Simone Signoret

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Simone Signoret
Simone Signoret.jpg
BornSimone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker
(1921-03-25)25 March 1921
Wiesbaden, Germany
Died30 September 1985(1985-09-30) (aged 64)
Autheuil-Authouillet, France
Years active1942–1985
Spouse(s)Yves Allégret (1944–1949)
Yves Montand (1951–1985)
ChildrenCatherine Allégret (b. 1946)
Jump to: navigation, search
Simone Signoret
Simone Signoret.jpg
BornSimone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker
(1921-03-25)25 March 1921
Wiesbaden, Germany
Died30 September 1985(1985-09-30) (aged 64)
Autheuil-Authouillet, France
Years active1942–1985
Spouse(s)Yves Allégret (1944–1949)
Yves Montand (1951–1985)
ChildrenCatherine Allégret (b. 1946)

Simone Signoret (French pronunciation: ​[simɔn siɲɔˈʁɛ]; 25 March 1921 – 30 September 1985) was a French cinema actress often hailed as one of France's greatest film stars. She became the first French person to win an Academy Award, for her role in Room at the Top (1959). In her lifetime she also received a César, three BAFTAs, an Emmy, Cannes Film Festival recognition, the Silver Bear for Best Actress awards and a Golden Globe nomination.

Early life[edit]

Signoret was born Simone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker in Wiesbaden, Germany, to André and Georgette (Signoret) Kaminker, as the eldest of three children, with two younger brothers. Her father, a pioneering interpreter who worked in the League of Nations, was a French-born Jewish army officer of Polish descent,[1] who brought the family to Neuilly-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris. Her mother, Georgette, from whom she acquired her stage name, was a French Catholic.[2] Signoret grew up in Paris in an intellectual atmosphere and studied the English language in school, earning a teaching certificate. She tutored English and Latin and worked part-time as a typist for a French collaborationist newspaper, Les nouveaux temps, run by Jean Luchaire.


During the German occupation of France, Signoret mixed with an artistic group of writers and actors who met at a café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter, Café de Flore. By this time, she had developed an interest in acting and was encouraged by her friends, including her lover, Daniel Gélin, to follow her ambition. In 1942, she began appearing in bit parts and was able to earn enough money to support her mother and two brothers as her father, who was a French patriot, had fled the country in 1940 to join General De Gaulle in England. She took her mother's maiden name for the screen to help hide her Jewish roots.

Signoret's sensual features and earthy nature led to type-casting and she was often seen in roles as a prostitute. She won considerable attention in La Ronde (1950), a film which was banned briefly in New York as immoral. She won further acclaim, including an acting award from the British Film Academy, for her portrayal of another prostitute in Jacques Becker's Casque d'or (1951). She appeared in many notable films in France during the 1950s, including Thérèse Raquin (1953), directed by Marcel Carné, Les Diaboliques (1954), and The Crucible (Les Sorcières de Salem; 1956), based on Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Simone Signoret with Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top; the film established her as an international actress.

In 1958, Signoret acted in the English set Room at the Top (1959), which won her numerous awards including the Best Female Performance Prize at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Actress. She was the only French cinema actress to receive an Oscar until Juliette Binoche in 1997 (Supporting Actress) and Marion Cotillard in 2008 (Best Actress), and the first woman to win the award appearing in a foreign film. She was offered films in Hollywood, but turned them down, continuing to work in France and England—notably opposite Laurence Olivier in Term of Trial (1962)—until 1965. Earning another Oscar nomination for her work on what would be Vivien Leigh's final film—Columbia Pictures' Ship of Fools, also starring Lee Marvin—Signoret appeared in a few other Hollywood films before returning to France in 1969.

In 1962, Signoret translated Lillian Hellman's play The Little Foxes into French for a production in Paris that ran for six months at the Theatre Sarah-Bernhardt. She played the Regina role as well. Hellman was displeased with the production, although the translation was approved by scholars selected by Hellman.[3]

Signoret's one attempt at Shakespeare, performing Lady Macbeth opposite Alec Guinness at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1966 proved to be ill-advised, with some harsh critics; one referred to her English as "impossibly Gallic".[4]

In her later years, Signoret was often criticised for gaining weight and letting her looks go, but she was never concerned with glamour, ignored the insults and continued giving finely etched performances. She won more acclaim for her portrayal of a weary madam in Madame Rosa (1977) and as an unmarried sister who unknowingly falls in love with her paralyzed brother via anonymous correspondence in I Sent a Letter to my Love (fr) (1980).

Personal life[edit]

Signoret's memoirs, Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be, were published in 1978. She also wrote a novel, Adieu Volodya, published in 1985, the year of her death.

