Brigitte Bardot, French (1934 - )
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot, (born 28 September 1934) is a former French fashion model, actress, singer and animal rights activist. She was one of the best-known sex symbols of the 1960s. Starting in 1969, Bardot's features became the official face of Marianne (who had previously been anonymous) to represent the liberty of France.
Bardot was an aspiring ballet dancer in early life. She started her acting career in 1952 and, after appearing in 16 films, became world-famous due to her role in her then-husband Roger Vadim's controversial film And God Created Woman. She later starred in Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 film Le Mépris. Bardot was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress for her role in Louis Malle's 1965 film Viva Maria!. Bardot caught the attention of French intellectuals. She was the subject of Simone de Beauvoir's 1959 essay, The Lolita Syndrome, which described Bardot as a "locomotive of women's history" and built upon existentialist themes to declare her the first and most liberated woman of post-war France.
Bardot retired from the entertainment industry in 1973. During her career in show business, Bardot starred in 47 films, performed in numerous musical shows, and recorded 80 songs. She was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1985, but refused to receive it. After her retirement, Bardot established herself as an animal rights activist. During the 1990s she generated controversy by criticizing immigration, Islamization and Islam in France, and has been fined five times for "inciting racial hatred."
Brigitte Bardot was born in Paris to Anne-Marie 'Toty' Mucel (1912–1978) and Louis 'Pilou' Bardot (1896–1975). Her father had an engineering degree and worked with his own father (Charles Bardot) in the family business. Toty was sixteen years younger and they married in 1933. Bardot grew up in a middle-class observant Roman Catholic family.
]Brigitte's mother enrolled Brigitte and her sister Marie-Jeanne (born 5 May 1938) in dance. Marie-Jeanne eventually gave up dancing lessons to complete her education, whereas Brigitte decided to concentrate on a ballet career.
In 1947, Bardot was accepted to the Conservatoire de Paris, and for three years she attended the ballet classes of Russian choreographer Boris Knyazev. (One of her classmates was Leslie Caron; fellow ballerinas nicknamed Bardot: Bichette [Little Doe]).
At the invitation of an acquaintance of her mother, she modelled in a fashion show in 1949. In the same year, she modelled for a fashion magazine "Jardin des Modes" managed by journalist Hélène Lazareff. Aged 15, she appeared on an 8 March 1950 cover of ELLE and was noticed by a young film director, Roger Vadim, while babysitting. He showed an issue of the magazine to director and screenwriter Marc Allégret who offered Bardot the opportunity to audition for "Les lauriers sont coupés" thereafter. Although Bardot got the role, the film was cancelled, but it made her consider becoming an actress. Moreover, her acquaintance with Vadim, who attended the audition, influenced her further life and career.
Although the European film industry was then in its ascendancy, Bardot was one of the few European actresses to have the mass media's attention in the United States, an interest which she did not reciprocate by rarely, if ever, going to Hollywood. She debuted in a 1952 comedy film Le Trou Normand (English title: Crazy for Love). From 1952-56, she appeared in seventeen films; in 1953 she played a role in Jean Anouilh's stageplay L'Invitation au château (Invitation to the Castle). She received media attention when she attended the Cannes Film Festival in April 1953.
Her films of the early and mid 1950s were generally lightweight romantic dramas, some historical, in which she was cast as ingénue or siren, often in varying states of undress. She played bit parts in three English-language films, the British comedy Doctor at Sea (1955) with Dirk Bogarde, Helen of Troy (1954), in which she was understudy for the title role but appears only as Helen's handmaid, and Act of Love (1954) with Kirk Douglas. Her French-language films were dubbed for international release.
Roger Vadim was not content with this light fare. The New Wave of French and Italian art directors and their stars were riding high internationally, and he felt Bardot was being undersold. Looking for something more like an art film to push her as a serious actress, he showcased her in And God Created Woman (1956) with Jean-Louis Trintignant. The film, about an immoral teenager in a respectable small-town setting, was an international success.
In Bardot's early career, professional photographer Sam Lévin's photos contributed to her image of sensuality. One photo shows Brigitte from behind, dressed in a white corset. British photographer Cornel Lucas made iconic images of Bardot in the 1950s and 1960s that have become representative of her public persona. She divorced Vadim in 1957 and in 1959 married actor Jacques Charrier, with whom she starred in Babette Goes to War. The paparazzi preyed upon her marriage, while she and her husband clashed over the direction of her career.
Vie privée (1962), directed by Louis Malle has more than an element of her life story in it. The scene in which, returning to her apartment, Bardot's character is harangued in the elevator by a middle-aged cleaning lady calling her offensive names, was based on an actual incident, and is a resonant image of celebrity in the mid-20th century. Bardot was awarded a David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign actress for the role.
In May 1958, Bardot withdrew to the seclusion of Southern France where she had bought the house La Madrague in Saint-Tropez. In 1963, she starred in Jean-Luc Godard's critically acclaimed film Le Mépris. Bardot was featured in many other films along with notable actors such as Alain Delon (Famous Love Affairs; Spirits of the Dead); Jean Gabin (In Case of Adversity); Sean Connery (Shalako); Jean Marais (Royal Affairs in Versailles; School for Love); Lino Ventura (Rum Runners); Annie Girardot (The Novices); Claudia Cardinale (The Legend of Frenchie King); Jeanne Moreau (Viva Maria!); Jane Birkin (Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman).
In 1973, Bardot announced that she was retiring from acting as "a way to get out elegantly".
She participated in various musical shows and recorded many popular songs in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly in collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg, Bob Zagury and Sacha Distel, including "Harley Davidson"; "Je Me Donne A Qui Me Plaît"; "Bubble gum"; "Contact"; "Je Reviendrais Toujours Vers Toi"; "L'Appareil À Sous"; "La Madrague"; "On Déménage"; "Sidonie"; "Tu Veux, Ou Tu Veux Pas?"; "Le Soleil De Ma Vie" (the cover of Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life"); and the notorious "Je t'aime... moi non plus".
Bardot pleaded with Gainsbourg not to release this duet and he complied with her wishes; the following year, he re-recorded a version with British-born model and actress Jane Birkin, which became a massive hit all over Europe. The version with Bardot was issued in 1986 and became a popular download hit in 2006 when Universal Records made its back catalogue available to purchase online, with this version of the song ranking as the third most popular download.