Monday, November 15, 2010

Michele Mercier

Michèle Mercier 

This post is dedicated to my lovely mother,for all the times we enjoyed the movies of Angelique,love you mom,Loulou

For Michèle Mercier, the role of Angélique was both a blessing and a curse. It catapulted her to almost instant stardom, rivalling Brigitte Bardot in her celebrity and popularity, but it ruined her acting career. By the end of the 1960s, the names Angélique and Michèle Mercier were synonymous, and to escape type-casting, Mercier was compelled to leave France and try to re-start her career in United States, unfortunately without any success.
The career of an actor sometimes is summarized only with the commercial success, this was the case for Michèle Mercier with the popular "Angélique"-series. However this actress already proved her talents in more than twenty films. The character of Angélique made somehow to forget the other aspects of the career of Michèle Mercier, but it is true that general public discovered her in the "Angélique", and made her a real star of the French cinema of that time, equally with Brigitte Bardot.
Daughter of Nice's pharmacists, born on January 1, 1939 and named as Jocelyne Yvonne Renée, she initially wanted to be a dancer. Becoming small rat in Opera of Nice at eight, she excited the jealousy of her comrades. At 15, she met Maurice Chevalier, who predicted her success and glory. They did arrive, but by another way that the dance.
A few years later, during the Cannes filmfestival, a journalist introduced her to Roland Petit, whom she also met later in Paris. She studied the art of dance in the company of the "Ballets of the Eiffel tower", under the direction of Petit. Parallel to her career as dancer, Jocelyne followed courses of dramatic art in the class of Solange Sicard. Once Jocelyne went on the Coast to see her parents. At this same time she met Denys de La Patellière, who shot in Nice his feature film "Retour de manivelle", and who entrusted her first role in this film. At the time of shooting, by the idea of the director, she took the other first name in homage to her little sister Michèle, who died at the age of five by the fever typhoide. And it was also as in testimony of admiration for her partner Michèle Morgan, as she borrowed her name to her.
The history of her life is, without saying, that of her films and the parts what she played. She had been made a rule not yield to the salacity producers. That was worth to her, at seventeen years, to be driven out of a group of ballet, in London.
In "Retour de manivelle" she played the role of a pretty maid Jeanne, seduced by Daniel Gélin's character in the film. She has to strip herself under her blouse and to take her panties to join the actor, already naked, under the sheets. Director didn't fail to reshoot again this scene for the pleasure of imagining herself naked in this situation; but he was amazed while seeing her take off the second panties. He was begun again up to four times and found counterpart until the end there: she had put five panties one on the other.
Léonide Moguy gives her the principal role in "Give me my chance"(1957), then Robert Lamoureux makes her the star of "The brunette that here" (1958 on stage and 1960 in film). She is requested from Hollywood, but she regains Europe very quickly and becomes big star in Italy.
After some romantic comedies ("Mademoiselle Angel", 1959, by Géza von Radvįnyi), her could find in the credits of the "The Nights of Lucrezia Borgia" by Sergio Grieco where she is poisoned by Lucrezia camped by another ravissante actress: Belinda Lee. After a small role in Francois Truffaut's "Shoot at the pianist" (1960; her favorite role), she approaches the Sixties mainly in the cinema of district. Besides "The Line of Sight" of Jean-Daniel Pollet and "Goodbye Again" of Anatole Litvak, she connects "Wonders of Aladin" of Mario Bava and Henry Levin and two superb maritime opus of Domenico Paolella: "The island of the lost girls" and "The buccaneer of the islands". She also worked in England, for John Gilling, in "Fury at Smuggler's Bay" with Peter Cushing. In 1963, she turns frame by frame "The Monsters" by Dino Risi in the sketch "Opium of the people" about the addiction to television, phenomenon which enables her to cheat her husband cathodiquement absorptive. Then she is the stripper in "Eldest of Ferchaux" by Jean-Pierre Melville. Then she is the heroine of the sketch "The Telephone" in "The Three Faces of the Fear" of Mario Bava, where she is badgered by phone. She made then mainly small-budget films in Italy, always in the same register of easy girl.
In 1964, it is the dedication with the role of Angélique by the novels of Anne and Serge Golon in "Angélique, Marquise of the Angels" of Bernard Borderie. Young and beautiful marquise left the convent, Angélique is married by force, then saw a series of adventures where she ravise on the feelings which she carries to her lame and older husband. The film will know four sequels until 1968, all directed by Bernard Borderie. They shell, within more or less exotic frameworks, the adventures of the sulfurous Michele Mercier, who brings to the role an erotism which marked the first generation of audiences. Her husband Joffrey de Peyrac is played by Robert Hossein, who, like his partner, traumatised of his physique the fair sex with his scar.
Disparaged by criticism, "Angélique" becomes ultra-popular from generation to generation thanks to the television, and which does not lost her charms even 40 years later.
With "Angélique", Michèle Mercier found a role what all the actresses dreamed: "A the moment when I opened the books, I quickly understood that Angélique resembled to me. She was me and I was her." But the most beautiful characters are sometimes also gilded prisons: she was identified so much with her character that, since, her career seems at the dead point. In parallel, Michèle Mercier continues her Italian filmography, playing in several comedies with sketches of Mario Monicelli, Dino Risi or Marco Ferreri ("Controsesso", "High infidelity", "I nostri mariti"). As often, the actress will have evil to survive the success of her mythical character and after-Angélique period is rather hard. To depart from her fetiche role, she cuts the hair, plays roles contrary to Angélique but nothing can be done there.
Michèle Mercier continued to play between France and Italy, finding Robert Hossein as director in spaghetti-western, "Cemetery without crosses", or approaching film of horror in a film by Antonio Margheriti adapting Edgard Allan Poe "Web of the Spider".
She also camps an Angélique transfer in "Lady Hamilton" of Christian-Jaque, remake of Alexandre Korda's film. She will play some good dramatic roles however then will fall down in the afflicting myth than one tries to make her incarner before continuing a career of chances sporadically. She will in vain try to diversify, producing "You Can't Win'Em All" (1970, Peter Collinson) and "Operation Macedonia" (1971, Jacques Scandelari), which not reached discounted success. Her last great role was in Michel Audiard's "A Golden Widow" (1969).
However Michele Mercier decides to leave to the United States to produce films she likes. She undergoes a professional failure (she does not manage to realize novel "A touch of Death"/"Mix yourself a Redhead" of Charles Williams). Alone, almost forgotten and completely ruined, Michèle Mercier returns to Paris and joins again with the stage...


