Annie Girardot, 1931 - 2011

David Hudson

"Annie Girardot, the perky, gravely-voiced actress who became one of France's most acclaimed stars, has died," reports the AP. "She was 79. Girardo had suffered for years from Alzheimer's disease and a Paris hospital says she died on Monday."

The AFP notes that she "performed in over 100 films from the 1950s on… In [1960] she starred as a prostitute in Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers, playing alongside French star Alain Delon and Italian actor Renato Salvatori, also her future husband and father to daughter Giulia."

Reuters: "A symbol of the feminist movement in France for her roles playing strong-willed women struggling against the odds, her everyday woman image stood in stark contrast to the pouting pin-ups of the time and endeared her to a legion of female fans… Girardot won a French Cesar award for best actress for her role as an overworked doctor, abandoned by both husband and lover, in the 1976 film Dr Francoise Gailland. After several years' absence from the screen, her return in the 1990s with Les Miserables earned her a best supporting actress Cesar, as did her role as Isabelle Huppert's tyrannical mother in the 2002 Michael Haneke film The Piano Teacher."

AOL's Mary Phillips-Sandy posts a clip from Rocco and introduces another: "Girardot had a flair for comedy too. In 1970 she and Brigitte Bardot starred in Les Novices, in which a naive nun meets a high-spirited lady of the night. Naturally, high jinks ensue."

Update, 3/1: Her "career stretched from the Comédie-Française, through popular comedies and melodramas to the French New Wave and beyond," writes Ronald Bergan in the Guardian. "Jean Cocteau, in whose play La Machine à Ecrire (The Typewriter) she starred, called her 'the finest dramatic temperament of the postwar period.' Hardly ever considered a sex goddess like her near contemporaries Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot, the petite Girardot, with her strongly etched features, often set off by short hair, and a warm deep voice was, nevertheless, able to create an erotic charge when needed… In 1960, the same year as Rocco, Girardot consolidated her newfound fame in La Proie pour l'Ombre (Shadow of Adultery), Alexandre Astruc's ultra chic contribution to the Nouvelle Vague… Girardot won the best actress award at Venice in 1965 for her performance as a cynical outcast in Marcel Carné's Trois Chambres à Manhattan (Three Rooms in Manhattan), based on the novel by Georges Simenon. In Vivre Pour Vivre (Live for Life, 1967), directed by Claude Lelouch, she played the abandoned wife of a philandering TV news reporter (Yves Montand). She would continue to vary her roles over the next decade between the gloss of Lelouch (six films), the didacticism of André Cayatte (four films, including Mourir d'AimerTo Die of Love — 1970, as a teacher driven to suicide after an affair with a pupil) and the vivacity of Philippe de Broca (four films). One of the most successful of her de Broca movies was Tendre Poulet (Dear Inspector, 1977), in which she was a police inspector in love with a professor of Greek (Philippe Noiret)… Although she made fewer films in the 1980s and 1990s, Girardot retained her status as a box-office star on the level of Montand, Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo as well as being critically celebrated."

Updates, 3/2: William Grimes: "'I think I've proven that I'm opposed to typecasting,' she told The New York Times in 1972, citing as Exhibit A her role as a sideshow freak in The Ape Woman. 'I believe that the acting of any role — from duchess to kitchen slavey — must be a form of transformation.'"

"Visconti was a deceptively great director of actresses," argues Bilge Ebiri. "Even though most of his films tend to be ostensibly about men, the women resonate in dramatic ways. In the end, isn't The Leopard as much about Claudia Cardinale as it is about Burt Lancaster? Isn't Ludwig as much about Romy Schneider as much as it is about Helmut Berger? And, let's face it, isn't Rocco and His Brothers as much about Annie Girardot as it is about Delon and Salvatori?"

Update, 3/18: "As Moreau and Deneuve saw their careers dip, and Bardot retired, Girardot was the French female star of the 1970s, ahead of more glamorous rivals like Romy Schneider, Marlène Jobert and Mireille Darc," writes Ginette Vincendeau for Sight & Sound. "Trade paper Le Cinéma français nailed the essence of her appeal thus: 'Hers is an everyday face, the kind you could meet in the métro, in the street or at the supermarket.' 'Ordinariness' was no barrier to sexual drive, and she artfully combined the twin 1970s feminine values of eroticism and feminism."

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