She participated in various musical shows and recorded many popular songs in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly in collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg, Bob Zagury and Sacha Distel, including “Harley Davidson”, “Je Me Donne A Qui Me Plait”, “Bubble gum”, “Contact”, “Je Reviendrais Toujours Vers Toi”, “L’Appareil A Sous”, “La Madrague”, “On Demenage”, “Sidonie”, “Tu Veux, Ou Tu Veux Pas?”, “Le Soleil De Ma Vie” (the cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”) and notorious “Je t’aime… moi non plus”.
In 1952, she appeared on screen for the first time in Le Trou Normand. That same year, at age 18, she married director Roger Vadim, with whom she had been romantically involved for several years.
Although the European film industry was then in the ascendant, her personal rise was remarkable: she has been one of the few European actresses to receive mass media attention in the United States. She and Marilyn Monroe were the icons of female sexuality in the 1950s and 1960s and whenever she made public appearances in the United States the media hordes covered her every move.
Her films of the early and mid 1950s were lightweight romantic dramas, some of them historical, in which she was cast as ingénue or siren, often with an element of undress. She played bit parts in three English-language films, the British comedy Doctor at Sea (1955), Helen of Troy (1954), in which she was understudy for the title-role but only appears as Helen’s handmaid, and Act of Love (1954) with Kirk Douglas. Her French-language films were dubbed for international release. “She is every man’s idea of the girl he’d like to meet in Paris” said the film-critic Ivon Addams in 1955.
Vadim was not content with this light fare. The New Wave of French and Italian art directors and their stars were riding high internationally and he felt Bardot was being undersold. Looking for something more like an art-film to push her as a serious actress, he showcased her in And God Created Woman (1956) with Jean-Louis Trintignant.
The film, about an amoral teenager in a respectable small-town setting, was a big international success. She may have had an affair with her co-star Trintignant, but this was more likely a pre-release publicity gimmick. The film is often wrongly described as her first film (it was her seventeenth) and to have launched her overnight, but it did help move her towards the cinematic mainstream.
It also ruled out a transition to Hollywood, where she was thought too risqué to handle. The Doris Day era was in still in full swing and even Jane Russell in The French Line (1953) had been thought to be going too far by showing her midriff. Erotica like Bardot’s Cette sacrée gamine (That Crazy Kid, 1955) was considered fine at the box-office as long as it was clearly labelled “European”. Bardot’s limited English and strong accent, while beguiling to the ears of men, did not suit rapid-fire Hollywood scripts. In any event, staying in Europe benefited her image when the 1960s began to swing and Hollywood slipped into the background for a while, and Bardot was voted honorary sex-goddess of the decade.
Divorced from Vadim in 1957, she married actor Jacques Charrier (1959-62), by whom in 1960 she had her only child, Nicolas-Jacques Charrier from whom she is estranged. She once referred to her only child as “a tumour”. The marriage was preyed on by the paparazzi and there were clashes over the direction of Bardot’s career. Her films became more substantial, but this brought a heavy pressure of dual celebrity as she sought critical acclaim while remaining to most of the world a glamour model.
Vie privée (1960), directed by Louis Malle has more than an element of autobiography in it. The scene in which, returning to her flat, Bardot’s character is harangued in the lift by a middle-aged cleaning-lady calling her a tramp and a tart was based on an actual incident, and is a resonant image of celebrity in the mid-20th century.
Soon after, Bardot withdrew to the seclusion of Southern France and is now known to have attempted suicide, but as the sexual revolution of the early 1960s gathered momentum her lifestyle began to seem more like the norm and the pressure lifted. Through the sixties, she was happy to appear in glossy star-vehicles like Viva Maria (1969), to dabble in pop music and to play the role of glamour model and icon. In 1965 she appeared as herself in the Hollywood production Dear Brigitte starring Jimmy Stewart.
Her other husbands were German millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs (1966-69), and French right-wing politician, Bernard d’Ormale (1992-present). She has also had reputed relationships with many men including singers Serge Gainsbourg and Sacha Distel. In the late 1950s, she shared an exchange she considered “croiser de deux sillages” with writer John Gilmore, then an actor in France for a New Wave film to have starred Jean Seberg. Gilmore told Paris Match, “I felt a beautiful warmth with Bardot but found it difficult to discuss things to any depth whatsoever”.
She is recognised for popularising bikini swimwear in early films such as Manina (Woman without a Veil, 1952) and in her appearances at Cannes and in many photo shoots. She even sported an early version of the monokini from time to time. Though this was not considered extraordinary in France, it was considered nearly scandalous in the US. The fashions of the 1960s looked effortlessly right and spontaneous on her and she joined Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy, in becoming a subject for Andy Warhol paintings.
In 1970, the sculptor Alain Gourdon used Bardot as the model for a bust of Marianne, the French national emblem.
Mentions of Bardot in music
The first song to reference Brigitte Bardot was “Gimme’ that Wine” by vocalese group Lambert, Hendricks and Ross on the Columbia label in 1960.
Indie singer Jordan Galland also has a song called “Brigitte Bardot”. In 1966, Harry Belafonte recorded “Zombie Jamboree” which has an entire verse dedicated to Brigitte Bargot.
Bardot has also been referenced in many other songs, including “I Shall Be Free” (Bob Dylan), “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (Billy Joel), “Message of Love” (The Pretenders), “I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself” (Elton John), “Warlocks” (Red Hot Chili Peppers), “You Went The Wrong Way, Old King Louie” (Allan Sherman), “You’re My Favourite Star” (The Bellamy Brothers), “It’s Not Enough” (The Who), “Contempt” (Silkworm), “Big Wedge” (Fish),”Brigitte Bardot” (Tom Zé), “Alegria, Alegria” (Caetano Veloso), “Loaded” (ZZ Top), “Brigitte Bardot” (Creature), “Bardot” (Marden Hill), “Shir Nevu’i Cosmi Aliz” (Yoni Rechter & Eli Mohar), “Smiles Like Richard Nixon” (The Bad Examples), “Bijou” (Stew), “Stratford-On-Guy” (Liz Phair), and “Brigitte Bardot T.N.T.” (Pizzicato Five).
Edited by bengt_bangt on 5 Feb 2012, 14:51
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