Jeanne Moreau Profile
A leading French stage actress whose cool intelligence and offbeat demeanor, at once sensuous and austere, Jeanne Moreau graced some of the finest films of the late 1950s and 60s, especially those of New Wave directors Louis Malle and Francois Truffaut. She came to prominence in Malle's Ascenseur pour l'echafaud/Elevator to the Gallows (1957) and Les Amants/The Lovers (1958), but it was her free-spirited performance as Catherine in Francois Truffaut's Jules and Jim (1961) that made her an international star. Moreau distinguished herself in the films of such directors as Michelangelo Antonioni, Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel and Joseph Losey, and has used her standing in the French industry to foster the careers of young directors such as Bertrand Blier (in whose 1974 feature, "Going Places", she gave a cryptic but memorable performance) and Andre Techine.
This personification of French womanhood and sensuality is actually the product of a French father and a British mother and was registered as a resident alien during the World War II occupation. But Moreau's heart was in France, and when her parents divorced and her mother returned to England, she remained with her father. Yet, her fluency in her mother's native language would help Moreau gain international stardom. A graduate of the Paris Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, Moreau made both her stage and screen debuts in 1948. While she had many stage successes with the famed Comedie-Francaise (she was one of the company's youngest members ever) and played a renowned Maggie in the French stage version of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1956), Moreau was almost 30 before her film career took off thanks to her work with Malle. At the time of the release of Les Amants/The Lovers, her earthy, intelligent and subtle portrayal of an adulteress caused a scandal in France. While La Notte (1961) and Jules and Jim made Moreau an international star, she made further impressions in two films directed by Orson Welles, The Trial (1962) and "Chimes at Midnight/Falstaff" (1966). Moreau could portray ordinariness or a sublime beauty, but not every role matched her abilities. (She was oddly cast as a British aristocrat in The Yellow Rolls Royce 1964.) But when the role engaged her personality (as in her Great Catherine 1968), she was superb; her performance opposite Brigitte Bardot in Louis Malle's "Viva Maria!" (1965) is an unexpected delight and she is particularly touching in the 1970 western "Monte Walsh".. Even as she aged, Moreau continued to entrance. Past 60, she was as sensuous as ever playing a somewhat flamboyant family friend who saves a young girl from a potential marriage mistake by having sex with the groom before the wedding in "The Summer House" (1993). Other recent roles include the elegant French expatriate celebrity who returns to Paris in "The Proprietor" (1996), and, for TV, "A Foreign Field" (PBS, 1994), a film about a reunion of D-Day veterans in which Moreau was the now older woman who shared her charms with many a G.I. back in 1994.
As director-screenwriter-star, Moreau was applauded for "Lumiere" (1975), the story of several generations of actresses. She also helmed "L'Adolescente" (1978), a semi-autobiographical tale of a girl sent to live with her grandmother in 1939, and an homage to silent screen heroine "Lillian Gish" (1984)--a peculiar combination for a documentary, perhaps, as its focus was an American actress who played women of virtue and never married and its director was a French actress who has been known for her many loves (i.e., Malle, Truffaut and Tony Richardson).
Biographical data supplied by TCMdb