Delphine Seyrig

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Delphine Seyrig
Delphine Claire Beltiane Seyrig

(1932-04-10)10 April 1932
Beirut, Lebanon
Died15 October 1990(1990-10-15) (aged 58)
Paris, France
SpouseJack Youngerman (divorced)
ParentHenri Seyrig (father)

Delphine Claire Beltiane Seyrig (French: [sɛʁiɡ]; 10 April 1932 – 15 October 1990) was a Lebanese-born French actress and film director. She came to prominence in Alain Resnais's 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad, and later acted in films by Francois Truffaut, Luis Buñuel, Marguerite Duras, Fred Zinneman, and Chantal Akerman. She directed three films, including Sois belle et tais-toi (1981).

Early life[edit]

Seyrig was born into an intellectual Protestant family. Her Alsatian father, Henri Seyrig, was the director of the Beirut Archaeological Institute and later France's cultural attaché in New York during World War II.[1] Her mother, Hermine de Saussure [fr], was Swiss, and the niece of linguist/semiologist Ferdinand de Saussure.

Delphine was the sister of composer Francis Seyrig [fr]. Her family moved from Lebanon to New York City when she was ten. When the family returned to Lebanon in the late 1940s, she was sent to school at the Collège Protestant de Jeunes Filles, which had been founded by Protestant pacifists and social justice activists in 1938. She attended the school from 1947 to 1950.[citation needed]


As a young woman, Seyrig studied acting at the Comédie de Saint-Étienne, training under Jean Dasté, and at Centre Dramatique de l'Est. She appeared briefly in small roles in the 1954 TV series Sherlock Holmes. In 1956, she returned to New York and studied at the Actors Studio. In 1958, she appeared in her first film, Pull My Daisy. In New York she met director Alain Resnais, who asked her to star in his film Last Year at Marienbad (1961). Her performance brought her international recognition and she moved to Paris. Among her roles of this period is the older married woman in François Truffaut's Stolen Kisses (1968).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Seyrig worked with directors including Truffaut, Luis Buñuel, Marguerite Duras, and Fred Zinnemann, as well as Resnais. She achieved recognition for both her stage and film work, and was named best actress at the Venice Film Festival for her role in Resnais' Muriel (1963). She played many diverse roles, and because she was fluent in French, English and German, she appeared in films in all three languages, including a number of Hollywood productions.

Seyrig may be most widely known for her role as Colette de Montpellier in Zinnemann's 1973 film The Day of the Jackal. In turn, perhaps her most demanding role was in Chantal Akerman's 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, in which she was required to adopt a highly restrained, rigorously minimalistic mode of acting to convey the mindset of the title character.

Seyrig was a major feminist figure in France. Throughout her career, she used her celebrity status to promote women's rights. The most important of the three films she directed was the 1977 Sois belle et tais-toi (Be Pretty and Shut Up), which included actresses Shirley MacLaine, Maria Schneider, and Jane Fonda, speaking frankly about the level of sexism they had to deal with in the film industry. She also directed with Carole Roussopoulos an adaptation of the SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas.[2] In 1982, Seyrig was the key member of the group that established the Paris-based Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, which maintains a large archive of women's filmed and recorded work and produces work by and about women. In 1989, Seyrig was given a festival tribute at Créteil International Women's Film Festival, France.[citation needed]

Les Insoumuses[edit]

Seyrig, Carole Roussopoulos, and translator Ioana Wieder, formed the feminist video collective Les Insoumuses in 1975, after meeting at a video-editing workshop that Roussopoulos organized in her apartment. The name Les Insoumuses is a neologism combining "insoumise" (disobedient) and "muses." The collective produced several videos together, focusing on representations of women in the media, labour, and reproductive rights.[3] Les Insoumuses become in 1982 : Le still active today, the institution has played a key role in the presevation and diffusion of the audiovisual work genrated by feminist collectives.

Personal life[edit]

Seyrig married (and was later divorced from) American painter Jack Youngerman (1926–2020),[4] who had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Their son Duncan (b. 1956, Paris) is a musician and composer working in both France and the United States; and granddaughter Selina Youngerman, who is a working actress, is based in London.

In 1971, Seyrig signed the Manifesto of the 343, publicly declaring she had had an illegal abortion.[5] She was the unrequited love of Anglo-French actor, Michael Lonsdale.[6]

Seyrig died in a Paris hospital on October 15, 1990, from an undisclosed illness aged 58.

Select filmography (acting)[edit]

Filmography (directing)[edit]


  1. ^ Gérard Siebert. "Portraits et silhouettes d'Alsace" (.pdf). Revue de l'Alsace. Retrieved 18 April 2008.; "Henri Seyrig", in Je m'appelle Byblos, Jean-Pierre Thiollet, H&D (2005), p. 257; ISBN 2914266049
  2. ^ Fleckinger, Hélène; Carou, Alain; Faucon, Térésa; Mc Nulty, Callisto; Noteris, Émilie (2018). SCUM Manifesto : film, texts and archives about the 1976 staged reading of extracts from Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifesto by Carole Roussopoulos and Delphine Seyrig. Paris: Naima Editions. ISBN 978-2-37440-100-3.
  3. ^ Murray, Ros (2016). "Raised Fists: Politics, Technology and Embodiment in 1970s French Feminist Video Collectives". Camera Obscura. 31 (1): 92–121. doi:10.1215/02705346-3454441. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  4. ^ Taubin, Amy (2002-10-27). "FILM; Sensual, Smart, and Then There Was That Voice". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  5. ^ "manifeste des 343". 2001-04-23. Archived from the original on 2001-04-23. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
  6. ^ "Michael Lonsdale obituary". The Guardian. 22 September 2020.


  • François Poirié. Comme une apparition: Delphine Seyrig, portrait, Actes Sud, 28 February 2007 (paperback); ISBN 978-2-7427-6673-4

External links[edit]