- Michèle Mercier
Michèle Mercier Born Jocelyne Yvonne Renée Mercier
1 January 1939
Occupation Actress, Dancer and Singer Years active 1957–present Spouse André Smagghe
Michèle Mercier, (born January 1, 1939 as Jocelyne Yvonne Renée Mercier) is a French actress. In the course of her career she has worked with leading directors like François Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jacques Deray, Dino Risi, Mario Monicelli, Mario Bava, Peter Collinson and Ken Annakin. Her leading men have included Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Gabin, Charles Aznavour, Robert Hossein, Charles Bronson, Tony Curtis and Charlton Heston. Although she appeared in more than fifty films, it is for her role as "Angélique" that she is best known in France.
The daughter of a French pharmacist father and an Italian mother, she initially wanted to be a dancer. The circumstances of war made this difficult and her parents saw it as only a whim; however, her determination won through and she joined the "ballet-rats", as the dancers of the chorus are termed. She was soon advanced to soloist in the Nice Opéra. At 15 she met Maurice Chevalier, who predicted that she would be a success.
She moved to Paris aged 17, and first joined the troupe of Roland Petit, then the company of the "Ballets of the Eiffel Tower". Parallel to her career as dancer, Mercier studied acting under Solange Sicard. For her film début her birth name seemed too long and old-fashioned. It was suggested she take the name Michèle - which happened to be name of her younger sister, who had died at the age of five from typhoid fever. However, she adopted the name as a tribute to the actress Michèle Morgan.
After some romantic comedies and a small role in François Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste ("Shoot The Pianist", 1960), she worked in England and made some, mainly small-budget, films in Italy, usually playing women of easy virtue.
She needed a role which could make her a star. It was in 1963, when it was decided to make a movie of the sensational novel "Angélique", that Michèle got her chance. Many actresses were approached to play the role of Angélique. Producer Francis Cosne wanted Brigitte Bardot for the part. She refused. Annette Stroyberg was considered next, but judged not sufficiently well-known. Catherine Deneuve was too pale, Jane Fonda spoke French with an American accent, and Virna Lisi was busy in Hollywood. The most serious actress considered was Marina Vlady. She almost signed a contract, but Mercier won the role after trying out for it - she did not appreciate this very much since she was being treated like a beginner at a time when she was already well-known in Italy. At the time she was contacted to play Angélique, she had already acted in over twenty films. During the next four years she made five sequels which enjoyed astonishing success. However the role of Angélique, "the Marquise of the Angels", was both a blessing and a curse. It catapulted her to almost instant stardom, rivalling Brigitte Bardot in celebrity and popularity, but the character of Angélique overshadowed all other aspects of her career. By the end of the 1960s, the names Angélique and Michèle Mercier were synonymous.
Attempting to break free from the character Michèle played against Jean Gabin in The Thunder of God directed by Denys de la Patellière. She then appeared with Robert Hossein in La Seconde Vérité directed by Christian-Jaque. Mercier then left France and tried to re-start her career in the United States, unfortunately without much success.
After 14-year layoff she returned in the 1998 film La Rumbera, directed by Piero Vivarelli. In 1999, having been swindled out of several million francs in a business venture, Mercier had serious financial problems. She even planned to sell the famous wedding gown of Angélique. The actress confessed in Nice Matin: "I am ruined, I'll be obliged to sell part of my paintings, my furniture, my properties, my jewels and the costumes of Angélique". In 2002 at the Cannes Film Festival she presented her second book of memoirs. Mercier was made a chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres on the 6th of March 2006.
She married the assistant-director André Smagghe in 1961. Sadly he turned out to be alcoholic who was eventually hospitalized. They divorced in 1965. After a long relationship she married the well-known racing driver Claude Bourillot in 1970, but he disappeared one day with all her jewels and money leaving her penniless. They divorced in 1976. Her other relationships were also uniformly disastrous. She claimed that her co-star Vittorio Gassman once tried to rape her, and an Italian Prince N. refused to marry her after many years of courtship. She was also pursued by Bettino Craxi and Silvio Berlusconi.