In 1959 Michèle Mercier fell in love with Gianni Esposito. This was a little mystical love. At this time the Shah of Iran wanted to marry her, but she was madly in love with Gianni. The night she waiting for Gianni, she meets a young screenwriter André Smagghe with whom she soon married. Unfortunately he became soon alcoholic, so much so that he should be locked up in an asylum. When she asked the divorce, she was astonished to learn that there is no way to divorce an interned man. She later reached that point, with the help of "the large sum". The phenomenal success of "Angélique" that she started to turn, gilded her life without satisfying her heart...
Second marriage with Claude Bourillot, who was in charge of mission when the president of the Senate Alain Poher was a president of the Republic by interim, after the demission with general de Gaulle in 1969. When the same circumstances, after the death of Pompidou, brought back Poher and his in charge of mission to the Elysees, Michèle wanted to have the honor to sleep at least once under the official skirtings: the bed of in charge of mission was only of one place and she spent the night, sometimes on him, sometimes below, and generally by ground. Another image symbolic system of its transitory passage among the sizes...
From 1973 to 1976, she remains in Hollywood, with exchargé of mission, who forgets his principal mission of it, that to assist his wife. The divorce is essential derechef, after the return in France.
In Geneva, where Michèle Mercier will chair a ceremony of the Arpels jeweller, she meets a young and charming businessman, Adrian Jancou, who is widowed with two sons and who fell in love with her. He has apartments and villas everywhere; he offers to her white Rolls-Royce as a gift of engagement, because they decided to marry. Unfortunately (again!) the young billionaire has a cancer (brain tumor), she looks after him for four months day and night, in spite of the aggressiveness of those who want to draw aside this intruder. In his last moments, he signed a paper giving only to Michèle Mercier the right to look after him... without she daring to speak to him about her personal interests. He died, left her only this paper and her eyes to cry.
But here finally the revenge of revenges! A Roman prince, Nicola Bocompagni-Ludovisi, in authority of divorce for several years, pertaining to a pontifical family, in love with her for twenty years since "Angélique", - has wanted to marry Michèle.
He invites her to Rome and then into his country house, where she arrives with four hundred kilos of luggage. The civil divorce being pronounced, he awaits nothing any more but the cancellation of his marriage by the Saint-Siège. Decided to be sharp with the things, he intends to marry Michèle in July 1986 civilly. Suddenly Michèle, who lived under the roof of her prince during nearly three years, notices his sudden changes of mood, and his unexplained absences. When he returns from Rome, he does not make any more sound with his car's "merry horn" which meant "I love you"! While he's on a journey to Berlin, she remakes her four hundred kilos of luggage and goes back to Paris. Her only resource, after so much of hopes and disillusions, was to tell about them.
In 1987, Angélique, in fact Michèle Mercier published her autobiography. "Angélique with lost heart", such is title of the book (Editions Carrère Lafon) which tells in detail the life of the actress, who knew the fame only under the features of the Marquise of the Angels... She speaks with lost heart, and also with opened heart, and does not hesitate to evoke the thunderbolt which for her the Shah of Iran had and how she refused to him (in the best tradition of Angélique) because she was in love with another poorer man, "but for whom I was totally insane!..."
Her Memories could have been called "Confession", as the poem of Baudelaire which summarizes the spouted out secrets of the heart of another woman: "That nothing on earth is certain, - And that always, with some care that it bale, - is betrayed human selfishness. - That it is a hard trade to be beautiful woman!... - That all cracks, love and beauty... "
If all "cracked" around Michèle Mercier, remains at least the beauty of her face and that of her heart. Her tears did not erase her smile, because she knows that, if she were naive she does not have anything to be reproached. She is what makes the price of this work of art which is the history of her life, - one of the most poignant stories that a woman ever wrote, in the field of the heart.
Guided by her passions, Michèle Mercier takes us along to the wire of the pages, through a style playful and full with sensuality, towards an account of unexpected adventures, revealing a model of woman who continues to make us dream...
In her biography she evokes her childhood in Nice, the danceclasses, the first roles, fulgurating her Angélique success, but especially her frantic race after the love. Always beautiful, she still poses a glance dazzled on the men, in spite of her disappointments and continuous to await the charming prince.
"Life of Angélique, she writes, "is almost like mine: abused, blackboulée, she runs after the love, her Love... Me, Michele, it is all that I wished in the world."


