Seberg in Gang War in Naples (1972)
|Born||Jean Dorothy Seberg
November 13, 1938
Marshalltown, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||August 30, 1979
Cause of death
|Alma mater||University of Iowa|
|Spouse(s)||François Moreuil (m. 1958–60)
Romain Gary (m. 1963–70)
Dennis Charles Berry (m. 1972–79)
|Partner(s)||Ahmed Hasni (1978–1979)|
Jean Dorothy Seberg (November 13, 1938 – August 30, 1979) was an American actress. She starred in 34 films in Hollywood and in Europe, including Saint Joan, Breathless, Lilith, Moment to Moment, A Fine Madness, Paint Your Wagon, Airport, Macho Callahan, and Gang War in Naples.
Jean Seberg died at the age of 40 of a barbiturate overdose in Paris. Her death was ruled a suicide.
Jean Seberg was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, the daughter of Dorothy Arline (née Benson), a substitute teacher, and Edward Waldemar Seberg, a pharmacist. Her family was Lutheran and of Swedish, English, and German ancestry. Her paternal grandfather Edward Carlson arrived in the U.S. in 1882 and observed, "there are too many Carlsons in the New World". He decided to change the family's last name to Seberg in memory of the water and mountains of Sweden. Jean had a sister Mary-Ann, a brother Kurt, and a brother David, who was killed in a car accident in 1968.
Seberg made her film debut in 1957 in the title role of Saint Joan, from the George Bernard Shaw play, after being chosen from 18,000 hopefuls by director Otto Preminger in a $150,000 talent search. Her name was entered by a neighbor. When she was cast, on October 21, 1956, her only acting experience had been a single season of summer stock performances. The film was associated with a great deal of publicity about which Seberg commented that she was "embarrassed by all the attention". Despite a big build-up, called in the press a "Pygmalion experiment", both the film and Seberg received poor notices. On the failure, she later told the press:
"I have two memories of Saint Joan. The first was being burned at the stake in the picture. The second was being burned at the stake by the critics. The latter hurt more. I was scared like a rabbit and it showed on the screen. It was not a good experience at all. I started where most actresses end up."
Preminger, though, had promised her a second chance, and he cast Seberg in his next film Bonjour Tristesse the following year, which was filmed in France. Regarding his decision, Preminger told the press: "It's quite true that, if I had chosen Audrey Hepburn instead of Jean Seberg, it would have been less of a risk, but I prefer to take the risk. [..] I have faith in her. Sure, she still has things to learn about acting, but so did Kim Novak when she started." Seberg again received atrocious reviews and the film nearly ended her career. But her next role was in the successful 1959 comedy, The Mouse That Roared, starring Peter Sellers.
During the filming of Bonjour Tristesse Seberg met the man who was to be her first husband, and she then based herself in France, achieving success as the free-love heroine of French New Wave films. Most notably, she appeared as Patricia in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (French title: À bout de souffle), in which she co-starred with Jean-Paul Belmondo. The film became an international success and critics praised Seberg's performance, François Truffaut even hailing her "the best actress in Europe." Despite her achievements in this genre, Seberg did not identify with her characters or the film plots, saying that she was "making films in France about people [she's] not really interested in." The critics did not agree with Seberg's absence of enthusiasm, and raved about her performances, inspiring Hollywood and Broadway to make her important offers.
In 1961, Seberg took on the lead role in her then husband François Moreuil's debut film, La recréation. By that time, Seberg had been estranged from Moreuil, and she recollected that production was "pure hell" and that he "would scream at [her]." In the United States, she starred opposite Warren Beatty in Lilith (1964), which prompted the critics to acknowledge Seberg as a serious actress.
In 1969, she appeared in her first and only musical film, Paint Your Wagon, based on Lerner and Loewe's stage musical, and co-starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood. Her singing voice was dubbed by Anita Gordon. Seberg also starred in the disaster film Airport (1970) opposite Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin.
