Michèle Mercier

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Michèle Mercier
Michelemercier02b.jpg
Born Jocelyne Yvonne Renée Mercier
(1939-01-01) 1 January 1939 (age 75)
Nice, France
Occupation Actress, Dancer and Singer
Years active 1957–present
Spouse(s) André Smagghe
(1961–1967)
Claude Bourillot
(1968–1982)

Michèle Mercier, (born 1 January 1939 as Jocelyne Yvonne Renée Mercier) is a French actress.[1] In the course of her career she has worked with leading directors like François Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jacques Deray, Dino Risi, Mario Monicelli, Mario Bava, Peter Collinson and Ken Annakin. Her leading men have included Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Gabin, Charles Aznavour, Robert Hossein, Charles Bronson, Tony Curtis and Charlton Heston. Although she appeared in more than fifty films, it is for her role as "Angélique" that she is best known in the world.

Biography[edit]

The daughter of a French pharmacist father and an Italian mother, she initially wanted to be a dancer. The circumstances of war made this difficult and her parents saw it as only a whim; however, her determination won through and she joined the "ballet-rats", as the dancers of the chorus are termed. She was soon advanced to soloist in the Nice Opéra. At 15 she met Maurice Chevalier, who predicted that she would be a success.

She moved to Paris aged 17, and first joined the troupe of Roland Petit, then the company of the "Ballets of the Eiffel Tower". Parallel to her career as dancer, Mercier studied acting under Solange Sicard. For her film début her birth name seemed too long and old-fashioned. It was suggested she take the name Michèle - which happened to be name of her younger sister, who had died at the age of five from typhoid fever. However, she adopted the name as a tribute to the actress Michèle Morgan.

After some romantic comedies and a small role in François Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste ("Shoot The Pianist", 1960), she worked in England and made some, mainly small-budget, films in Italy, usually playing women of easy virtue.

She needed a role which could make her a star. It was in 1963, when it was decided to make a movie of the sensational novel "Angélique", that Michèle got her chance. Many actresses were approached to play the role of Angélique. Producer Francis Cosne wanted Brigitte Bardot for the part. She refused. Annette Stroyberg was considered next, but judged not sufficiently well-known. Catherine Deneuve was too pale, Jane Fonda spoke French with an American accent, and Virna Lisi was busy in Hollywood. The most serious actress considered was Marina Vlady. She almost signed a contract, but Mercier won the role after trying out for it - she did not appreciate this very much since she was being treated like a beginner at a time when she was already well known in Italy. At the time she was contacted to play Angélique, she had already acted in over twenty films. During the next four years she made five sequels which enjoyed astonishing success. However the role of Angélique, "the Marquise of the Angels", was both a blessing and a curse. It catapulted her to almost instant stardom, rivalling Brigitte Bardot in celebrity and popularity, but the character of Angélique overshadowed all other aspects of her career. By the end of the 1960s, the names Angélique and Michèle Mercier were synonymous.

In 1991 she was a member of the jury at the 17th Moscow International Film Festival.[2]

Attempting to break free from the character Michèle played against Jean Gabin in The Thunder of God directed by Denys de la Patellière. She then appeared with Robert Hossein in La Seconde Vérité directed by Christian-Jaque. Mercier then left France and tried to restart her career in the United States, unfortunately without much success.

After 14-year layoff she returned in the 1998 film La Rumbera, directed by Piero Vivarelli. In 1999, having been swindled out of several million francs in a business venture, Mercier had serious financial problems. She even planned to sell the famous wedding gown of Angélique. The actress confessed in Nice Matin: "I am ruined, I'll be obliged to sell part of my paintings, my furniture, my properties, my jewels and the costumes of Angélique". In 2002 at the Cannes Film Festival she presented her second book of memoirs. Mercier was made a chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres on the 6th of March 2006.

Personal life[edit]

She married the assistant-director André Smagghe in 1961. He turned out to be alcoholic who was eventually hospitalized. They divorced in 1965. After a long relationship she married the well-known racing driver Claude Bourillot in 1970, but he disappeared one day with all her jewels and money leaving her penniless. They divorced in 1976. Her other relationships were also uniformly disastrous. She claimed that her co-star Vittorio Gassman once tried to rape her, and an Italian Prince N. refused to marry her after many years of courtship. She was also pursued by Bettino Craxi and Silvio Berlusconi.

