French actress Claude Jade, who over the course of three films played the fiancee, wife and ex-wife of Francois Truffaut’s fictional alter-ego Antoine Doinel, died Dec. 1 of cancer. She was 58.
Born in Dijon, Jade studied at the drama conservatory there and left for Paris where she began appearing on stage while still a teen. Truffaut discovered her during the dress rehearsal of Pirandello’s “Henri IV” and two months later wrote inviting her to play Christine Darbon — the girlfriend of Antoine Doinel , played by Jean-Pierre Leaud — in “Stolen Kisses” (1968). The film won that year’s Prix Louis Delluc and got Jade noticed on an international scale.
Truffaut dubbed Jade “French cinema’s little sweetheart” and the director and his muse were soon a couple in real life, although Truffaut changed his mind about marrying her the night before their wedding.
In 1969, Jade appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Topaz.”
She went on to play Doinel’s wife in “Bed and Board in 1970, only to divorce him in “Love on the Run,” in 1979.
A staple on French television in popular series over the course of three decades, Jade also regularly appeared on stage in classic roles. In addition to several dozen bigscreen productions in France, she acted in Belgian, Italian, Japanese and German films.
In the early 1980s, when her diplomat husband was posted in the USSR, Jade appeared in the Russian films “Teheran 43” and “Lenin in Paris.”
In 2004 she published an autobiography, “Baisers envoles” which included a detailed account of her romance with Truffaut, ending with an open letter to the director, who died in 1984.
She had appeared on stage in Paris and on tour as recently as this past August, wearing a glass eye, before eye cancer spread to her liver.
She is survived by a son.