- 2009 - Vénus et Apollon, (TV series);
- 2003 - Il bello delle donne (TV);
- 2004 - Krasnaya kapella by Aleksandr Aravin;
- 1998 - La Rumbera by Piero Vivarelli;
- 1984 - Jeans Tonic by Michel Patient;
- 1979 - Iron Hand by Wolfgang Liebeneiner;
- 1977 - Les Femmes du Monde by Georges Farrel (TV);
- 1972 - The Call of the Wild, by Ken Annakin;
- 1972 - Le Viager by Pierre Tchernia;
- 1971 - Web of the Spider by Antonio Margheriti;
- 1971 - La Femme sandwich by Jacques Scandelari;
- 1971 - Per amore o per forza by Massimo Franciosa;
- 1971 - Scandale à Rome by Carlo Lizzani;
- 1970 - Les Baroudeurs by Peter Collinson;
- 1969 - Une veuve en or by Michel Audiard;
- 1968 - Une corde, un colt by Robert Hossein;
- 1968 - Les Amours de Lady Hamilton by Christian-Jaque;
- 1967 - Angélique et le sultan by Bernard Borderie;
- 1967 - Indomptable Angélique by Bernard Borderie;
- 1967 - Le Plus Vieux Métier du monde by Claude Autant-Lara;
- 1966 - Comment j'ai appris à aimer les femmes by Luciano Salce;
- 1966 - I Nostri mariti by Dino Risi;
- 1966 - Seconde vérité by Christian-Jaque;
- 1966 - Soleil noir by Denys de La Patellière;
- 1965 - Angelica and the King by Bernard Borderie;
- 1965 - Via Veneto by Giuseppe Lipartiti;
- 1965 - Le Tonnerre de Dieu by Denys de La Patellière;
- 1964 - Merveilleuse Angélique by Bernard Borderie;
- 1964 - Angélique, Marquise des Anges by Bernard Borderie;
- 1964 - Casanova 70 by Mario Monicelli;
- 1964 - Controsesso by Renato Castellani;
- 1964 - High Infidelity by Mario Monicelli;
- 1964 - Papa play-boy by Jack Arnold;
- 1963 - Les Trois visages de la peur by Mario Bava;
- 1963 - Symphonie pour un massacre by Jacques Deray;
- 1963 - The Thursday by Dino Risi;
- 1963 - Les Pirates de la nuit by John Gilling;
- 1963 - L'Aîné des Ferchaux by Jean-Pierre Melville;
- 1961 - Goodbye Again by Anatole Litvak;
- 1961 - Fury at Smugglers' Bay , by John Gilling;
- 1960 - La Brune que voilà by Robert Lamoureux;
- 1960 - La Ligne de mire by Jean-Daniel Pollet;
- 1960 - La Saint mène la danse by Jacques Nahum;
- 1960 - Tirez sur le pianiste by François Truffaut;
- 1959 - Mademoiselle Ange by Geza von Radvanyi;
- 1957 - Donnez-moi ma chance by Léonide Moguy;
- 1957 - Retour de manivelle by Denys de La Patellière;
"When people talk with me they always refer to Angélique, but I have also played fifty other women. I have tried for a long time to forget about her. But now I see her as a little sister who is always by my side and I have learned to live with her."
- Mercier, Michèle (July 1, 1979). Angélique à coeur perdu : autobiographie. Paris: Carrere. ISBN 978-2868045409.
- Boyer, Raymond (1994). Michèle Mercier, merveilleuse Angélique. Paris: TF1 Editions. ISBN 978-2877610643.
- Mercier, Michèle; Henry-Jean Servat (May 21, 2002). Je ne suis pas Angélique. Denoël. ISBN 978-2207253298.
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