Jeanne Moreau: Award-winning French actress dies at 89

Jay Jacobs
August 1, 2017

A leading screen presence for more than 60 years, legendary French actress Jeanne Moreau has died. Her death was confirmed with an announcement from the office of the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

Actress Jeanne Moreau, one of French film's greatest stars of the most recent 60 years, has died at 89 years old. But when your mom told you that true beauty comes from within, she was right about that too: Moreau's spirit informed her beauty, and it's the key to what made her such a sensual, captivating, powerful actress.

She broke through in 1958 with Louis Malle's Les Amants, or The Lovers, a modern version of Madame Bovary about a bored wife who drives off with a virtual stranger - including a scene so erotic for the time that the French government almost banned the film.

However, Moreau cursed beauty, famously calling it a "physical disgrace" and it was that spark that had numerous world's biggest directors asking her to star in their films. The actress eventually tried her hand at directing for a short time in the 1980s. That marriage lasted two years, as did her second (1977-79), to the American director William Friedkin.

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"It makes me mad when people call it a "woman's picture.' Because there are four women in it?" The pair immediately followed that film with another project, The Lovers (1958), the film that made Moreau an global star.

Her career spanned seven decades, and Moreau continued to star in films well into her eighties, starring in the late Manoel de Oliveira's Gebo And The Shadow in 2012. But Moreau took for herself a kind of stealth empowerment, earning - from her audience and from filmmakers alike - admiration, respect and love in such immeasurable, blended quantities that you can't really distinguish one from another.

In 1957, Malle sported her in a French theatrical production of Cat on a Hot Tin Root and cast her in his first feature film, Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud (Elevator to the Scaffold), which was released in the United States as Frantic. As the magnetic and impulsive Catherine, Moreau is the force at the center of Truffaut's celebrated New Wave classic and the focal point of its Bohemian menage a trois tragedy.

She was also honoured with a Palm d'Or in 2003 and received a Cesar Award in 2008. "I am not disturbed from my aim by outside pressures such as family, passionate relationships, dealing with who am I-those complications when one is searching for one's self".

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