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Director Notes
1957 Retour de manivelle Denys de La Patellière Jeanne with Daniel Gélin, Michèle Morgan and Peter Van Eyck
1959 Shoot the Piano Player Clarisse François Truffaut with Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois and Nicole Berger...
1961 Goodbye Again Third Maisie Anatole Litvak with Ingrid Bergman, Yves Montand and, Anthony Perkins
1961 Fury at Smugglers' Bay Louise Lejeune John Gilling with Peter Cushing, John Fraser and Bernard Lee
1961 The Wonders of Aladdin Princess Zaiha Henry Levin and Mario Bava with Donald O'Connor, Fausto Tozzi, Vittorio De Sica and Massimo Girotti
1962 Roaring Years Elvira Acquamano Luigi Zampa with Nino Manfredi and Gino Cervi
1963 Shivers in Summer Gigi Luigi Zampa with Vittorio Gassman and Philippe Leroy
1963 Black Sabbath Rosy (episode "The telephone") Mario Bava with Lidia Alfonsi
1963 Magnet of Doom Lou Jean-Pierre Melville with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Charles Vanel...
1963 The Thursday Elsa Dino Risi with Walter Chiari and Umberto D'Orsi
1963 I mostri Maria
(episode "L'oppio dei popoli")
Dino Risi with Ugo Tognazzi
1964 A Global Affair Lisette Jack Arnold with Bob Hope, Barbara Bouchet and Yvonne De Carlo
1964 High Infidelity Clara (episode "Gente Moderna") Mario Monicelli
1964 Angélique, Marquise des Anges Angélique Bernard Borderie with Robert Hossein, Jean Rochefort and Giuliano Gemma
1964 Merveilleuse Angélique Angélique Bernard Borderie with Jean Rochefort and Giuliano Gemma...
1964 Casanova 70 Noelle Mario Monicelli with Marcello Mastroianni, Virna Lisi, Marisa Mell and Marco Ferreri
1965 God's Thunder Simone Leboucher Denys de La Patellière with Jean Gabin and Robert Hossein
1965 Angelica and the King Angelica Bernard Borderie Robert Hossein, Jacques Toja and Sami Frey...
1966 How I Learned to Love Women Franziska Luciano Salce with Robert Hoffmann and Nadja Tiller
1967 The Oldest Profession Brit
(episode " L'Amour à l'âge de pierre")
Franco Indovina
1967 Indomptable Angélique Angélique Bernard Borderie with Robert Hossein
1967 Une corde, un colt Maria Caine Robert Hossein with Robert Hossein
1968 Angélique et le Sultan Angélique Bernard Borderie with Robert Hossein and Jean-Claude Pascal
1968 Emma Hamilton Emma Lyon-Hamilton Christian-Jaque with Richard Johnson and John Mills
1970 You Can't Win 'Em All Aila Peter Collinson with Tony Curtis and Charles Bronson
1971 Roma Bene Wilma Rappi Carlo Lizzani with Senta Berger, Virna Lisi, Nino Manfredi and Irene Papas
1971 Web of the Spider Elisabeth Blackwood Anthony Dawson with Anthony Franciosa and Klaus Kinski...
1972 The Call of the Wild Calliope Laurent Ken Annakin with Charlton Heston
1978 Götz von Berlichingen mit der eisernen Hand Adelheid von Walldorf Wolfgang Liebeneiner based on Goethe with Raimund Harmstorf

Quotes[edit]

"When people talk with me they always refer to Angélique, but I have also played fifty other women. I have tried for a long time to forget about her. But now I see her as a little sister who is always by my side and I have learned to live with her."

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Mercier, Michèle (July 1, 1979). Angélique à coeur perdu : autobiographie. Paris: Carrere. ISBN 978-2-86804-540-9. 
  • Boyer, Raymond (1994). Michèle Mercier, merveilleuse Angélique. Paris: TF1 Editions. ISBN 978-2-87761-064-3. 
  • Mercier, Michèle; Henry-Jean Servat (May 21, 2002). Je ne suis pas Angélique. Denoël. ISBN 978-2-207-25329-8. 

External links[edit]