In the 1970s Brigitte Bardot established herself as an animal
rights activist. During the 1990s she was outspoken about her
political views on such issues as immigration, Islam, race
mixing, and homos--uality.
Bardot was born in Paris to Charles "Pilou" Bardot and Anne-Marie Mucel. Bardot's beauty and natural sensuality began to show as a teenager and in 1952, she appeared on screen for the first time in Le Trou Normand. That same year, at age 18, she married director Roger Vadim, with whom she had been romantically involved for several years.
Although the European film industry was then in the ascendant, her personal rise was remarkable: she has been one of the few European actresses to receive mass media attention in the United States. Brigitte Bardot and Marilyn Monroe were the icons of female s--uality in the 1950s and 1960s and whenever she made public appearances in the United States the media hordes covered her every move.
Her films of the early and mid 1950s were lightweight romantic dramas, some of them historical, in which she was cast as ingénue or siren, often with an element of undress. She played bit-parts in three English-language films, the British comedy Doctor at Sea (1955), Warner Brothers' Helen of Troy (1954), in which she was understudy for the title-role but only appears as Helen's handmaid, and Act of Love (1954) with Kirk Douglas. Her French-language films were dubbed for international release. "She is every man's idea of the girl he'd like to meet in Paris" said the film-critic Ivon Addams in 1955.
Vadim was not content with this light fare. The New Wave of French and Italian art directors and their stars were riding high internationally and he felt Bardot was being undersold. Looking for something more like an art-film to push her as a serious actress, he showcased her in And God Created Woman (1956) with Jean-Louis Trintignant.
The film, about an amoral teenager in a respectable small-town setting, was a big international success, riding on the back of Brigitte Bardot's high profile as a magazine celebrity and pin-up. She may have had an affair with her co-star Trintignant, but this was more likely a pre-release publicity gimmick. The film is often wrongly described as her first film (it was her seventeenth) and to have launched her overnight, but it did help move her towards the cinematic mainstream.
It also ruled out a transition to Hollywood, where she was thought too risqué to handle. The Doris Day era was in still in full swing and even Jane Russell in The French Line (1953) had been thought to be going too far by showing her midriff. Fluffy erotica like Bardot's Cette sacrée gamine (That Crazy Kid, 1955) was considered fine at the box-office as long as it was clearly labelled "European". Also Bardot's limited English and strong accent (while beguiling to the ears of men) did not suit rapid-fire Hollywood scripts. In any event, staying in Europe benefited her image when the 1960s began to swing and Hollywood slipped into the background for a while, and Bardot was voted honorary s---goddess to the decade.
Divorced from Vadim in 1957, Brigitte Bardot married actor Jacques Charrier (1959-62), by whom in 1960 she had her only child, Nicolas-Jacques Charrier from whom she is estranged. She once referred to her only child as "a tumour". The marriage was preyed on by the paparazzi and there were clashes over Bardot's career-direction. Her films did become more substantial, but this brought a heavy pressure of dual celebrity as she sought critical acclaim while remaining to most of the world a glamour model.
Vie privée (1960), directed by Louis Malle has more than an element of autobiography in it. The scene in which, returning to her flat, Bardot's character is harangued in the lift by a middle-aged cleaning-lady calling her a tramp and a tart was based on an actual incident, and is a resonant image of celebrity in the mid-20th century.
Soon after, Brigitte Bardot withdrew to the seclusion of the South of France and is now known to have attempted suicide, but as the s--ual revolution of the early 1960s gathered momentum her lifestyle began to seem more like the norm and the pressure lifted. Through the sixties, she was happy to appear in glossy star-vehicles like Viva Maria (1969), to dabble in pop-music and to perceive her main role as glamour model and icon. In 1965 she appeared as herself in the Hollywood production Dear Brigitte starring Jimmy Stewart.
Brigitte Bardot's other husbands were German millionaire playboy Gunther Sachs (1966-69), and French right-wing politician, Bernard d'Ormale (1992-present), with whom she evidently has the best marital relationship in her history. She has also had reputed relationships with many men including Serge Gainsbourg and Sacha Distel (singers). In the late 1950’s, she shared an exchange she considered “croiser de deux sillages” with writer John Gilmore, then an actor in France for a New Wave film to have starred Jean Seberg. Gilmore told Paris Match, “I felt a beautiful warmth with Bardot but found it difficult to discuss things to any depth whatsoever.”
She is recognized for popularizing bikini swimwear in early films such as Manina (Woman without a Veil, 1952) and in her appearances at Cannes and in many photo-shoots. She even sported an early version of the monokini (topless bikini) from time to time. Though this was not considered extraordinary in France, where nudity on beaches is common, it was considered nearly scandalous in the US. The fashions of the 1960s looked effortlessly right and spontaneous on her and she joined (the now-deceased icons) Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy, in becoming a subject for Andy Warhol paintings.
In 1970, the sculptor Alain Gourdon used Bardot as the model for a bust of Marianne, the French national emblem.
In 1974, just before Bardot's fortieth birthday, Bardot announced her retirement. After appearing in more than fifty motion pictures, and recording several music albums, most notably with France's "bad boy" of music, Serge Gainsbourg, she chose to use her fame to promote animal rights. She is accused of being a misanthrope and preferring the company of animals to that of humans. In 1986, she established the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of animals. She raised 3 million French francs to fund the foundation by auctioning off her jewelry and many personal belongings. Today, she is one of the world's most influential animal rights activists and a major opponent of the consumption of horse meat.
Brigitte is also one of the most celebrated supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen of the right-wing Front National political party, with which her husband is associated. With the publication of her 2003 book, A Scream in the Silence, the reclusive Bardot has come under considerable fire for anti-Muslim, and anti-gay comments. In May 2003, The MRAP ("Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples" - Movement against racism and for friendship between peoples) announced that it would sue Bardot for her published views. Another organization, The "Ligue des Droits de l'Homme" (League of Human Rights), announced that it was considering similar legal proceedings.
Brigitte Bardot, in a letter to a French gay magazine, wrote in her defense, "Apart from my husband—who maybe will cross over one day as well—I am entirely surrounded by homos. For years they have been my support, my friends, my adopted children, my confidants."
On June 10, 2004 Brigitte Bardot was convicted by a French court of "inciting racial hatred." She was fined 5,000 € and it is the fourth such conviction/fine she has faced from French courts. These recent fines pertain to her aforementioned book. In particular the courts cited passages where Bardot referred to the "Islamization of France" and the "underground and dangerous infiltration of Islam." (France's 5-million member Muslim community is the largest in Europe.) In the book she also referred to homos--uals as "fairground freaks," and she condemns the presence of women in government. Bardot's previous comments that led to convictions included ones encouraging civilian massacres in Algeria.
Brigitte has lost a considerable amount of sympathy from her fans due to her now-frequent anti-Muslim, anti-gay and anti-immigrant comments.
Considering a militant for animal protection, she condemned recently seal hunting in Canada during a visit in that country. While she wanted to discuss with Stephen Harper on the issue, the Canadian Prime Minister denied the request. Bardot was among many who denonced the seal hunting which included former Beatle Paul MacCartney and then-wife Heather Mills as well as canadian-born Baywatch star Pamela Anderson.
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