Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Danielle Darrieux

A very smart ex-girlfriend of mine always began reading the Times with the obituaries. The obits, to give them their nickname, are the important epilogue to a life, a summing-up that may slightly embellish it in retrospect, but that may also be perfectly objective. This is, for many people, what, if anything, will survive..

So it was fascinating to read the Times obits on a late October day (20th) when, surely for the first time, it comprised two centenarians: Danielle Darrieux, dead at 100, and (I hope not eclipsing her importance) Marion Schlesinger, dead at 105. Ms. S. emerges as a significant and charming person, mostly in Cambridge, Mass.,which I, as a former Cantabrigian myself, can readily respect. But to her life in politics I have nothing to add. Not so about Danielle Darrieux.

As a youth in Belgrade, I was in love with the universally beloved French movie star, Danielle Darrieux, as much as a teenager could be, and just possibly more so. I saw all her movies, and cherished them all. Naughty fellow that I was, I especially relished a film not mentioned in an otherwise thorough obit, “Club de Femmes” (Women’s Club). That, because it showed her in a shower scene, although one that had only minimal, dorsal nudity, with not even my revisits able to coax forth more.

It was in another of her films, “Un mauvais Garcon,” (A Bad Boy) that she delightfully sang, along with her charming co-star, Albert Prejean, “Je n’ donnerais pas ma place pour un boulet d’ canon’ (I wouldn’t trade my place for a cannon ball), which, however preposterous, made perfect sense when she sang it, becoming a place in our hearts. In fact, D.D. would not have been faulted by us no matter for whom or for what she had traded her place.

As the Times obit made plain, Danielle was in more than a hundred movies, and heaven knows how many stage productions over her very long performing career.
starting as a teenager and continuing very nearly to her demise. Once I even met her in the flesh, though it wasn’t quite the happiest occasion.

This was in 1969 or 70, when she succeeded Katharine Hepburn in the lead of “Coco,” the musical about Coco Chanel, which opened with Hepburn in the lead, although (in the words of theater historian Thomas Hischak) she “could barely croak out her few songs,”  I had some use for the show to begin with, but really loved it when Darrieux took over the role. I wrote a three-page encomium that you can check out on pages 272-74 of my book, “Uneasy Stages.” In it, I wrote, along with much else, that D.D. was as good as a trip to Paris, and concluded my extensive paean with “Hepburn played it indomitable, Danielle plays it adorable.” The show would have garnered better reviews if D.D. had opened it.

I can’t here reproduce that whole lengthy rave, which D.D. obviously could not have read when I called on her backstage. She was surrounded by progeny and her current husband or partner, who might have had misgivings had she responded more warmly to my adulation. But no matter, the brief meeting remains one of my happiest recollections, even if by then Darrieux was well into her fifties. Yet, as I wrote, “Other women grow older; she only grows womanlier.”

Anita Gates’s obit does justice to the actress, who was as beautiful as she was talented, could sing and dance as well as she could act, and was indeed ageless, I believe, to her dying day. You should read this obit if you possibly can, which includes three pictures, and from which I quote.

“She continued acting well into her 90s, making nine films in the first decades of the 21st century. Her last big-screen appearance was in ‘Piece Montee’ (2010), a comedy about a family wedding. She also appeared in a 2011 television movie, ‘C’est Toi, ‘C’est Tout,’ playing an American grandmother.”

Apropos Anerican, Danielle made several excursions (or incursions?) into Hollywood cinema, but American movies never rose to the occasions. They were never in adequate vehicles--champagne in Coca Cola bottles. The still from a French movie of 1960 makes her look 25, not 43, and the portrait from 1987 at 70 makes her look 40. There is a picture of her in her favorite movie role, a French film adaptation of Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black” (1954), in which she co-starred with the brilliant Gerard Philipe.

Of her three marriages, the one to Dominican-born playboy Porfirio Rubirosa may constitute one blot on her scutchon, the other being continued acting in Nazi-occupied France. According to Oliver Goldsmith, when lovely woman stoops to folly, the only expiation is to die. But that was three centuries ago, and in a few respects we have progressed since then. Rubirosa was apparently a great lover, and I should have jumped at the offer by Norman Mailer to portray him in his play, “The Deer Park.” But, as I explained to Norman, a critic reviews plays in the evenings and thus cannot be also acting in them. I had to turn down his flattering invitation, earning me a swift punch in the plexus.

