Simone Signoret

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Simone Signoret
Simone Signoret (Harcourt).jpg
Signoret in 1947
Simone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker

(1921-03-25)25 March 1921
Wiesbaden, Germany
Died30 September 1985(1985-09-30) (aged 64)
Years active1942–1985
(m. 1944; div. 1949)
(m. 1951)
ChildrenCatherine Allégret

Simone Signoret (French: [simɔn siɲɔʁɛ]; born Simone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker; 25 March 1921 – 30 September 1985) was a French actress. She received various accolades, including an Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, a César Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress, in addition to nominations for two Golden Globe Awards.

Early life[edit]

Signoret was born Simone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker in Wiesbaden, Germany, to Georgette (née Signoret) and André Kaminker. She was the eldest of three children, with two younger brothers. Her father, a pioneering interpreter who worked in the League of Nations, was a French-born army officer from a Polish Jewish and Hungarian Jewish family,[1][2] who brought the family to Neuilly-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris. Her mother, Georgette, from whom she acquired her stage name, was a French Catholic.[3]

Signoret grew up in Paris in an intellectual atmosphere and studied English, German and Latin. After completing secondary school during the Nazi occupation, Simone was responsible for supporting her family and forced to take work as a typist for a French collaborationist newspaper, Les nouveaux temps, run by Jean Luchaire.[4]


During the occupation of France, Signoret mixed with an artistic group of writers and actors who met at the Café de Flore in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter. By this time, she had developed an interest in acting and was encouraged by her friends, including her lover, Daniel Gélin, to follow her ambition. In 1942, she began appearing in bit parts and was able to earn enough money to support her mother and two brothers as her father, who was a French patriot, had fled the country in 1940 to join General De Gaulle in England. She took her mother's maiden name for the screen to help hide her Jewish roots.

Signoret's sensual features and earthy nature led to type-casting and she was often seen in roles as a prostitute. She won considerable attention in La Ronde (1950), a film which was banned briefly in New York as immoral. She won further acclaim, including an acting award from the British Film Academy, for her portrayal of another prostitute in Jacques Becker's Casque d'or (1951). She appeared in many French films during the 1950s, including Thérèse Raquin (1953), directed by Marcel Carné, Les Diaboliques (1954), and The Crucible (Les Sorcières de Salem; 1956), based on Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Simone Signoret with Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top; the film established her as an international actress.

In 1958, Signoret acted in the English independent film, Room at the Top (1959), from which her emotionally powerful performance won her numerous awards including the Best Female Performance Prize at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Actress. Not for nearly 40 years did another French actress receive an Oscar: Juliette Binoche (Supporting Actress, 1997) and Marion Cotillard (Best Actress, 2008). She was offered films in Hollywood, but turned them down for several years, continuing to work in France and England—for example, opposite Laurence Olivier in Term of Trial (1962). She earned a further Oscar nomination for her work on Ship of Fools (1965), and appeared in a few other Hollywood films before returning to France in 1969.

In 1962, Signoret translated Lillian Hellman's play The Little Foxes into French for a production in Paris that ran for six months at the Theatre Sarah-Bernhardt. She played the Regina role as well. Hellman was displeased with the production, although the translation was approved by scholars selected by Hellman.[5]

Signoret's one attempt at Shakespeare, performing Lady Macbeth opposite Alec Guinness at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1966 proved to be ill-advised, with some harsh critics; one referred to her English as "impossibly Gallic".[6]

Signoret was never concerned with glamour, ignored sexist and ageist insults and continued giving finely etched performances. She won more acclaim for her portrayal of a weary madam in Madame Rosa (1977) and as an unmarried sister who unknowingly falls in love with her paralyzed brother via anonymous correspondence in I Sent a Letter to my Love [fr] (1980). She continued to appear in many movies before her death in 1985.

Personal life[edit]

Signoret's memoirs, Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be, were published in 1978. She also wrote a novel, Adieu Volodya, published in 1985, the year of her death.

Signoret first married filmmaker Yves Allégret (1944–49), with whom she had a daughter Catherine Allégret, herself an actress. Her second marriage was to the Italian-born French actor Yves Montand in 1951, a union which lasted until her death; the couple had no children.

Signoret died of pancreatic cancer in Autheuil-Authouillet, France, aged 64. She was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and Yves Montand was later buried next to her.


