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 EmmyCannes Film Festivalrecognition, the Silver Bear for Best Actress awards and a Golden Globe nominations.


 [hide*1 Early life

Early life[edit]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 CarnéLes Diaboliques (1954), and The Crucible (Les Sorcières de Salem; 1956), based on Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

[1][2]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 and continued to work in France and England. She played opposite Laurence Olivier in Term of Trial(1962). She did work in America for Ship of Fools (1965), which earned her another Oscar nomination, and 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 (1980).

Personal life[edit]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.

A lifelong chain smoker, Signoret died of pancreatic cancer in Auteuil-Anthouillet, France, and is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris next to her second husband.


Year Title Role Notes
1942 Boléro Une employée de maison de couture uncredited
1942 Les Visiteurs du Soir Extra uncredited
1942 Le Prince charmant
1943 Adieu Léonard La gitane uncredited
1943 Le voyageur de la Toussaint Extra uncredited
1944 L'Ange de la nuit Une étudiante uncredited
1944 Le Mort ne reçoit plus La maitresse de Firmin
1944 Service de nuit La danseuse à la taverne
1944 Béatrice devant le désir
1945 La Boîte aux rêves Une femme uncredited
1946 Back Streets of Paris Gisèle
1946 Le Couple idéal Annette
1946 Les Démons de l'aube Lily, la cabaretière
1947 Fantômas Hélène
1948 Impasse des deux anges Marianne
1948 Dédée d'Anvers Dédée
1948 Against the Wind Michele Dennis
1950 Manèges Dora
1950 Gunman in the Streets Denise Vernon a French version was also filmed as Le Traqué
1950 La Ronde Leocadie, the Prostitute
1950 Swiss Tour Yvonne
1951 Ombre et lumière Isabelle Leritz
1951 ...Sans laisser d'adresse Une journaliste uncredited
1952 Casque d'or Marie 'Casque d'Or' BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1953 Thérèse Raquin Thérèse Raquin
1955 Mother Courage and Her Children Yvette, Lagerhure
1955 Les Diaboliques Nicole Horner Diabolique
1956 Un matin comme les autres Janine Alix
1956 Death in the Garden Djin
1957 The Crucible Elisabeth Procter BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Award for Best Actress

1957 Die Windrose
1959 Room at the Top Alice Aisgill *Academy Award for Best Actress*BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1960 Adua and Friends Adua Giovannetti
1960 Les Mauvais Coups Roberte
1960 Amours célèbres Jenny segment "Jenny de Lacour"
1961 Barabbas
1962 Il Giorno più corto Unconfirmed
1962 Term of Trial Anna
1963 Sweet and Sour Genevieve
1963 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1963 Le Jour et l'heure Therese Dutheil
1965 The Sleeping Car Murders Eliane Darès
1965 Ship of Fools La Contessa *Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress*Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1966 Is Paris Burning? La patronne du bistrot/Cafe Owner
1966 The Deadly Affair Elsa Fennan Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1967 Games Lisa Schindler Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1968 The Sea Gull Arkadina, an actress
1969 L'Américain Léone
1969 Army of Shadows Mathilde
1969 Mr. Freedom uncredited cameo
1970 The Confession Mme L. aka Lise London
1971 La Veuve Couderc Veuve Couderc Tati
1971 Le Chat Clémence Bouin Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival[5]
1971 Comptes à rebours Léa
1973 Rude journée pour la reine Jeanne
1973 Les Granges brulées Rose
1975 La Chair de l'orchidée Lady Vamos
1976 Police Python 357 Thérèse Ganay
1977 Madame Rosa Madame Rosa *César Award for Best Actress*David di Donatello Award for Best Actress
1978 Judith Therpauve Judith Therpauve
1979 The Adolescent Mamie
1980 Chère inconnue Louise
1982 Guy de Maupassant Maupassant's mother
1982 L'étoile du nord Mme Louise Baron Nominated — César Award for Best Actress

Television award[edit]Edit

Emmy Awards

Popular culture[edit]Edit

  • Marilyn (2011) by Sue Glover, premiered at the Citizens' TheatreGlasgow on 17 February 2011. The play charted the deteriorating relationship between Signoret and Marilyn Monroe during the filming of Let's Make Love. Unable to achieve the recognition of Oscar-winning Signoret, Monroe begins an affair with Signoret's husband, Yves Montand.
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