Most American moviegoers are likely to recall Darrieux in at last two of her three films directed by Max Ophuls: ”La Ronde,” “Le Plaisir,” and “The Earrings of Madame de .…” Possibly also in Anatol Litvak’s “Mayerling,” at age 19, based on the deeply touching  murder suicide by Crown Prince Rudolf, Rodolfo in the Times and presumably in the film, portrayed by Charles Boyer, which I loved.

I am reminded that Darrieux’s only other Broadway appearance was opposite Howard Keel, in the short-lived musical “Ambassador,” based on Henry James, which didn’t help much. I am also reminded that whereas Brigitte Bardot was lucky in her initials, which spelled out Bebe, French for everybody’s baby.  But Dede doesn’t spell anything, unless in the unlikely case that you count “Dedee, d’Anvers,” a film by Yves Allegret, starring another talented beauty, Simone Signoret.

As also a charming singer, Dede managed to be in more shows and films than many another, except perhaps Marlene Dietrich, but she was an altogether different kettle of fish. In my memories, I see Darrieux as a Grown-up Miss Sunshine, lighting up whatever she touched, as I wish I could say to her right now. “Never less than beautiful, and always in good humor,” is how the film historian David Thomson has described her. That would make a very nice epitaph, if immortals required an epitaph, other than the one we carry with us in our grateful remembrance.


  1. John Simon really admires white beauty. He mostly disdains Semitic looks. His idea of ugly is Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. He has no feeling for Asian-Indians. One reason he couldn't stand Satyajit Ray movies is because he found Indians to be gross in looks and culture. And he never much care for black women though he liked a few mixed-blood negresses with white features.

    Anyway, Simon may not worship God, but he adored white European beauty.
    But then, Simon also supports the destruction of this object of his desire. Simon is a globalist. He attacked Trump's nationalism. He supports Hillary and Merkel who've called for total demographic invasion of Europe by Africans and Arabs. Hillary and Democrats are also for bringing over endless number of Mexicans, Africans, and Hindus to the US.

    And what will this mean? It will mean the demographic flooding of the white race by foreigners. As white women got jungle fever, white wombs will cease to produce white babies and will instead produce mulatto babies with nappy hair and fat lips and flat noses. Blonde hair and red hair will vanish, and all Europeans will one day look like Moroccans or Egyptians who are mix of various races.

    And as white men lose white women to black men, they will have babies with Mexican women or Asian women. As such, their kids will be squat like Mexicans or have slanty-eyes like Chinamen.

    That seems to be the future of the West.

    What a contradiction. Simon revered white beauty all his life, but he supports political policies that will demographically overwhelm the West with non-whites who will mess up and destroy white genetics forever. As the genes are altered, it will be the end of DNA code that made a beauty like Darrieux possible.

    There will no longer be Danielle Darrieuxs in the future. They will all look North African Arab-mulattoes.

    1. Now that is some cool retro-racism. I feel as if I’ve wandered into a Betty Boop cartoon! This is a good argument for free speech. How quickly forbidden words lose their power from overuse!

      I don’t disagree with your predictions, except to point out that cultural and biological mixing go both ways. White goddesses will still be preferred. It’ll all work out in a thousand years.

      Does John Simon support mass illegal immigration because he supports gun control and hates Trump? Has he ever expressed an opinion about it? He is a liberal but liberals hate him for being outspoken about feminists and gays.

    2. There will still be white goddesses, even though there'll be thinner on the ground. And when there are fewer of them, they will be even more highly prized.

      Speaking of things Mr. Simon hated, what do you think of the Bertolucci film '1900'? I wonder if Mr. Simon's devastating review stemmed partly from his irritation at sitting in an uncomfortable theater seat for four-plus hours.

    3. I was going to write something about white and black, but I was watching the World Series and wrote down this poem instead. I have no idea what it means.

      Joe Smokes A Fag On The Beach

      grabbed a handful of sand

      and let it rush through my fingers
      like you curl your lip. They’re
      in the front pocket. Out

      they come.