Seberg was François Truffaut's first choice for the central role of Julie in Day for Night but, after several fruitless attempts to contact her, Truffaut gave up and cast British actress Jacqueline Bisset instead. Her last US film appearance was in the TV movie Mousey (1974). Seberg remained active during the 1970s in European films. She appeared in Bianchi cavalli d'Agosto (White Horses of Summer) (1975), Le Grand Délire (Die Große Ekstase) (1975, with husband Dennis Berry) and Die Wildente (1976, based on Ibsen's The Wild Duck).
At the time of her death she was working on the French film La Légion saute sur Kolwezi. She had scenes filmed in French Guiana and returned to Paris for additional work in September. After her death, the scenes were reshot with actress Mimsy Farmer.
Possible Hollywood blacklisting
At the peak of her career, Seberg suddenly stopped acting in Hollywood films. Reportedly, she was not pleased with the roles she had been offered, some of which, she noted, bordered on pornography. Conversely, she was not offered any great Hollywood roles, regardless of their size. Experts in FBI COINTELPRO activities suggest that Seberg was "effectively blacklisted" from Hollywood films, as was Jane Fonda, for a period of time. No conclusive evidence of a 'blacklisting' exists, yet this is fairly normal, as such blacklists are usually secret.
FBI COINTELPRO investigation
During the late 1960s, Seberg provided financial support to various groups supporting civil rights, such as the NAACP and Native American school groups such as the Meskwaki Bucks at the Tama settlement near her home town of Marshalltown, for whom she purchased US$500 worth of basketball uniforms. The FBI was upset about several gifts to the Black Panther Party, totalling US$10,500 (estimated) in contributions; these were noted among a list of other celebrities in FBI internal documents later declassified and released to the public under FOIA requests. The financial support and alleged interracial love affairs or friendships are thought to have been triggers to a large-scale FBI program deployment in her direction.
The FBI operation against Seberg used COINTELPRO program techniques to harass, intimidate, defame, and discredit Seberg. The FBI's stated goal was an unspecified "neutralization" of Seberg with a subsidiary objective to "cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the public", while taking the "usual precautions to avoid identification of the Bureau". FBI strategy and modalities can be found in FBI inter-office memos.
In 1970, the FBI created the false story, from a San Francisco-based informant, that the child Seberg was carrying was not fathered by her husband Romain Gary but by Raymond Hewitt, a member of the Black Panther Party. The story was reported by gossip columnist Joyce Haber of The Los Angeles Times. and was also printed by Newsweek magazine. Seberg went into premature labor and, on August 23, 1970, gave birth to a 4 lb (1.8 kg) baby girl. The child died two days later. She held a funeral in her hometown with an open casket that allowed reporters to see the infant's white skin which disproved the rumors. Seberg and Gary later sued Newsweek for libel and defamation and asked for US$200,000 in damages. Seberg contended she became so upset after reading the story, that she went into premature labor, which resulted in the death of her daughter. A Paris court ordered Newsweek to pay the couple US$10,800 in damages and also ordered Newsweek to print the judgement in their publication plus eight other newspapers.
The investigation of Seberg went far beyond the publishing of defamatory articles. According to her friends interviewed after her death, Seberg experienced years of aggressive in-person surveillance (constant stalking), as well as break-ins and other intimidation-oriented activity. These newspaper reports make clear that Seberg was well aware of the surveillance. FBI files show that she was wiretapped, and in 1980, The Los Angeles Times published logs of her Swiss wiretapped phone calls. U.S. surveillance was deployed while she was residing in France and while travelling in Switzerland and Italy. Per FBI files the FBI cross-contacted the "FBI Legat" (legal attachés) in U.S. Embassies in Paris and Rome and provided files on Seberg to the CIA, U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Military intelligence to assist monitoring while she was abroad.
FBI records show that J. Edgar Hoover kept U.S. President Richard Nixon informed of FBI activities related to the Jean Seberg case via President Nixon's domestic affairs chief John Ehrlichman. John Mitchell, then Attorney General, and Deputy Attorney General Richard Kleindienst were also kept informed of FBI activities related to Jean Seberg.