After a very long eclipse, she decides to return to the cinema. In 1998, the actress turned in Cuba and in Italy "La Rumbera", a feature film by Italian director Piero Vivarelli. "And I await new proposals. I met success when I was rookie. Now, I am richer of emotions, depths, glares, more gravity than at time of the marquise. I have a desire and the need to show them in the screen," said Michèle Mercier in interview to Paris Match magazine.
In 1999, swindled several million francs in a business of edition, Michèle Mercier had serious financial problems. She even had to sell famous wedding gown of the Marquise of the Angels. The actress confessed in Nice Matin and declared: "I am ruined, I'll be obliged to sell part of my paintings, my furnitures, my properties, my jewels and the dress of Angélique". Michèle Mercier indeed has just been victim of certain Monsieur Delérins, a businessman with whom she joined in a business of edition. The swindler had arrested and put in prison, but, meanwhile, he had succeeded in relieving from Angélique three million francs. The actress hopes to remake cinema, but, for the sequels of Angélique it is not gained, especially if she must sell the dress...
Finally, it's not really misery, and as said Henri Jeanson, famous dialogist of cinema: "I knew many ruined producers, but I do not know any poor of them."
In 2002, Michele Mercier presented at the Cannes Filmfestival her second book of memories published with the Denoėl Editions in which she affirms in the cover that "she's not Angélique!", entrusting her irritation to be summarized to this glamour-image of the Sixties. In this book Mercier also tells about how Italian actor Vittorio Gassman tried to take her by force, but remembers also the gentility of Marcello Mastroianni and the suppers of Bettino Craxi, former Prime Minister, and Silvio Berlusconi. There is much Italy in the book.
In the end she admits: "All the men who have made the court of me, tried to seduce Angélique... not me. But then one day - she writes - I understood that Angelique could not make more harm to me, therefore I have learned to consider she's like a little sister, with whom I had to live hand in hand".



"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."

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