Simone Signoret

  1. Maria Schell, Gervaise, France, 1956.     Simone had already Zola-ed in Therese Raquin, 1953.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. Vera Miles, Back Street, 1960.   For the third Hollywood take on Fannie Hurst’s notorious weepie, the married guy with Susan Hayward as a mistress was  at one time going  to be Efrem Zimbalist Jr – with poor Simone as his betrayed wife in  completg revertsal plf her Oacar-winning role in Room at the Top, 1958
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

  8. 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 ambit ions 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.
  9. 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-stage and she would be Mother Courage in the film – no question about that since the first plans (by two Danes) to adapt Brecht’s play in 1949. No script was ready until ’62, when Anna Magnani was an inevitable choice 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.
  10. 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.

  11. 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 Girardot (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!!
  12. Kim Stanley, Seance a Wet Afternoon, 1963.  Bryan Forbes, the UK’s sharpest writer-producer-director at the time, needed a similarly top-notch actress for the publicity-seeking clairvoyant Myra Savage. He certainly  looked in the right  quarters : Deborah Kerr, Simone Signoret, Shelley Winters and ultimately, America’s woefully under-used Kim Stanley.
  13. Jeanne Moreau, The Victors, 1963.     Exiled US writer-director Carl Foreman wrote the French woman’s role for her.
  14. Margaret Leighton, The Loved One, 1964.  “The motion picture with something to offend everyone…”  It would have been more so if Spanish legend Luis Buñuel had managed to  make it with Alec Guinness in  the mid-1950s. Instead, the newly Oscared UK director Tony Richardson made a mess of Evelyn Waugh’s satire of the American funeral home business. Best players on-screen were Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton arguing about how to bury their pet pooch. Such a flabbergasting mismatch, said Observer critic Charles Taylor.  in 2006., “no problem believing they’ve been married for years.” Richardson had hoped for larger mismatches: Phil Silvers wed to Vivien Leigh, Jeanne Moreau or Simone Signoret.   The first signed Agnes Moorehead was called back to Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte for re-shoots of her scenes with  Joan Crawford when she was replaced by Olivia De Havilland. The following year, Richardson directed Moreau in Mademoiselle and she was the co-respondent in Vanessa Redgrave’s divorce from him in 1967.
  15. Kate Reid, This Property Is Condemned. 1965.  Natalie Wood got it and wanted to work again with Robert Redford, just months after their Inside Daisy Clover. However, she did not win the battle for her mother. Nat wanted the great French Oscar-winner after Grayson Hall and Vivien Leigh passed. Redford  seemed more in charge. He suggested the director, Sydney Pollack – the first of their seven movies. And they worked together on beefing up the mother’s role until ”we found something shootable.  Not necessarily Tennessee Williams but shootable.” Sort of.
  16. Melina Mercouri, Los pianos mecanico/Player Pianos, Spain 1965.     She had agreed to star for director Juan Antonio Bardem in early 1960.
  17. Lila Kedrova, Zorba The Greek, 1965.
  18. Annie Giradot, Trois chambres a Manhattan, France, 1965.     Veteran realisateur Marcel Carné envisaged Simoneor Jeanne Moreau – and then fell for Giradot.
  19. 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.
  20. Michèle Morgan, Lost Command, 1966.     Passed on Hollywood 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, it’s Anthony Quinn…

  21. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.   
  22. 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.”
  23. Giulietta Masina, The Madwoman of Chaillot, 1968.   The  project had been on producer Ely Landau’s bucket list for six years. Yet here was a major  flop… clearly not helped by John Huston quitting 17 days before the off and the  clever UK scenarist-turned-director Bryan Forbes taking over just to work with Katharine Hepburn. And now, the old Jean Giraudoux play, as Roger Ebert wrote,  “staggers   under its own dead weight” –  due to an absurd (mainly old) star stuffed cast: Hepburn, Charles Boyer, Yul Brynner (inheriting Oskar Werner’s Chairman), Richard Chamberlain, John Gavin, Danny Kaye (in his final film), Margaret Leighton Guilietta Masina (replacing Simone Signoret) . Plus, as this became  a Forbes film, his favourite UK actress Dame Edith Evans (replacing Irene Papas)  and his wife Nanette Newman.  One good thing came out of it. The Place de Chaillot set was better used by François Truffaut during  La nuit américaine (Day For Night) in 1972.

  24. Elizabeth Taylor, Boom, 1968.  Another exiled US director Joseph Losey and playwright Tennessee Williams  had a reading with Signoret and Sean Connery at the Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence. Then, producer John Heyman reported that Taylor wanted to make another  Williams film – ten years after after A Hot Tin Roof.  “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 and much widowed Flora Goforth. “A funny scene,” said Losey, “it’s your life!” Taylor retorted: “I don’t feel my life is funny!”

  25. Dany Robin, Topaz, 1969. The French film community adored Alfred Hitchcock. He was le maître. The master. The boss. And yet, two of the biggest French stars – Montand and his Oscar-winning wife, Simone Signoret – passed up the rare chance of working with him as another couple, Andre and Nicole Devereaux. And what the Euro-thriller flop had badly needed was… stars!
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.

  29. 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.”
  30. 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.”
  31. Danielle Darrieux, Une chambre en ville, 1982.   The role that réalisateur Jacques Demy had written with Signoret in mind was, perhaps,unkindly, an alcoholic baroness. He never thought of Darrieux, so she called him. “The only timeI ever asked a director for a role.”












 Birth year: 1921Death year: 1985Other name: Casting Calls:  31