End Credits #74: Cinema's 2017 Lost Treasures Danielle Darrieux
Danielle Darrieux (May 1, 1917 - October 17, 2017) the talented French actress has died at age 100.
Guest contributor Bob DiMucci has provided this tribute to many of her motion picture accomplishments:
The Films of Danielle Darrieux
Danielle Darrieux had leading a role in the ensemble cast of 1950's LA RONDE, which included Anton Wallbrook and Simone Signoret. Max Ophuls directed this romance, which consisted of a number of vignettes revolving around a circle of interconnected love. In the film, Darrieux plays a cheating wife who entertains the notion of having an affair with a rich boy (Daniel Gelin). Oscar Straus scored the film.
In the 1951 MGM musical RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY, Darrieux co-starred with Jane Powell and Wendell Corey. In the film, when wealthy Texas rancher and statesman "Jim Stauton Rogers" (Corey) is called to Paris on a United Nations matter, he reluctantly takes his grown daughter "Elizabeth" (Powell) with him, fearful that she will encounter his long-estranged wife, singer "Marie Devarone" (Darrieux). The film was Darrieux's first Hollywood feature since the 1938 Universal picture THE RAGE OF PARIS.
Norman Taurog directed the film, which marked a number of motion picture debuts. It was the American motion picture debut of Argentine actor and singer Fernando Lamas, as well as the motion picture debuts of popular singer Vic Damone and the singing group "The Four Freshmen." It was also an early film for the recently passed Richard Anderson. Composer Nicholas Brodszky and lyricist Sammy Cahn created seven songs for the film. Darrieux sang two of them on the MGM soundtrack LP, along with a third, "There's Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie," that had music and lyrics by Pete Wendling, Harry Richman, and Jack Meskill.
Darrieux was directed by Max Ophuls for the second time in 1952's LE PLAISIR. The film was comprised of three stories about pleasure. In the second story, "La Maison Tellier," the diplomatic madam Tellier (Madeleine Renaud) temporarily closes her popular establishment so that she and her courtesans can attend the communion of her niece, "Constance" (Jocelyne Jany), who lives in a small village in the countryside with her brother "Joseph" (Jean Gabin), a naughty carpenter who loves to drink. Before they leave, Joseph warms up to "Rosa" (Danielle Darrieux), the most beautiful courtesan.
Maurice Yvain was originally engaged to compose an original score, but he was replaced by Joe Hajos, who based most of his music on popular music of the late 19th century.
5 FINGERS was a World War II espionage thriller set in 1944 Turkey, a neutral country during the war, which became a hotbed of espionage for Allied and Axis diplomats. The film opens at a reception in Ankara, where German ambassador "Franz von Papen" (John Wengraf) and English ambassador "Sir Frederic" (Walter Hampden) both converse with "Countess Anna Staviska" (Danielle Darrieux), the French widow of a pro-German Polish count. Micheline Prelle was originally signed for the role of "Anna" (which was fictional, unlike the majority of the other characters in the film), but had to withdraw from the cast due to pregnancy.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed the film, which was loosely based on the life of Elyeza Bazna (1905--1971), the valet to the English ambassador to Turkey during World War II, Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen. Bernard Herrmann's score was released by Kritzerland in 2015.
Danielle Darrieux's third and final film for director Max Ophuls was 1953's THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... The film revolved around the diamond earrings of a French aristocrat (Darrieux), a wedding gift from her husband (Charles Boyer), which cause a series of conflicts as they change hands repeatedly. Ophüls would only direct the film if Darrieux agreed to star. The role was written with her specifically in mind.
The film was based on a scant novel (62 pages) by Louise de Vilmorin, who chose to keep her characters nameless in order to match the style of Belle Époque authors, who employed the technique in order to make it seem as if their characters were based on real people. Max Ophüls decided to keep the characters' surnames a secret in the film adaptation, because he felt that it created the suggestion that his characters could represent anybody from the story's milieu. Seven minutes of Georges van Parys' score appeared on a 2006 composer compilation CD from Universal France.
In the 1955 French epic NAPOLEON, Darrieux played Eléonore Denuelle, a mistress of Emperor Napoleon I of France (Raymond Pellegrin) and the mother of his son Charles, Count Léon. The three-hour film was written and directed by Sacha Guitry. Jean Françaix's score was released on an Odeon 45rpm EP, but has never been reissued on CD.
In ALEXANDER THE GREAT, King Philip of Macedonia (Fredric March) embarks on relentless brutal military campaigns to conquer all of Greece. While he is away at war, his wife Olympias (Danielle Darrieux) gives birth to their first son, Alexander, and sends word that the baby is a god.
Although Richard Burton was only 29 at the time of filming, many critics felt he already looked too old to play Alexander. He was supposed to be a teenager in the first hour. Danielle Darrieux played Burton's mother in the film, despite only being eight years older than him.
Director Robert Rossen shot the film, his first in CinemaScope, to run three hours plus an intermission, and was very disappointed when the distributor cut it to 141 minutes. Mario Nascimbene's score was released on a Mercury LP. Shortened versions later appeared on CDs from Legend (1989) and DRG (1996). The complete score is provided as an isolated score track on the 2016 Twilight Time Blu-ray of the film.
