SIMONE SIGNORET by Catherine David


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 Bittersweet rise and decline of the great French movie star Simone Signoret (1921-85), by a writer for Paris's Nouvel Observateur. David improvises in a gaga style, telling us that the writing has been ``a long daydream in which I took over Simone's memories like a squatter.'' The author managed to get one interview with Signoret at the end of her life, and a half hour with an untalkative Yves Montand, Signoret's second and last husband. The actress was born in Wiesbaden to a Jewish French Army officer who had married a German, and she was raised in comfort. Back in France, her father became a multilingual translator whose many travels away from home fed her growing self-reliance. During the Nazi occupation, she became secretary to the editor of a collaborationist newspaper, Les Nouveaux Temps, who was shot by a French firing squad after the war. Signoret got into films by playing bits and extras, and she had a daughter by Yves Allegret, the director who launched her to stardom. Her most memorable roles in France were as the tart in La Ronde, the blond in Casque d'Or, the stony-faced murderess in Les Diaboliques, and the adulteress in ThÇräse Raquin. In 1949, Signoret met then-music-hall singer-dancer Montand and life was never the same. The night she won an Oscar for her role in Room at the Top, Montand sobbed in his seat beside her- -but he was already into his scandalous affair with Marilyn Monroe. That wound never healed, says David, and Signoret, defiantly, began aging. Alcohol and Gaulois did the rest, with the actress growing fat, wrinkled, bad-tempered, and half-blind, while Montand had his mistresses. Long politically active, Signoret died at age 64. Far, far less fulfilling than Signoret's own Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be (1972) or Montand's You See, I Haven't Forgotten (1992). (Twenty-two b&w photos--not seen)

Pub Date: June 25th, 1993
ISBN: 0-87951-491-4
Page count: 225pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993