Danielle Darrieux, French actress - obituary

Joann Johnston
October 20, 2017

Darrieux auditioned for a secondary role as a willful teenager in the 1931 musical "Le Bal" when she was only 14, and got not only the part but a five-year contract with the producer.

She married writer-director Henri Decoin in 1935.

She signed up with Universal Studios and starred in The Rage of Paris (1938) with Douglas Fairbanks Junior.

When the Cinémathèque Française à Paris honored Ms. Darrieux with a retrospective in 2009, more than 90 of her films were screened, yet at least a score were left out.

But her decision to continue working during the Nazi occupation of France saw her branded as a collaborationist.

She described battling her natural shyness throughout her career and often appeared visibly shaken during interviews.

In the 2002 whodunit musical extravaganza 'Eight Women, ' she played a matriarch, reigning over a nearly-all female cast that included legendary actresses Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart and Fanny Ardant.

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Her first romantic lead came in 1934's "La crise est finie", and Litvak's historical drama "Mayerling" was an worldwide hit and established her credentials as a serious actress together with Nicolas Farkas' "Port-Arthur".

She even made a notorious propaganda visit to Berlin in 1942, although she later insisted she exclusively wanted to visit her second husband, who was imprisoned there. The next year Darrieux returned to Hollywood to star in the excellent spy thriller "5 Fingers" alongside James Mason.

She starred the next year in the noted "The Red and the Black" with Gerard Philippe, then appeared in "Lady Chatterley's Lover". American critics praised both her beauty and her performance.

In 1961 Darrieux travelled to England to act in The Greengage Summer with Kenneth More and Susannah York. She had a successful career revival in later life with her role in The Young Girls of Rochefort by Jacques Demy.

During the 1960s Darrieux did stage work and was a concert singer in addition to appearing in a steady stream of French films. At one point, her name appeared on a French Resistance death list for alleged collaboration.

She had only two Broadway credits, but one was a doozy.

Darrieux also claimed that family members, including a brother, had been threatened with deportation by the Nazis running Continental, who were ultimately working for Hitler's propaganda chief Josef Goebbels. If Ms. Darrieux - who was beloved by her countrymen as D.D. - had a career prime, it was the 1950s, in which she typified the desirable European married woman. In 1985 she was awarded the Honorary César, France's top cinema recognition.

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