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Danielle Darrieux, French Star of ‘La Ronde,’ Dies at 100

Danielle Darrieux, one of the great French movie stars, died Wednesday in Bois-le-Roi, France. She was 100.

The star of director Max Ophuls’ classic early ’50s films “La Ronde” and “The Earrings of Madame de…” and Anatole Litvak’s 1936 “Mayerling” also made some films in Hollywood and, late in life, starred, with an all-star cast of fellow French female movie stars, in Francois Ozon’s “8 Femmes.”

In Ozon’s 2002 delightful musical mystery-comedy “8 Femmes,” the actress played Deneuve’s mother again, starring along with Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier. The entire cast received a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for outstanding artistic achievement as well as the European Film Award for best actress.

Born in Bordeaux, Darrieux was raised in Paris. At the Paris Conservatory she studied the cello and piano.

Darrieux auditioned for a secondary role as a willful teenager in the 1931 musical “Le Bal” when she was only 14, and got not only the part but a five-year contract with the producer.

The beautiful young Darrieux was an instinctive actress as well as a talented singer and dancer, and many other offers came her way. She appeared in a number of musical comedies during the 1930s.

Her first romantic lead came in 1934’s “La crise est finie,” and Litvak’s historical drama “Mayerling” was an international hit and established her credentials as a serious actress together with Nicolas Farkas’ “Port-Arthur.”

She married writer-director Henri Decoin in 1935. Decoin would direct her in a number of films including “Abus de confiance” (1938).

Decoin suggested that Darrieux try Hollywood, and she signed a contract with Universal to appear with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in screwball comedy “The Rage of Paris.” She was charming, with a seemingly effortless comic flair, in that otherwise second-rate 1938 film, and she chose to return to France after making it, appearing in Decoin’s “Retour a l’aube” and “Bettement de coeur” soon thereafter.

Darrieux was condemned by many French industryites for continuing to perform during WWII and Germany’s occupation of France; her brother was reportedly threatened with deportation unless she did so.

After divorcing Decoin and marrying Dominican Republic diplomat and anti-Nazi Porfirio Rubirosa in 1942, she did a promotional tour in Germany in exchange for Rubirosa’s freedom.

The actress was one of the stars of Ophuls’ 1950 classic “La Ronde,” in which a series of love affairs is depicted, with one partner in each encounter forming a liaison with another person and so on.

Darrieux appeared in MGM’s 1951 Jane Powell musical “Rich, Young and Pretty,” shot in Paris. She played Powell’s mother. The next year Darrieux returned to Hollywood to star in the excellent spy thriller “5 Fingers” alongside James Mason.

In Ophuls’ 1953 masterpiece “The Earrings of Madame de…,” the actress starred as the pampered wife of a general (Charles Boyer) who hocks the earrings of the title, a present from her husband, then treasures them when they are presented to her by her lover (Vittorio De Sica). (Darrieux also had a part a year earlier in Ophuls’ anthology pic “Le Plaisir.”)

She starred the next year in the noted “The Red and the Black” with Gerard Philippe, then appeared in “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

Darrieux made her last appearance in an American film in 1956’s “Alexander the Great.” She appeared in British coming-of-ager “The Greengage Summer” in 1961.

She played the mother of Catherine Deneuve in Jacques Demy and Agnes Varda’s 1967 musical “The Young Ladies of Rochefort.”

During the 1960s Darrieux did stage work and was a concert singer in addition to appearing in a steady stream of French films.

In 1970 Darrieux did her first stint on Broadway, substituting for Katherine Hepburn in the musical “Coco,” about Coco Chanel. She also appeared in the musical “Ambassador,” which had a brief run in 1972.

In the 1970s Darrieux began to appear on French TV in addition to her work on the bigscreen.

She had a key role as Deneuve’s mother in Andre Techine’s 1986 family crime drama “Scene of the Crime.”

In 2007 Darrieux did voice work for Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s “Persepolis,” about the impact of the Islamic Revolution in Iran on a young girl.

In 1985 the actress received an Honorary Cesar Award for her service to the film industry.

Darrieux married for a third time in 1948 to Georges Mitsinkides, with whom she remained until his death in 1991.

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