Jeanne Moreau was born on January 23, 1928 in Paris, France. The daughter of an English chorus girl and a French barman, she made her stage debut in 1947, at the Avignon Festival of Theatre, whilst studying at the Conservatoire in Paris. She soon made it to the Comedie-Française, remaining there for four years, appearing in many productions. In the early 1950s, she left to join the more experimental Theatre Nationale Populaire. At the same time she also began her French film career, most notably in “Gas-oil” (1955), starring Jean Gabin. In the late 1950s, she achieved fame when Louis Malle cast her in “Acenseur Pour L'eschafaud” and “Les Amants” (both 1958)
She proved perfect for the emerging New Wave in France, with her moody, sultry, acerbic on-screen persona. Acclaimed for her performance in Peter Brook's “Moderato Cantabile” (1960), she achieved international stardom for her acting and singing role as Catherine, in Francois Truffaut's masterpiece, “Jules et Jim” (1962). This proved to be the highlight of Moreau's career and, with the decline of the New Wave in the mid-1960s, she began to appear in more populist, lightweight material and such films as “Mata Hari Agent H21” (1964), and her only Euro-western “Viva Maria!” (1965) did little to preserve her legacy.
She rediscovered her propensity for working with experimental new directors in the 1970s, with such films as “Going Places” (1974) by Bertrand Blier and “Souvenirs d'en France” (1975) by Andre Techine. Her own directorial debut came with “Lumiere” in 1975, and “L' Adolescente” in 1979, both of which were well received by the critics.
Moreau was the recipient of a Golden Lion at the 1992 Venice Film Festival for “Clothes in the Wardrobe” and a 1997 European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. She also presided over the grand jury at Cannes in 1995. After appearances in TV films and shorts, Moreau starred in the French version of the Shakespeare story “Romeo Et Juliette” in 2006, “Everywhere at Once” in 2008, “Eleanor's Secret” in 2009 and “Bouquet Final” in 2011.
She has been married twice, including to director, screenwriter, actor Jean-Louis Richard [1927-2012] between 1949 and 1964 and then to American film director William Friedkin [1935- ] between 1977 and 1979. She also enjoyed a relationship with film director Tony Richardson [1928-1991], who left his wife for Moreau in 1967, but they never married.
Today we celebrate Jeanne Moreau’s 85th birthday