On September 5, 1958, Seberg married François Moreuil, a French lawyer, age 23, in Marshalltown after having met in France 15 months earlier. They divorced in 1960. Moreuil had ambitions in movies and directed his estranged wife in "La récréation". According to Seberg, the marriage was a "violent" one; and she complained that she "got married for all the wrong reasons." On living in France for a period of time, Seberg said in an interview:
"I'm enjoying it to the fullest extent. I've been tremendously lucky to have gone through this experience at an age where I can still learn. That doesn't mean that I will stay here. I'm in Paris because my work has been here. I'm not an expatriate. I will go where the work is. The French life has its drawbacks. One of them is the formality. The system seems to be based on saving the maximum of yourself for those nearest you. Perhaps that is better than the other extreme in Hollywood, where people give so much of themselves in public life that they have nothing left over for their families. Still, it is hard for an American to get used to. Often I will get excited over a luncheon table only to have the hostess say discreetly that coffee will be served in the other room. [..] I miss that casualness and friendliness of Americans, the kind that makes people smile. I also miss blue jeans, milk shakes, thick steaks and supermarkets."
However, despite extended stays in the United States, Seberg remained Paris-based for the rest of her life. In 1963, she married French aviator, resistant, novelist and diplomat Romain Gary, who was 24 years her senior and was previously married. Gary's divorce from his first wife took place on September 5, 1962, shortly before their wedding October the 6th. The marriage in Corsica was secret and used accommodations with the law. Their only child together, Alexandre Diego Gary, was born in Barcelona on July 24, 1962; for this, Diego's birth and first years of life were hidden from even Gary's closest friends and relatives. Thanks to his contacts in the diplomat services, Gary "established" Diego's birth at the French village of Charquemont on October 26, 1963, after his parents' marriage. During her marriage to Gary, Seberg lived in Paris, Greece, Southern France and Majorca. Diego married and as of 2009 resides in Spain where he runs a bookstore and oversees his father's literary and real estate holdings.
Seberg's second child, Nina Hart Gary (born August 23, 1970 - died August 25, 1970, buried at Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown, Iowa) was acknowledged by Gary as his own, but the child was actually the product of an affair with a student revolutionary named Carlos Ornelas Navarro.
In 1972, she was married for the third time, to aspiring film director Dennis Berry.
In 1979, while separated from her legally-wed husband, Seberg went through "a form of marriage" to an Algerian named Ahmed Hasni. Hasni persuaded her to sell her second apartment on the Rue du Bac, and he kept the proceeds (reportedly 11 million francs in cash), announcing that he would use the money to open a Barcelona restaurant. The couple departed for Spain but she was soon back in Paris alone, and went into hiding from Hasni, who she said had grievously abused her.
On the night of August 30, 1979, Seberg mysteriously disappeared. Her partner Ahmed Hasni told police that they had gone to a movie that night and when he awoke the next morning, Seberg was gone. After Seberg went missing, Hasni told police that he knew she was suicidal for some time. He claimed that she had attempted suicide in July 1979 by jumping in front of a Paris subway train.
On September 8, nine days after her disappearance, her decomposing body was found wrapped in a blanket in the back seat of her Renault, parked close to her Paris apartment in the 16th arrondissement. Police found a bottle of barbiturates, an empty mineral water bottle and a note written in French from Seberg addressed to her son. It read, in part, "Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves." Her death was ruled a suicide by the police.
Romain Gary, Seberg's second husband, called a press conference shortly after her death where he publicly blamed the FBI's campaign against Seberg for her deteriorating mental health. Gary claimed that Seberg "became psychotic" after the media reported a false story that the FBI planted about her becoming pregnant with a Black Panther's child in 1970. The child died two days after Seberg went into premature labor. Gary stated that Seberg had repeatedly attempted suicide on the anniversary of the child's death, August 25.
Seberg is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris, France.
Six days after the discovery of Seberg's body, the FBI released documents under FOIA admitting the defamation of Seberg, while making statements attempting to distance themselves from practices of the Hoover era. The FBI's campaign against Seberg was further explored at this time by Time magazine in a front page article, "The FBI vs. Jean Seberg".
