Simone Signoret (1921-1985)
- Maria Schell, Gervaise, France, 1956. Simone had already Zola-ed in Therese Raquin, 1953.
- Alida Valli, La Grande Strada Azzura (US: Wide Blue Road), Italy, 1957. Signoret and Yves Montand refused continual co-starring offers, being too famous as a couple to be accepted as some characters meeting for the first time in a movie. He made this one; she did not.
- Yoko Tani, Der schweigende Stern (US: First Spaceship on Venus), East Germany-Poland, 1959. Simone and Yves Montand heading off to Venus in Stanislaw Lem science fiction?Nearly happened. Until the East German commisars ordered no Western stars - despite theirfar left leanings.
- Nicole Maurey, High Time, 1960. Too lazy, she said, to work in to Hollywood while husband Montand and Marilyn Monroe were (literally) saying:Let's Make Love. And this was such a silly offer to join Bing Crosby and Fabian in college!
- Jeanne Moreau, Moderato Cantabile, France, 1960. Moreau persuaded producer Raoul Lévy to set up her dream role: Anne Desbaresdes from the Marguerite Duras novel. Then, she wanted it produced with one of her courtiers, Napoleon Murat (head of her ex-lover Louis Malle’s company). A furious Levy craftily offered the project to Signoret, who jumped at it - not knowing it had been intendedfor Levy’s next conquest.
- Silvana Mangano, Barabba/Barabbas, Italy, 1961. Producer Dino De Laurentiis was never overly upset when a star actress decamps - his wife simply takes over. And La Mangano is cheaper, too.
- Hope Lange, Wild in the Country, 1961.
Hollywood had already matched Marilyn Monroe and Yes Montand. Why not, Signoret and Elvis?!! As his shrink, in fact, finding the troubled teen (very Dean) has a writing talent. And great sexual tension. Signoret was ten years older than Lange. But no, she was Montand's groupie... "If she had done it," said director Philip Dunne, "it would've been a different film, dominated in a different way, a story of hopelessness." Only Elvis movie not to make its money back, thus putting The Colonel off Serious for life! Much of the drama had been slashed to make way for songs. Presley’s ignorant manager, Colonel Parker, always wanted more songs. He saw movies as music videos - just another way to sell records. And so he killed his superstar’s ambitions for an important film career by refusing Bus Stop, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Midnight Cowboy, West Side Story… in favor of such unholy crap as Speeedway, Stay Away Joe, Live A Little, Love A Little, The Trouble With Girls. they didn’t sell selling many tickets. Or discs.
Regine Lutz,Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, East Germany, 1961. Not, as would be expected,for the title role.Germany’s Helene Weigel created her husband Bertold Brecht’s heroine on-stageandshe would be Mother Courage inthe film - no question about that since the first plans (by two Danes) to adaptBrecht’s play in 1949. No script was ready until ’62, when Anna Magnani was an inevitablechoice for the hooker Yvette (even if Yvette was French). Except both Luchino Visconti and Giuseppe de Santis refused to party. The East-German-Italian idea became East German-French overnight with Simone and Bernard Blier teaming a third time - as Yvette and Feldkoch - for German director Wolfgang Staudte. He lost control and fled after 12 days of La Weigel refusing to be on-set for any close-ups other than her own. Then, “she didn’t want to go on,” reported Signoret. “Every actress who had ever played Courage anywhere in the world was contacted. But no one was willing to replace her” (or not on an East Berlin soundstage in a production bankrolled by the East German government). The diva finally filmed her most famous role for Polish auteur Peter Paliotzsch and German Manfred Wekwerth in '61.
- Capucine, The Lion, 1962. After her Room At The Top Oscar, everyone wanted Signoret (and co-star Laurence Harvey), but she had almost lost Montand to Marilyn - and preferred to stick close to home.
- Valentina Cortese, Il Giorno piu corto (US: The Shortest Day), Italy, 1962. Difficult to imagine Simone ina farce withthe unspeakable duo,Ciccio Ingrassia & Franco Franchi (making Abbott & Costello appear positively intellectual). Their Longest Day spoof boasted cameos from “44 internationalstars.”Not quite, but not a bad guest list, including: Anouk Aimée, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Gino Cervi, Walter Chiari, Franco Citti, Sergio Fantino, Giuliano Gemma, Scilla Gabel, Annie Giradot (and her Italian husband Renato Salvatori), Stewart Granger,Sylva Koscina, Virna Lisi, Antonella Luadli, Folco Lulli, Walter Pidgeon, Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Jacques Sernas, Paolo Stoppa, Susan Strasberg, Toto, future LA producer Mark Damon and, still calling himself, Mario Girotti, the future Terence Hill!!
- Jeanne Moreau, The Victors, 1963. Exiled US writer-director Carl Foreman wrote the French woman's role for her.
