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 Richly intelligent (auto)biography by Montand (1921-91), who said yes to French journalists Hamon and Rotman when they offered to write his biography. He gave candid interviews and is quoted at length about his life and career, while his biographers interviewed pals and enemies and fill in the blanks. Montand rose from hairdresser's apprentice to French music- hall star before being claimed by the movies and becoming the embodiment of the sensitive French male with the working-class background. Born in Italy to a Communist family, he remained a leftist throughout life, though during his last decades, when many hoped he would run for president of France, he was deeply disaffected with Communism. He had triumphed as a mock American singing cowboy when France's greatest star, Edith Piaf, took him under her wing during WW II, let him open her act, and empowered him as star and lover. The Little Sparrow, however, grew jealous as Montand's legend flowered, and she took flight, leaving the young star wounded. In film, Montand's first big moment came when he replaced Jean Gabin in Marcel Carne's Les Portes de la Nuit (1946), then shined in Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Wages of Fear (1953). Montand married fellow star Simone Signoret, remained with her for nearly 40 years, and was with her in Hollywood when she took the Best Actress Oscar for Room at the Top--while he filmed Let's Make Love with Marilyn Monroe. The Monroe-Montand affair was a steaming earthquake of scandal, with Signoret asking the press, ``Do you know many men who would sit still with Marilyn Monroe in their arms?''; here, Montand speaks frankly and tenderly about MM. The marriage turned tragic during its last decade as Signoret self- destructed physically, aging Montand flirted with power, and daily the couple acted out Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Smart and revealing. Celebrities don't write 'em like this in America, sad to say. (Twenty-four pages of photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-41012-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992