Media attention surrounding the abuse Seberg had undergone at FBI hands led to examination of the case by the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, a.k.a. "the Church Committee", which noted that notwithstanding FBI claims of reform, that, "COINTELPRO activities may continue today under the rubric of investigation".
In his autobiography, Los Angeles Times editor Jim Bellows described events leading up to the Seberg articles, in which he expressed regret that he had not vetted the Seberg articles sufficiently. He echoed this sentiment in subsequent interviews.
The Seberg case remains a hallmark case, examined to this day, vis-à-vis U.S. intelligence abuses directed towards U.S. citizens.
In June 1980, Paris police filed charges against "persons unknown" in connection with Seberg's suicide. Police stated that Seberg had such a high amount of alcohol in her system at the time of her death, that it would have rendered her comatose and unable to get into her car without assistance. Police noted there was no alcohol in the car where Seberg's body was found. Police theorized that someone was present at the time of her death and failed to get her medical care.
In December 1980, Seberg's former husband Romain Gary committed suicide. Gary's suicide note, which was addressed to his publisher, indicated that he had not killed himself over the loss of Seberg but over the fact that he felt he could no longer produce literary works.
In popular culture
The Talent Scout by Romain Gary (1961) features a recognizable portrait of Seberg.
In 1991, actress Jodie Foster, a fan of Seberg's performance in Breathless, purchased the film rights to the David Richards' biography about Seberg, Played Out: The Jean Seberg Story. Foster was set to produce and star in the film, but the project was cancelled two years later.
Mexican author and diplomat Carlos Fuentes mirrored their short-term affair in his 1994 novel Diana o La Cazadora Solitaria (English title: Diana: The Goddess Who Hunts Alone).
In 1995, a documentary of her life was made by Mark Rappaport, titled From the Journals of Jean Seberg. Mary Beth Hurt played Seberg in a voice-over. Hurt was also born in Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1948, attended the same high school as Seberg, and Seberg had been her babysitter.
In 2004, the French author Alain Absire published Jean S., a fictionalized biography. Seberg's son, Alexandre Diego Gary, brought a lawsuit unsuccessfully attempting to stop publication.
Seberg is mentioned in the 2005 film Hard Candy.
In the title track of the Divine Comedy's 2004 album, Absent Friends, Seberg is mentioned where the singer describes how she "seemed so full of life, but in those eyes, such troubled dreams", an apparent reference to Seberg's death.
In 2011, filming began in New York City on a biopic tentatively titled Jean, starring artist and heiress Daphne Guinness as Jean Seberg.
On November 15, 2013, the documentary Movie Star: The Secret Lives of Jean Seberg  by Tammy and Kelly Rundle of Fourth Wall Films and author Garry McGee is due to premiere at the 3rd Jean Seberg International Film Festival. The film includes interviews with Jean's immediate family, friends, teachers, and colleagues in the US and France.
