rapidement pour se consacrer à la comédie.
  • Parallèlement à ses cours de théâtre au Conservatoire de la Rue Blanche, elle participe à des revues dans des cabarets parisiens.
  • Entre à la Comédie-Française à sa sortie du Conservatoire.
  • Dès 1960 elle décide de consacrer uniquement au cinéma. C'est Rocco et ses frères, de Luchino Visconti, qui la propulse au rang de star.
  • En 1971, le film Mourir d'aimer lui apporte l'un des rôles les plus marquants de sa carrière.
  • En 1974 elle joue Madame Marguerite au théâtre, qui devient son rôle fétiche. Elle le reprend plusieurs fois, jusqu'en 2002.
  • Elle forme un couple de cinéma avec Philippe Noiret dans plusieurs films au cours des années 1970 : La vieille fille (1971), La mandarine (1972), Tendre poulet (1977)...
  • En 1981, elle monte et finance un spectacle musical, Revue et corrigée, avec son compagnon Bob Decout. Le spectacle est un véritable fiasco et s'ensuit une période sombre pour l'actrice, qui enchaîne les échecs et les problèmes familiaux.
  • Après une traversée du désert dans les années 1990, elle obtient le César de la meilleure actrice dans un second rôle pour Les misérables, de Claude Lelouch. Elle suscite l'émotion en déclarant : "Je ne sais pas si j’ai manqué au cinéma français, mais à moi, le cinéma français a manqué follement... éperdument... douloureusement. Et votre témoignage, votre amour, me font penser que peut-être, je dis bien peut-être, je ne suis pas encore tout à fait morte."
  • Atteinte de la maladie d'Alzheimer, elle continue à monter sur les planches et à apparaître dans quelques films. Elle décède le 28 février 2011, à l'âge de 79 ans et repose au cimetière du Père-Lachaise.