Simone Signoret

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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 movie 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 BAFTA, an Emmy, Golden Globe, Cannes Film Festival recognition and the Silver Bear for Best Actress.

Contents

Early life

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.

Career

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 Les Sorcières de Salem (1956), based on Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

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