Who Is Brigitte Bardot?
Brigitte Bardot is a French model and actress who graced the cover of Elle magazine as a teen and went on to star in several films before being featured in 1956’s And God Created Woman, which launched her to international fame. She appeared in dozens of films over her career, including Contempt and Viva Maria!, and retired from acting in the 1970s. She has subsequently devoted her life to animal activism.
Early Life and Films
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born on September 28, 1934, in Paris, France. She studied ballet as a teenager at the National Superior Conservatory of Paris for Music and Dance and appeared on the cover of France's Elle magazine at the age of 15. She was discovered by screenwriter and future filmmaker Roger Vadim, and the two wed in 1952. Bardot made her big-screen debut that year as well, in Le Trou Normand. Various roles followed, including as a romantic leading lady in La Lumiere d'en Face (1954) and a handmaiden in Helen of Troy (1955).
International Sex Symbol
Bardot would be widely seen in Vadim's directorial debut, And God Created Woman (1956), in which Bardot played a sexually liberated young woman in the southern French town of St. Tropez. The film was noted for its daring nudity and sensual dynamics, proving popular to moviegoers and launching Bardot to international stardom. Through her films and off-screen photos taken by the paparazzi, Bardot became renowned for displaying a naturalistic, free-flowing sensuality that spoke to the concept of joie de vivre, becoming Europe's top actress.
Bardot and Vadim divorced in 1957, but maintained a professional relationship, as he directed her 1958 film The Night Heaven Fell. Bardot was featured in other projects like The Parisienne (1958), La Femme et le Pantin (1959) and Come Dance With Me (1959). During the making of the 1960 film La Verité, however, Bardot attempted suicide on her 26th birthday. Decades later, the actress would talk about how nightmarish the world of celebrity had become and the pressures inherent in constantly aiming to display a certain image.
In the late 1950s, Bardot married actor Jacques Charrier, by whom she had a son, her only child. The couple divorced in 1962. Bardot then married Germany millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs in 1966, divorcing three years later. Years later, in 1992, she wed extreme right-wing political aide Bernard d'Ormale.
During the 1960s, Bardot embarked on a career as a musical artist as well, releasing albums like Brigitte Bardot Sings (1960) and Special Bardot (1968). She also recorded hits with French vocalist/songwriter/lounge-man Serge Gainsbourg.
Her big-screen work continued with the likes of the layered, acclaimed Jean-Luc Godard drama Contempt (1963), the humorous, visually arresting Louis Malle film Viva Maria! (1965) — in which she co-starred with fellow French beauty Jeanne Moreau — and the romantic comedy of seduction Les Femmes (1969). She also played herself in the comedy Dear Brigitte (1965), in which the tween son of a professor, played by Jimmy Stewart, gets to meet the cinematic object of his affection. Bardot's beauty was further immortalized in the form of famous French sculpture Marianne, unveiled in 1970 and modeled after the actress.
Bardot retired in 1973 and went to live in St. Tropez.
Animal Activism and Controversies
Bardot turned from moviemaking to her love of animals and established the Foundation for the Protection of Distressed Animals in the mid-1970s. In the mid-1980s she founded the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals. Her work has led to the Council of Europe banning the importation of seal fur and the French government banning ivory imports.
Bardot's status as a global icon of beauty has continued to be celebrated by a number of art and fashion institutions. However, she has also courted controversy in recent years for making discriminatory comments against Muslims, resulting in several fines for inciting racial hatred.
In January 2018, after Catherine Deneuve and 100 other prominent French women published an open letter that criticized the #MeToo movement, Bardot backed their sentiments in an interview with Paris Match. Noting how "lots of actresses try to play the tease with producers to get a role" before turning around and claiming harassment, she accused most of them of "being hypocritical and ridiculous." She said she had never been the victim of sexual harassment, adding, "I found it charming when men told me that I was beautiful or I had a nice little backside."
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