|1957||Saint Joan||St. Joan of Arc|
|1959||The Mouse That Roared||Helen Kokintz|
|1960||Let No Man Write My Epitaph||Barbara Holloway|
|1961||La récréation||Kate Hoover||Alternate title: Love Play|
|1961||L'Amant de cinq jours||Claire||Alternate title: L'amant de cinq jours|
|1961||Les Grandes Personnes (fr)||Ann||Alternate title: Time Out for Love|
|1963||In the French Style||Christina James|
|1964||Les plus belles escroqueries du monde||Patricia Leacock||Segment "Le Grand Escroc"
|1964||Backfire||Olga Celan||Alternate title: Échappement libre|
|1965||Un milliard dans un billard||Bettina Ralton|
|1966||Moment to Moment||Kay Stanton|
|1966||Line of Demarcation||Mary, comtesse de Damville||Alternate title: La Ligne de démarcation|
|1966||A Fine Madness||Lydia West|
|1967||Estouffade à la Caraïbe||Colleen O'Hara|
|1967||Who's Got the Black Box?||Shanny||Alternate title: The Road to Corinth|
|1968||Birds in Peru (fr)||Adriana|
|1969||Pendulum (fr)||Adele Matthews|
|1969||Paint Your Wagon||Elizabeth|
|1970||Macho Callahan||Alexandra Mountford|
|1970||Ondata di calore||Joyce Grasse||Alternate title: Dead of Summer|
|1972||Questa specie d'amore||Giovanna||Alternate title: This Kind of Love|
|1972||Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! (fr)||Emily Hamilton|
|1972||Gang War in Naples||Luisa||Alternate title: Camorra|
|1972||L'Attentat||Edith Lemoine||Alternate titles: Plot, The French Conspiracy|
|1973||The Corruption of Chris Miller||Ruth Miller||Original title: La corrupción de Chris Miller|
|1974||Les Hautes solitudes||Silent film without named characters|
|1974||Ballad for the Kid||La star||Director, writer, producer|
|1974||Mousey||Laura Anderson/Richardson||Television movie|
|1975||Bianchi cavalli d'Agosto||Lea Kingsburg|
|1975||The Big Delirium||Emily||Alternate title: Le Grand Délire|
|1976||The Wild Duck (de)||Gina Ekdal||Alternate title: Die Wildente|
|1979||Le bleu des origines|
- Bellos, David (2010). Romain Gary: A Tall Story. London: Harvill Secker. ISBN 978 1843431701.
- Coates-Smith, Michael, and McGee, Garry (2012). The Films of Jean Seberg. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6652-8.
- Guichard, Maurice (2008). Jean Seberg: Portrait francais. Paris: Editions Jacob-Duvernet. ISBN 978 2 84724 194 5.
- McGee, Garry (2008). Jean Seberg – Breathless. Albany, GA: BearManor Media. ISBN 1-59393-127-1.
- Moreuil, Francois (2010). Flash Back. Chaintreaux: Editions France-Empire Monde (French language publication). ISBN 978-2-704897-0.
- Munn, Michael (1992). Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-86051-790-X.
- Richards, David (1981). Played Out: The Jean Seberg Story. Random House. ISBN 0-394-51132-8.
- "Jean Seberg Found Dead in Paris; Actress Was Missing for 10 Days; A Life of Personal Tragedy". The New York Times. September 9, 1979. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Gussow, Mel (November 30, 1980). "The Seberg Tragedy; Jean Seberg". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Millstein, Gilbert (April 7, 1957). "Evolution of a New Saint Joan; Jean Seberg, 18, unknown and barely tried, illustrates how a star is made, if not born". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Alice Miller
- Gerald Mc Ghee: Movie Star Jean Seberg had Roots in Sweden with Different Surname. 2/24/2009 http://docublogger.typepad.com/seberg/jean-trivia/ accessed 11-8-2013
- "At the time I was due to audition for Preminger, I was enrolled to study dramatic art at the State University of Iowa, my eventual goal being stardom on Broadway, hopefully." Seberg in Films and Filming, p. 13, June 1974
- "Seberg: Real-life Cinderella" by Peer J. Oppenheimer, The Palm Beach Post, April 28, 1957, p. 11
- "'Saint Joan' Chosen", The Spokesman-Review, October 22, 1956, p. 1
- "Second Chance for Jean", The Age, October 8, 1957, p. 13
- "Jean Seberg Failed As Saint On Screen, Scores Success In France As A Sinner" by Bob Thomas, The Blade, August 6, 1961, p. 2
- "Jean Seberg: A Hollywood tragedy" by Charles Champlin, The Modesto Bee, September 16, 1979, p. F-6
- Tyler, Don (2008). Music of the Postwar Era. United States of America: Greenwood Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-313-34191-5. Retrieved June 25, 2010.
Marvin and Eastwood sang, but Miss Seberg's vocals were dubbed by Anita Gordon.
- McGee, Garry (2008). Jean Seberg – Breathless. Albany, GA: BearManor Media. p. 238. ISBN 1-59393-127-1.
- "The Jean Seberg Enigma: Interview With Garry Mcgee". Film Threat. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
- FBI Secrets: An Agent's Expose. by M. Wesley Swearinge
- Richards, David (1981). Played Out: The Jean Seberg Story. Random House. p. 204. ISBN 0-394-51132-8.
