Danielle Darrieux, one of the great stars of French cinema, died Wednesday in Bois-le-Roi, France. She was 100 years old.
The star of director Max Ophuls’ early 1950s classic films “La Ronde” and “Madame’s Earrings of …” and “Mayerling” by Anatole Litvak in 1936 also made a few films in Hollywood and, later in his life, has played, with a whole star actors of other French cinema stars, in “8 Women” by François Ozon.
In the delicious mystery musical of Ozon in 2002 “8 Women”, the actress once again played the mother of Catherine Deneuve, alongside Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier. The entire cast received a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for outstanding artistic achievement as well as the European Film Award for Best Actress.
Born in Bordeaux, Darrieux grew up in Paris. At the Paris Conservatory, she studied cello and piano.
Darrieux auditioned for a supporting role as a volunteer teenager in the 1931 musical “Le Bal” when she was just 14, and got not only the role, but a five-year contract with the producer.
The beautiful young Darrieux was an instinctive actress as well as a talented singer and dancer, and many other proposals reached her. She appeared in a number of musicals during the 1930s.
Her first romantic role came in 1934 “The Crisis is Over”, and Litvak’s historical drama “Mayerling” was an international success and established her credentials as a serious actress with Nicolas Farkas’ “Port-Arthur”.
She married the screenwriter-director Henri Decoin in 1935. Decoin directed her in many films including “Abus de confidence” (1938).
Decoin suggested Darrieux try Hollywood, and she signed a contract with Universal to appear with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the wacky comedy “The Rage of Paris”. She was charming, with seemingly effortless comedic flair, in that otherwise mediocre 1938 film, and she chose to return to France after doing so, appearing in “Back to Dawn” and “Bettement de coeur” by Decoin shortly after.
Darrieux was condemned by many French industries for having continued to operate during World War II and the occupation of France by Germany; her brother would have been threatened with deportation if she did not.
After divorcing Decoin and marrying Dominican Republic diplomat and anti-Nazi Porfirio Rubirosa in 1942, she went on a promotional tour of Germany in exchange for Rubirosa’s freedom.
The actress was one of the stars of the Ophuls classic in 1950, “La Ronde”, in which a series of love stories is depicted, with a partner at each meeting forming an affair with another person and so right now.
Darrieux appeared in the 1951 MGM musical Jane Powell “Rich, Young and Pretty”, filmed in Paris. She played Powell’s mother. The following year, Darrieux returned to Hollywood to star in the excellent spy thriller “5 Fingers” alongside James Mason.
In Ophuls’ 1953 masterpiece, “The earrings of Madame de …”, the actress played the role of the pampered wife of a general (Charles Boyer) who hangs the earrings. ‘ears of the title, a gift from her husband, then cherish them when presented to her by her lover (Vittorio De Sica). (Darrieux had also starred a year earlier in Ophuls’ anthology photo “Le Plaisir.”)
She starred the following year in the famous “The Red and the Black” with Gerard Philippe, then appeared in “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.
Darrieux made her last appearance in an American film in “Alexander the Great” of 1956. She appeared in the British film “The Greengage Summer” in 1961.
She played Catherine Deneuve’s mother in the musical “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort” by Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda in 1967.
During the 1960s, Darrieux worked on stage and was a concert singer in addition to appearing in a constant stream of French films.
In 1970, Darrieux made her first appearance on Broadway, replacing Katherine Hepburn in the musical “Coco”, on Coco Chanel. She also appeared in the musical “Ambassador”, which had a brief airing in 1972.
In the 1970s, Darrieux began appearing on French television in addition to his work on the big screen.
She played a key role as Deneuve’s mother in André Techine’s 1986 family crime drama “Crime Scene”.
In 2007, Darrieux did dubbing for “Persépolis” by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, on the impact of the Islamic revolution in Iran on a young girl.
In 1985, the actress received an Honorary César for her services to the film industry.
Darrieux married a third time in 1948 to Georges Mitsinkides, with whom she remained until her death in 1991.