      Pack it Joe, against
      your lighter, and raise
      that right eyebrow.
      Flash! Whew! You’re
      hip now and GOD himself
      knows it. Trendy, some
      might say. Gravy. Nifty.
      That butt hangs strategically
      out the corner of your mouth.
      Raise the eyebrow again,
      Joe! Suck it in. Blow it
      in our faces. Toss the
      red hot butt in a trash can
      full of toilet paper. Walk away
      happy, Joe. Finnigans Wake

      was in my fist and I

    4. Nice vignette. Your Coney Island?

      MY your version changes "grabbed" to "grab," "our" to "their"; drops "toilet" and "Joe. Finnigans Wake was in my fist and I."

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    6. Re: "...irritation at sitting in an uncomfortable theater seat for four-plus hours."

      Have you heard the stat about parole officers being more lenient after lunch than before? Jacques Barzun declared Western Civilization dead because we had reached the limit of self-consciousness and "rights." Seems we have only scratched the surface.

    7. Lol! It needs a lot of work.

    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    9. It's funny, films that have much good in them were slaughtered by film critics who were held captive for torturous lengths of time. Yet now those movies can be watched at home over several nights. White elephants like the Robert Redford 'Great Gatsby' and the Lucille Ball 'Mame' are pure poison when consumed in one sitting, but afford pleasure when spread out over 72 to 96 hours.

    10. Simon doesn’t like “long stuff.” Tolstoy, Proust, Thomas Wolfe, Mailer, Beethoven, Wagner, etc. Yet he makes an exception for Mann’s MAGIC MOUNTAIN! Nor, I suspect, does Simon like “big stuff.” With all the references in his writing to other art forms I can’t think of a single nod to architecture, which by its nature is sizable. John Updike found St. Peter’s basilica not admirable, not stunning, not overwhelming, but “appalling in its immensity.” Bet Simon does too. Neither would be “big” on Michelangelo.

      Noochinator, I admire TANGO, CONFORMIST less so, but haven’t seen 1900. Most critics including Simon thumbed it down. Suppose now’s the time to check it out since one can watch for a while then come back later rather than get stuck in a theater. But do you recommend it?

    11. Simon loved 'The Sorrow and the Pity'. Over four hours. Personally, I like 'em under 2 1/2. Even more under 2.

    12. Joe Carlson, I haven't scoped out '1900' yet, but I did look at 'Luna' (1979) last week, with Jill Clayburgh as an American opera singer with a heroin-addicted teenaged son. I enjoyed it b/c I had at hand an interview with B.B. in which he explained what he was trying to get across (which wasn't too clear from viewing the film)---but I didn't viddy it a second time. The venerable movie critic Leslie Halliwell (1929-1989) wrote that 'Luna' was "pretentious claptrap", and I can see where he's coming from.

      Bertolucci has said in interviews that he pushed to have '1900' released in two parts, but the distributors said no, preferring to cut the film from five hours to four. Apparently the version released on DVD is the five-hour version. Watching it all at one sitting would be agony for me, like drinking a gallon of wine in a single evening. From what I'm gleaning from online comments, '1900' seems to have a whiff of 'Heaven's Gate'-syndrome about it, i.e., director given carte blanche after the wild success of his previous film.

      U.K., for me the optimal length of a film is 80 minutes, but then I'm a bit of a philistine. As proof of that, I watched 'Hustle' (1975) last week, and loved it! Burt Reynolds, Catherine Deneuve (as his prostitute girlfriend!), Eddie Albert as a perverted lawyer who sometimes hires Deneuve (and who busts Reynolds' chops about it by telling him, "The brilliant whores become courtesans when they get older"), Ben Johnson, Paul Winfield, et al. Direction by Robert Aldrich, script by Steve Shagan. If you were curating a film festival on American manliness in early 1970s films, this would have to be included, along with 'The Longest Yard' (1974) and 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle' (1973).

      Eddie Albert was the Ed Harris of his day, good in everything he was in, even if the film was shite. I don't remember ever seeing him in a bad performance.