LOSS OF INNOCENCE (aka THE GREENGAGE SUMMER) told the story of a British girl's (Susannah York) awakening from childhood into life and love while on vacation in France with her sisters and brother. Danielle Darrieux played "Madame Zizi," the proprietor of the château-hotel on the River Marne where the children stay. Lewis Gilbert directed this 1961 drama. Richard Adinsell's score was released on a Colpix LP, but has not had a CD re-issue.
In Jacques Demy's buoyant musical THE YOUNGS GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT, boat salesmen "Etienne" (George Chakiris) and "Bill" (Grover Dale) arrive in Rochefort-sur-Mer with a dance troupe and attempt to establish an open-air fair. When their girl friends leave the company, the salesmen scour the city for replacements. In so doing, they encounter twin sisters, "Delphine" (Catherine Deneuve) and "Solange Garnier" (Françoise Dorléac), music teachers and dancers. The twins' mother, "Yvonne" (Danielle Darrieux), owns a café and dreams of her old lover, "Monsieur Dame" (Michel Piccoli), proprietor of a nearby music shop.
Michel Legrand provided the score for this 1967 film, which was released on a Philips LP. Later CD releases have come from Philips and DRG. Danielle Darrieux is the only actor who actually sings for herself on the soundtrack.
BIRDS IN PERU was the very first film to receive an "X" rating from the MPAA when the U.S. film rating system was established in November 1968. Its story involves a frigid beauty (Jean Seberg) who arrives in Peru in the midst of a round-the-world trip in search of fulfillment. She is accompanied by her husband (Pierre Brasseur) and his chauffeur (Jean-Pierre Kalfon), who complete a masochistic menage a trois. The morning after a carnival, she leaves the lovers who tried and failed the night before and arrives at a bordello on the seashore run by madam Danielle Darrieux.
Romain Gary wrote and directed this film based upon his own 1962 short story. Kenton Coe provided the unreleased score.
Darrieux worked with director Jacques Demy a second time in the film UNE CHAMBRE EN VILLE (A Room in Town). Set in 1955, this sung-through musical stars Richard Berry as "Francois," a metalworker on strike with his union brothers. The film opens with a clash between the workers and the police, switching from a black-and-white newsreel style to color as the first blows are thrown. Francois escapes unharmed, but his life is put in jeopardy regardless. With no money to pay the rent, he risks eviction from “the baroness,” "Margot" (Danielle Darrieux), who lets him a room in her apartment.
The 1982 film was scored by Michel Colombier. The original 2-LP set was released on the Trema label and had its first CD appearance on a 2007 Kritzerland release. It was subsequently released by Universal France in 2013. Danielle Darrieux sings on 8 of the album's tracks. The film did not get a U.S. theatrical release.
Gathering together a plethora of French actresses, 2002's 8 WOMEN has been described as an Agatha Christie musical -- a murder mystery with six song and dance numbers. Eight women have gathered at a cozy cottage to celebrate Christmas with "Marcel" (Dominique Lamure), who is the husband of "Gaby" (Catherine Deneuve), the son-in-law of "Mamy" (Danielle Darrieux), the brother-in-law of "Aunt Augustine" (Isabelle Huppert), the father of "Catherine" (Ludivine Sagnier) and "Suzon" (Virginie Ledoyen), the employer of the domestic servants "Madame Chanel" (Firmine Richard) and "Louise" (Emmanuelle Beart), and the brother of the late-arriving "Pierrette" (Fanny Ardant). And that's the entire cast in this film, which was based on a play by Robert Thomas.
This was the third filming of the play. It had previously been done as a 1957 French film and a 1965 Belgian television movie. This time, François Ozon adapted the play for the screen and directed. Krishna Levy's score was released by Rhino Records.
This was the third film in which Danielle Darrieux played Catherine Deneuve's mother, following THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (1967) and LE LIEU DU CRIME (1986). For the latter film, Darrieux had received a César nomination for Best Supporting Actress. And again for 8 WOMEN, Darrieux received a nomination for the same award. Virginie Ledoyen, who played the pregnant character Suzon, actually was pregnant during filming, prompting Darrieux to joke that "Actually it was 'neuf femmes' and not huit".
PERSEPOLIS tells the true story of Marjane Satrapi, who grew up in a liberal, Shah-hating household in Iran.
When she was a child in the late 1970s, her family greeted the fall of the shah as the beginning of freedom for their country. Whatever came, "it can't be worse than the shah," they said. And then it got worse. And then it got horrible. The 2007 animated film was based on the graphic novel of the same name by Satrapi. She also co-directed the film with screenwriter Vincent Paronnaud. Olivier Bernet's score was released by EMI France.
Chiara Mastroianni is the voice of Marjane, and Mastroianni's real-life mother, Catherine Deneuve, is the voice of Marjane's mother. But Danielle Darrieux has the plum part of Marjane's grandmother, a woman who is irreverent and shrewd but who insists on holding her granddaughter to a strict code of integrity - one that serves her in later life.
During an acting career which spanned an astounding 80 years, Danielle Darrieux received three nominations for César awards as Best Supporting Actress. Although she did not win a competitive award, in 1987 she was awarded an Honorary César for her contributions to French film. Much of Danielle Darrieux's film work has not been made available to an English-speaking audience. But we can be grateful for the number of fine performances that we have been privileged to see. Farewell Danielle.