- Melina Mercouri, Los pianos mecanico/Player Pianos, Spain 1965. She had agreed to star for director Juan Antonio Bardem in early 1960.
- Lila Kedrova, Zorba The Greek, 1965.
- Annie Giradot, Trois chambres a Manhattan, France, 1965. Veteran realisateur Marcel Carné envisaged Simoneor Jeanne Moreau - and then fell for Giradot.
- Christine Faberge, Le deuxieme souffle, France 1966. At his first attempt, realisateur Jean-Pierre Melville planned to reunite the 1952 Casque d’Or lovers, Signoret and Serge Reggiani, as his Manouche and Gu. A two year delay meant she was otherwise engaged - and replaced by the animatrice of the TV quiz game, Des chiffres et des lettres.
- Michèle Morgan, Lost Command, 1966. Passed on Hollywpod and Countess de Clairefons - who eventually falls for the French Army colonel,ex-Viet Minh POW and peasant. After all, as Netcritic George Chabot put it,i t’s Anthony Quinn…
- Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967. Mike Nichols was interested - but Simone had played Mrs Robinson already (well, Mrs Aisgill) when winning her Oscar in Room At The Top, 1959. It was a useful meeting, however.Havingshared Games with her that year, Simone recommended Katharine Ross for the grad’s girl.
- Anouk Aimée, Justine, 1968. The project was eight years on the shelf after Simone refused it. "I collect all the reviews of the films turned down. And you know when they come out bad, I have to smile."
- Elizabeth Taylor, Boom, 1968. Another exiled US director, Joseph Losey, shot tests of Signoret and Sean Connery as the much-widowed Flora Goforth and her latest man. Then, producer John Heyman reported that Taylor wanted to make another Tennessee Williams film. "I thought she was too young for the part," said Losey, "but realised it would be more interesting if she wasn't so old." They rowed over the very first scene of the eight-times-wed Goforth. "A funny scene," said Losey, "it's your life!"Taylor retorted: "I don't feel my life is funny!"
- Nicole Courcel, L’aventure, c’est l’aventure (US: Money, Money, Money), France-Italy, 1971. In the middle of a lazily shot comedy aboutcrookschanging from robbing banks to taking hostages, realisateur Claude Lelouch threw in some women’s lib stuff with Simone addressing a prostitutes’ congress. “She was great at the podium,” said Lelouch, “but scared” of facing an audience of800 women, real hookers included.
- Monique Mélinand, La gueule ouverte, France, 1973. She passed on the mother and her slow, lingering death from cancer.In a (typically) beautiful letter to the belligerent autuer Maurice Pialat, she said; “I didn't say No to you, I said No to death.”She greatly admired the harrowing film… and Mélinand, whohad 89 screen roles during 1947 and her 2012 death, was the last lover of iconic French star Louis Jouvet.
Ingrid Thulin, L'Agnese va a morire (And Agnes Chose To Die), Italy, 1975.
Italian gentleman director Giuliano Montaldo (Sacco e Vanzetti, 1970) called on Signoret. “Oh yes, I know the book,” she said. “But you are too late. I’m dying!” Montaldo went home to Rome - saddened by her news and the fact that, without her, he could never make the film. Scenarist friend Franco Solinas saved the project by mentioning that Thulin was living in Rome. Too beautiful, said Montaldo. They met at her pool and he was right: “as beautiful as the sun.” She mentioned how she and her father used to cycle to go off salmon fishing. Bikes were important in the Italian Resistance drama. They went together to find a suitable WWII bike, and found two. Thulin chose one… and when the saddle was removed for alterations, inside the saddle-tube they found a hidden, war-time message that obviously had never reached its destination. “My heart is pounding as I tell you this,” said Montaldo on the DVD about his career, Giuliano Montaldo: Quattro volte vent’anni (4 Times 20 Years). Signoret made a TV series and ten more films (including five of her best: La vie devant soi (aka Madame Rosa), Judith Therpauve, L'adolescente, Chère inconnue and L’étoile du Nord) before her death in 1985.
- Jeanne Moreau, Souvenirs d'en France, France, 1975. "I wrote it with Signoret in mind," said auteur André Techine. "She accepted -if I cut all the love scenes with Michel Auclair. At that moment tin her life, Signoret had already chosen to be asexual. She wouldn't think of physical relationships with a man in films. As I needed that sexual dimension, I thought of Jeanne Moreau."
- Jeanne Moreau, La truite, France, 1982. Part of Joseph Losey's 1962 Paris package - opposite Brigitte Bardot and Charles Boyer.For Losey, the best part of his eventual version was Moreau, "better than at any time in the last 20 years."
- Danielle Darrieux, Une chambre en ville, 1982. The role that realisateur Jacques Demy had written with Signoret in mind was, perhaps,unkind:an alcoholic baroness. He never thought of Darrieux, so she called him. "The only timeI ever asked a director for a role."