Signoret first married filmmaker Yves Allégret (1944–49), with whom she had a daughter Catherine Allégret, herself an actress. Her second marriage was to the Italian-born French actor Yves Montand in 1951, a union which lasted until her death.

Signoret died of pancreatic cancer in Auteuil-Anthouillet, France, aged 64. She is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris next to her second husband.


1942Boléro (fr)employée de maison de couture, UneUne employée de maison de couture(uncredited)
Visiteurs du Soir, LesLes Visiteurs du SoirExtra(uncredited)
1943Adieu Léonard (fr)gitane, LaLa gitane(uncredited)
voyageur de la Toussaint, LeLe voyageur de la ToussaintExtra(uncredited)
1944L'Ange de la nuit (fr)Une étudiante(uncredited)
Le mort ne reçoit plus (fr)La maitresse de Firmin
Service de nuitdanseuse à la taverne, LaLa danseuse à la taverne
1945La Boîte aux rêves (fr)femme, UneUne femme(uncredited)
1946Back Streets of ParisGisèle
Le Couple idéal (fr)Annette
Les Démons de l'aube (fr)Lily, la cabaretière
1948Impasse des Deux-Anges (fr)Marianne
Dédée d'AnversDédée
Against the WindMichele Dennis
Gunman in the StreetsDenise Vernon(also released as Le Traqué)
Ronde, LaLa RondeLeocadie, the Prostitute
Swiss TourYvonne
1951Ombre et lumièreIsabelle Leritz
...Sans laisser d'adressejournaliste, UneUne journaliste(uncredited)
1952Casque d'orMarie 'Casque d'Or'BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
1953Thérèse RaquinThérèse Raquin
1955Mother Courage and Her ChildrenYvette, Lagerhure(unfinished)
Diaboliques, LesLes DiaboliquesNicole Horner
1956Death in the GardenDjin
1957Crucible, TheThe CrucibleElisabeth ProcterBAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
1959Room at the TopAlice Aisgill
1960Adua and FriendsAdua Giovannetti(also released as Hungry for Love)
General Electric TheaterWomanepisode: Don't You Remember?
1961Mauvais Coups, LesLes Mauvais CoupsRoberte
Famous Love AffairsJennysegment: Jenny de Lacour
1962Term of TrialAnna
1963Sweet and SourGenevieve
The Day and the Hour (fr)Therese Dutheil
1965Sleeping Car Murders, TheThe Sleeping Car MurdersEliane Darès
Ship of FoolsContessa, LaLa Contessa
1966Is Paris Burning?patronne du bistrot/Cafe Owner, LaLa patronne du bistrot/Cafe Owner
Deadly Affair, TheThe Deadly AffairElsa FennanNominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler TheatreSara Lescaultepisode: A Small Rebellion
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama
1967GamesLisa SchindlerNominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1968Sea Gull, TheThe Sea GullArkadina, an actress
1969L'Américain (fr)Léone
Army of ShadowsMathilde
1970Confession, TheThe ConfessionMme L.
Lise London
A HostageMeg(TV movie)
1971La Veuve CoudercVeuve Couderc Tati
Chat, LeLe ChatClémence BouinSilver Bear for Best Actress at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival[5]
Comptes à rebours (fr)Léa
1973Rude journée pour la reine (fr)Jeanne
Les Granges brûlées (fr)Rose
1975Chair de l'orchidée, LaLa Chair de l'orchidéeLady Vamos
1976Police Python 357Thérèse Ganay
1977Madame RosaMadame Rosa
1978Judith TherpauveJudith Therpauve
Madame le juge (TV series)Elisabeth Massot6 episodes
1979Adolescent, TheThe AdolescentMamie
1980Chère inconnue (fr)Louise Martin
1982Guy de Maupassant (fr)Maupassant's mother
L'étoile du nordMme Louise BaronNominated — César Award for Best Actress

Television award[edit]

Emmy Awards

Popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be (Paperback); Signoret was descended from Polish Jews". Film Guardian, 7 August 2000.
  2. ^ Hayward, Susan. "Simone signoret (1921–1985)—The body political." Women's Studies International Forum, Volume 23, Issue 6, November–December 2000, pp. 739–747.
  3. ^ Signoret 1978, pp. 324–328.
  4. ^ Sutcliffe, Tom. "Sir Alec Guinness". Film Guardian, 7 August 2000.
  5. ^ "Berlinale 1971: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-03-14. 


  • Monush, Barry (ed). The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors From the Silent Era to 1965. New York: Applause Books, 2003. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
  • Signoret, Simone. Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978. ISBN 0-297-77417-4.

External links[edit]