- "Star and Victim", Janet Maslin, New York Times, July 12, 1981
- Brodeur, Paul (1997). A Writer in the Cold War. Faber and Faber. pp. 159–65. ISBN 978-0-571-19907-5.
- Ostrow, Ronald, (1980-01-09). "Extensive probe of Jean Seberg Revealed". Ronald Ostrow, The Times, January 9, 1980. Retrieved from http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/Weisberg%20Subject%20Index%20Files/F%20Disk/FBI/FBI%20Cointelpro/Item%2045.pdf.
- Richards 234–8
- Munn, p. 90
- Richards, p.239
- Richards, p.247
- Richards, p.253
- Friedrich, Otto (1975). Going crazy: An inquiry into madness in our time. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 230. ISBN 0-671-22174-4.
- "Seberg awarded $20,000 in Newsweek libel suit". The Telegraph-Herald. 1971-10-26. p. 18. Retrieved 2012-12-02.
- "Romain Gary a séduit mon épouse Jean Seberg". By François Moreuil. http://www.parismatch.com/People/Cinema/Romain-Gary-a-seduit-mon-epouse-Jean-Seberg-Par-Francois-Moreuil-148199 (retrieved 8 November 2013)
- "Le "oui" secret de jean Seberg et Romain Gary", Le Monde, August 15, 2014
- Ralph Schoolcraft: Romain Gary: The Man Who Sold His Shadow, Chapter 3, p. 69. On-line (retrieved 10 August 2012)
- "What makes Jean Seberg Run?", Tri-City Herald, June 21, 1970, p. 8
- Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. April 26, 2009 http://docublogger.typepad.com/seberg/2009/05/where-is-jean-sebergs-son-alexandre-diego.html(retrieved 8 November 2013)
- Richards 234-8
- Richards, p.367
- Richards, p.368
- Richards, p.369
- "Police Rule Out Violence In Death of Actress Seberg". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1979-09-10. p. 21. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "Forgive me, Seberg wrote in suicide note to her son". Edmonton Journal. 1979-09-10. p. A2. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- Raith, Mark Alan (1981-07-19). "The Life and Death of Jean Seberg". Reading Eagle. p. 36. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "Charges filed in Seberg death". The Montreal Gazette. 1979-06-23. p. 41. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "Jean Seberg not reason for novelist's suicide, note says". Lakeland Ledger. 1980-12-04. p. 12D. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "FBI Admits Spreading Lies About Jean Seberg", Los Angeles Times (front page) Sept. 14, 1979, from 'Times Wire Services'
- "The Jean Seberg Affair Revisited". Los Angeles Times. March 22, 2009.
- Nation: The FBI vs. Jean Seberg, September 24, 1979.
- Cointelpro: The FBI's Covert Action Programs Against American Citizens, Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities. United States Senate, April 23, 1976. It should also be noted that the Church Committee has been accused of pursuing a "witch hunt" in regard to the FBI.
- Bellows, Jim. The Last Editor, Andrews McMeel Publishing, May, 2011.
- "Bellows, Jean Seberg and the FBI", Kevin Roderick, LA Observed, March 13, 2009
- "The Jean Seberg Affair Revisited", Allan M. Jallon, The Daily Mirror, March 22, 2009
- "Flashes: September 20, 1991". Entertainment Weekly. September 20, 1991. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
- "Jean Seberg International Film Festival is Nov. 10-13, 2011". iavalley.edu. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- This episodic film was originally a collaboration of five directors. Despite being directed by Jean-Luc Godard and shot by Raoul Coutard, Seberg's 20-minute episode was cut from the final release (McGee, p.110). It was resurrected and partly shown in From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995)
- Jean Seberg at the Internet Movie Database
- Jean Seberg at Find a Grave
- 1958 Mike Wallace interview January 4, 1958
- Website dedicated to Jean Seberg
- Movie Star: The Secret Lives of Jean Seberg Documentary Film