Actress rode French New Wave cinema to stardom in ‘Jules and Jim’
French actress Jeanne Moreau, the smokyvoiced femme fatale of the French New Wave who starred in Francois Truffaut’s love triangle film “Jules and Jim” and worked with many other acclaimed directors during a decades-long career, has died at 89.
Outspoken, provocative and acting well into her 80s, Moreau was among France’s most-recognized performers. President Emmanuel Macron celebrated Moreau for going beyond earlier roles as a screen siren to embrace other genres, starring in comedies and action films.
“That was her freedom ... always rebellious against the established order,” Macron said in a statement. “(She had) a spark in her eye that defied reverence and was an invitation to insolence, to liberty, to this whirlpool of life that she loved so much. And that she made us love.”
The president’s office and Moreau’s agent announced her death Monday without providing a cause.
Starting in the early 1960s, Moreau was the most prominent actress of the French New Wave, with her brooding, downturned mouth and distinctive blend of sensuality, intellect and resolve. Her performance as Catherine in Truffaut’s 1962 “Jules and Jim,” in which she played the love interest in a groundbreaking romance about two friends vying for the same woman, was among her most well-known. She also worked with Truffaut on the Hitchcock-inspired thriller “The Bride Wore Black,” in which she starred as a woman who tracks down the men who murdered her husband on her wedding day.
Other notable films included Luis Bunuel’s “Diary of a Chambermaid,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s “La Notte” (“The Night”) and Orson Welles’ “The Chimes at Midnight,” in which she played the prostitute Doll Tearsheet in Welles’ adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part II.” She later made a brief appearance in the international hit “La Femme Nikita.”
She was born in Paris on Jan. 23, 1928, to a French father and English mother who danced at the FoliesBergere. Moreau starred in her first feature film in 1949 and last appeared in the 2015 comedy “My Friends’ Talent.”
Thanks to her striking looks and impulsive characters, some called her the French Bette Davis. Moreau often played women of experience, and off screen she had so many lovers she once boasted to a reporter she wanted to build a house and fill it with her favorite men.