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Arletty in 1942.
Léonie Marie Julie Bathiat

(1898-05-15)May 15, 1898
Courbevoie, France
DiedJuly 23, 1992(1992-07-23) (aged 94)
Paris, France
Occupation(s)Actress, singer, fashion model
Years active1930–1963

Léonie Marie Julie Bathiat (born 15 May 1898), known professionally as Arletty, was a French actress, singer, and fashion model. As an actress she is particularly known for classics directed by Marcel Carné, including Hotel du Nord (1938), Le jour se lève (1939) and Children of Paradise (1945). She was found guilty of treason for an affair with a German officer during World War II.

Early years[edit]

Arletty was born in Courbevoie (near Paris), to a working-class family. After her father's death, she left home and pursued a modeling career. She took the stage name "Arlette" based on the heroine of a story by Guy de Maupassant. She was not interested in acting until she met Paul Guillaume, an art dealer. He recommended some theaters and, at the age of 21, she was hired.[1]

Her early career was dominated by the music hall, and she later appeared in plays and cabaret. In 1928 she performed in Maurice Yvain's operetta Yes at the Théâtre des Capucines which was written as a starring vehicle for her.[2] Arletty was a stage performer for ten years before her film debut in 1930. Arletty's career took off around 1936 when she appeared as the leading lady in the stage plays Les Joies du Capitole and Fric-Frac, in which she starred opposite Michel Simon. She later starred as Blanche in the French version of A Streetcar Named Desire.[3]

Marcel Carné was known for his poetic realism filmmaking style. Arletty's role of Raymonde in his film, Hotel du Nord, garnered attention for her "Atmosphere! Atmosphere!” performance. In 1945 Arletty appeared in her most famous film role, the central part of Garance in Les Enfants du Paradis, her fourth role for the director. For this role she earned one of the highest salaries ever in French cinema.[4]


Arletty was imprisoned in 1945 for her wartime liaison with a German Luftwaffe officer, Hans-Jürgen Soehring (1908–1960),[5] during the occupation of France. She allegedly later commented on the experience, "My heart is French but my ass is international."[6] The quotation in French is "Si mon cœur est français, mon cul, lui, est international". Although other French women fell in love with German soldiers, her romantic affiliation with Soehring during the German occupation prompted a charge of treason.

James Lord wrote of her special treatment:

Arletty was too well known for the mere humiliation of having her head shaved, her naked skull tarred with a swastika and in this abject state paraded through the streets to confront the jeers and spittle of the mob. Prison would be none too good for her, people said, looking forward to severe retribution for the moral treason of which they found her guilty.[1]

For her crimes she received a sentence of eighteen months' imprisonment, most of which was served in a private chateau.[citation needed]

Later years[edit]

After a moderately successful period as a stage actress in later life she was forced to retire into private life due to progressive loss of her eyesight. One of her final screen appearances was in a small role as an elderly French woman in The Longest Day (1962).


In 1995 the government of France issued a series of limited edition coins to commemorate the centenary of film that included a 100 Franc coin bearing the image of Arletty.[7]



  1. ^ a b Lord, James (1994). Six Exceptional Women. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. pp. 43–82.
  2. ^ Le giornate del cinema muto; Pordenone 4-11 ottobre 2008, XXVII edizione. Teatro comunale Giuseppe Verdi : 27th Pordenone silent film festival. 2008. p. 52.
  3. ^ Felando, Cynthia. "Arletty." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. 4th ed. Vol. 3: Actors and Actresses. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 35-36. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 October 2014.
  4. ^ Aldstadt, David. (2002). Imaginary Co-Signatures: Collaboration, Authorship, and Star Personae in Films by Marcel Carne with Arletty and by Jean Cocteau with Jean Marais. Retrieved from ProQuest. Order Number 3048992
  5. ^ Mark Le Fanu Book Review: "And the Show Went On" Archived 2 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Spear's, 4 July 2011
  6. ^ Geoffrey Nowell Smith, The Oxford History of World Cinema, p. 347. See also Arletty, "mon coeur est français mais mon cul est international!"
  7. ^ "MDP les francs". Monnaie de collection. Archived from the original on 30 January 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Arletty (1971). La Défense. Paris: de la Table ronde.
  • Arletty; Michel Souvais (1987). Je suis comme je suis. Paris: Vertiges du Nord / Carrère. ISBN 2-86804-404-2.
  • Souvais, Michel (September 2006). Arletty, confidences à son secrétaire. Paris: Publibook.

External links[edit]