    13. Aldrich was a wonderful director. Albert was in 'Attack' as well.

    14. Thanks, U.K, I'd never heard of 'Attack' (or 'Attack!') from 1956, it looks terrific!

    15. It's pretty good. I wouldn't put it with his very best films (Dirty Dozen, Kiss Me Deadly, The Longest Yard), but well worth a watch. Netflix has it, and so does YouTube.

    16. Netflix has the DVD of 'Attack!' listed, but they don't have the DVD --- it's in the "Saved" section of my DVD queue, which means they probably won't ever get it. But Facets has the DVD for rental, along with many others that Netflix doesn't have!

    17. I'm getting frustrated with Netflix. I may try Facets.

    18. If you're hooked on the DVD format, Netflix is good, but they lack some essentials. Facets is great, but it takes longer for the DVDs to arrive than w/N'flix. Over the past few months, I've watched DVDs of these films, all of them titles N'flix doesn't have:
      'Burroughs: The Movie' (superb doc.!)
      'The Wife' (dir. Tom Noonan)
      'The End' (w/ Burt Reynolds et al.)
      'The Devil's PLayground' (dir. Fred Schepisi)
      'That's the Way of the World' (w/Harvey Keitel)
      'Last Orders' (dir. Fred Schepisi, w/M. Caine et al.)
      'Race with the Devil' (w/P. Fonda, W. Oates)
      'The Tenant' (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more, say no more)
      'Of Freaks and Men' (great arty Russian S&M movie!)
      'The Seven-Ups' (w/Roy Scheider)

    19. After viddying '1900' over several nights, I'd say it's definitely a work of art, and definitely worth watching (but with your b.s. antennae out: artistic truth seems sometimes sacrificed in order to make political points). One critic compared the film to "a delicious pasta salad, ruined with intermittent slabs of Velveeta cheese,” and probably every viewer will have his own take on what elements of the film comprised the Velveeta.


    20. Noochinator, thanks for making the effort and taking a bullet for the team. I will definitely check out 1900 now that I’ve been warned to keep my expectations well below the TANGO level. Sounds perfect for the long, delayed viewing you recommend. For what it’s worth I pass on this note about a 1950’s western:

      GARDEN OF EVIL (1954)
      What a pity the film doesn’t live up to the title. Henry Hathaway and Milton Krasner achieve some striking visuals with the CinemaScope widescreen format that was new at the time. Early on Bernard Herrmann’s music does a note-by-note imitation of his later VERTIGO (1958) score and throughout maintains a Hitchcockian note of dread. But as the convoluted plot gets more tangled the dialogue gets more banal. For the life of me I’ve never understood the appeal of Susan Hayward. Yet here all the men go gaga. While the very young, very desirable Rita Moreno sings torch songs and bats her eyelashes. Throughout Gary Cooper looks lost, confused.The superb Richard Widmark does his best but much of what he’s made to do makes little sense. That said CinemaScope forced filmmakers to challenge themselves in new ways. Here, there, Hathaway/Krasner meet the challenge to produce some astonishing landscapes. Hathaway’s later westerns include NEVADA SMITH, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, and TRUE GRIT.

    21. Thanks, Joe Carlson -- Bertolucci is a proud Italian Communist, but Italian Communism seems much kinder and gentler than other countries' brands. And thanks for mentioning Rita Moreno, you motivated me to discover her 2014 memoir which I look forward to perusing!

    22. U.K., I watched 'Attack' (1956), it was great! Thanks so much for recommending it!

    23. Thanks. I need to revisit that one. It's been awhile. I'm jotting it down on my list.

    24. Also just viddied Werner Herzog's documentary 'Little Dieter Needs to Fly' (1997) --- the story is so amazing that I have trouble believing it. And 'The Heartbreak Kid' (1972), another good one in which Eddie Albert shines and Cybill Shepherd glows.

  2. I recall this actress. Never would have remembered her name, but I know some of the films. She was beautiful.

    I didn't know where Belgrade was. Pretty close to Italy, or so it seems. I saw that the Danube river flows through Belgrade. Interesting. I know two things about Belgrade. Vampires and sausage. That's it.

  3. Sorry, boys, Duke and Marshall settled it decades ago!