Year Title Role Notes
1942 Bolero Une employée de la maison de couture Uncredited
Prince Charming Extra Uncredited
Les Visiteurs du Soir Extra Uncredited
The Benefactor La sécrétaire du journal Uncredited
1943 Strange Inheritance Extra Uncredited
Goodbye Leonard La gitane Uncredited
1944 The Angel of the Night Une étudiante Uncredited
Behold Beatrice Liliane Moraccini
Night Shift La danseuse à la taverne Uncredited
Le mort ne reçoit plus [fr] La maitresse de Firmin
1945 Box of Dreams Une femme Uncredited
1946 Les Démons de l'aube [fr] Lily, la cabaretière
The Ideal Couple Annette
Back Streets of Paris Gisèle
1947 Fantômas Hélène
1948 Against the Wind Michele Dennis
Dédée d'Anvers Dédée
Dilemma of Two Angels Marianne
1950 Manèges Dora
Swiss Tour Yvonne
La Ronde Leocadie, the Prostitute
Gunman in the Streets Denise Vernon (also released as Le Traqué)
1951 ...Sans laisser d'adresse Une journaliste Uncredited
Shadow and Light Isabelle Leritz
1952 Casque d'or Marie 'Casque d'Or' BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
1953 Thérèse Raquin Thérèse Raquin
1955 Les Diaboliques Nicole Horner
Mother Courage and Her Children Yvette, Lagerhure (unfinished)
1956 Death in the Garden Djin
1957 The Crucible Elisabeth Procter BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
1958 Room at the Top Alice Aisgill
1960 General Electric Theater Woman Episode: Don't You Remember?
Adua and Friends Adua Giovannetti (also released as Hungry for Love)
1961 Les Mauvais Coups Roberte
Famous Love Affairs Jenny (segment "Jenny de Lacour")
1962 Term of Trial Anna
1963 The Shortest Day
The Day and the Hour Therese Dutheil
Sweet and Sour Madame Geneviève
1965 Ship of Fools La Contessa
The Sleeping Car Murders Eliane Darès
1966 Is Paris Burning? La patronne du bistrot / Cafe Owner
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Sara Lescault Episode: "A Small Rebellion"
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama
1967 The Deadly Affair Elsa Fennan Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
Games Lisa Schindler Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1968 Mr. Freedom Cameo Uncredited
The Sea Gull Arkadina, an actress
1969 Army of Shadows Mathilde
L'Américain [fr] Léone
1970 The Confession Mme L.
Lise London
A Hostage Meg TV movie
1971 Comptes à rebours [fr] Léa
Le Chat Clémence Bouin Silver Bear for Best Actress (at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival)[7]
La Veuve Couderc [fr] Veuve Couderc Tati
1973 The Burned Barns Rose
Rude journée pour la reine [fr] Jeanne
1975 La Chair de l'orchidée Lady Vamos
1976 Police Python 357 Thérèse Ganay
1977 Madame Rosa Madame Rosa
1978 Madame le juge [fr] Elisabeth Massot TV series, 6 episodes
Judith Therpauve Judith Therpauve
1979 The Adolescent Mamie
1980 I sent a letter to my love Louise Martin
1982 L'étoile du nord Mme Louise Baron Nominated — César Award for Best Actress
Guy de Maupassant [fr] Maupassant's mother
1983 Thérèse Humbert Thérèse Humbert
1985 Des terroristes à la retraite Narrator

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1959 Academy Awards Best Actress Room at the Top Won [8]
1965 Ship of Fools Nominated [9]
1971 Berlin International Film Festival Best Actress Le Chat Won[a] [7]
1952 British Academy Film Awards Best Foreign Actress Casque d'Or Won [10]
1957 The Crucible Won [11]
1958 Room at the Top Won [12]
1965 Ship of Fools Nominated [13]
1967 The Deadly Affair Nominated [14]
1968 Best Actress in a Supporting Role Games Nominated [15]
1959 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Room at the Top Won [16]
1977 César Awards Best Actress Madame Rosa Won [17]
1982 L'Étoile du Nord Nominated [18]
1977 David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Madame Rosa Won[b]
1959 Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Room at the Top Nominated [19]
1965 Ship of Fools Nominated
1959 Jussi Awards Best Foreign Actress Room at the Top Won
1957 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Best Actress The Crucible Won[c] [20]
1959 Laurel Awards Top Female Dramatic Performance Room at the Top 3rd Place
1959 National Board of Review Awards Best Actress Won [21]
1959 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress 2nd Place [22]
1966 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre
(Episode: "A Small Rebellion")
Won [23]

Popular culture[edit]

  • Marilyn (2011) by Sue Glover, premiered at the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow on 17 February 2011. The play charted the deteriorating relationship between Signoret and Marilyn Monroe during the filming of Let's Make Love. Unable to achieve the recognition of Oscar-winning Signoret, Monroe begins an affair with Signoret's husband, Yves Montand.
  • Singer Nina Simone (Born Eunice Waymon) took her last name from Simone Signoret.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tied with Shirley MacLaine for Desperate Characters.
  2. ^ Tied with Jane Fonda for Julia.
  3. ^ Tied with Tzvetana Arnaudova for Urok istorii.


  1. ^ Signoret, Simone (1979). Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Harmondsworth, England New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-005181-0.
  2. ^ "Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be (Paperback)". Film Guardian. 7 August 2000. Signoret was descended from Polish/Hungarian Jews
  3. ^ Hayward, Susan (November–December 2000). "Simone Signoret (1921–1985) — The body political". Women's Studies International Forum. 23 (6): 739–747. doi:10.1016/S0277-5395(00)00147-3.
  4. ^ DeMaio, Patricia A. (January 2014). Garden of Dreams: The Life of Simone Signoret. University Press of Mississippi.
  5. ^ Signoret 1978, pp. 324–328.
  6. ^ Sutcliffe, Tom. "Sir Alec Guinness". Film Guardian, 7 August 2000.
  7. ^ a b "Berlinale 1971: Prize Winners". Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  8. ^ "The 32nd Academy Awards (1960) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  9. ^ "The 38th Academy Awards (1966) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  10. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1953". BAFTA. 1953. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  11. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1982". BAFTA. 1982. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  12. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1959". BAFTA. 1959. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  13. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1966". BAFTA. 1966. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  14. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1968". BAFTA. 1968. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  15. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1969". BAFTA. 1969. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Room at the Top". Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  17. ^ "The 1978 Caesars Ceremony". César Awards. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  18. ^ "The 1983 Caesars Ceremony". César Awards. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  19. ^ "Simone Signoret – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  20. ^ "KVIFF – History (1957)". Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  21. ^ "1959 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  22. ^ "1959 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  23. ^ "Simone Signoret". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  24. ^ Source: "What Happened, Miss Simone", documentary on Nina Simone's life, 2015


  • DeMaio, Patricia A. "Garden Of Dreams: The Life of Simone Signoret," 2014
  • Monush, Barry (ed). The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors From the Silent Era to 1965. New York: Applause Books, 2003. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
  • Signoret, Simone. Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978. ISBN 0-297-77417-4.

External links[edit]