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Nationality: French. Born: Léonie Bathiat in Courbevoie, 15 May 1898. Education: Attended Institution Edith Barbier, Puteaux. Career: 1917—employed as factory worker at Darracq Ltd.; later worked as secretary for offices of Schneider du Creusot; 1918—worked as model; 1919—debut at Théâtre des Capucines; 1920s—appeared in music hall revues, plays, and operettas; 1930—film debut; 1936—major stage success in Fric-Frac; 1938—in Hôtel du Nord, first of several appearances in films of Marcel Carné; c.1946—jailed for two months for collaboration with the Nazis as a consequence of an affair with a German officer during the occupation; 1949—resumed acting on both stage and screen. Awards: Special César, 1982. Died: In Paris, 24 July 1992.

Films as Actress:


La Douceur d'aimer (Hervil)


Un Chien qui rapporte (Choux) (as Josyane)


Das schöne Abenteuer (La Belle Aventure) (Schünzel) (as Mme. des Mignieres); Enlevez-moi (Perret) (as Lulu); Une Idée folle (Natanson) (as Anita)


Walzerkrieg (La Guerre des valses) (Berger) (as Ilonka); Un Soir de réveillon (Anton) (as Viviane); Je te confie ma femme (Guissart) (as Totoche); Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon (Tarride) (as Anita)


Le Vertige (Schiller) (as Emma)


Pension Mimosas (Feyder) (as Parasol); La Fille de Madame Angot (Bernard-Derosne) (as Mlle Delaunay); Amants et voleurs (Bernard) (as Agatha)


La Garçonne (de Limur) (as Niquette); Aventure à Paris (Marc Allégret) (as Rose de Saint-Leu); Le Mari rêve (Capellani) (as Eve Roland); Feu la mère de madame (Fried—short) (as Yvonne); Mais n'te promène donc pas toute nue (Joannon—short) (as Clarisse)


Désiré (Guitry) (as Madeleine Crapicheau); Les Perles de la couronne (Pearls of the Crown) (Guitry and Christian-Jaque) (as Queen of Ethiopia); Faisons un rêve (Guitry); Si tu m'aimes (Mirages) (Ryder) (as Arlette); Aloha ou Le Chant des îles (Mathot) (as Ginette Gina)


Hôtel du Nord (Carné) (as Madame Raymonde); Le Petit Chose (Cloche) (as Irma Borel); La Chaleur du sein (Boyer) (as Bernadette)


Le Jour se lève (Daybreak) (Carné) (as Clara); Fric-Frac (Lehmann and Autant-Lara) (as LouLou); Circonstances atténuantes (Extenuating Circumstances) (Boyer) (as Marie Qu'a d'ça)


Tempête (Bernard-Deschamps) (as Ida Maulaincourt)


Madame Sans-Gêne (Richebé) (title role); Boléro (Boyer) (as Catherine)


Les Visiteurs du soir (The Devil's Envoys; The Devil's Own Envoy) (Carné) (as Dominique); La Femme que j'ai le plus aimée (Vernay) (as La Divette); L'Amant de Bornéo (Feydeau) (as Stella Losange); La Loi du 21 juin 1907 (Guitry—short)


Les Enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise) (Carné) (as Garance)


Portrait d'un assassin (Roland) (as Martha)


L'Amour, madame . . . (Grangier) (as herself); Gibier de potence (Richebé) (as Mme. Alice)


Le Père de mademoiselle (L'Herbier and Dagan) (as Edith Mars)


Le Grand Jeu (Flesh and the Woman; Il grande giuoco; The Big Game) (Siodmak) (as Mme. Blanche); Huis clos (No Exit) (Audry) (as Inès); L'Air de Paris (Carné) (as Blanche Le Garrec)


Mor Curé chez les pauvres (Diamant-Berger) (as L'epouseuse); Vacances explosives (Stengel) (as Arlette Bernard)


Le Passager clandestin (Habib) (as friend)


Maxime (Verneuil) (as Gazelle); Un Drôle de dimanche (Marc Allégret) (as Juliette Harmier); Et ta soeur (Delbez) (as Lucrèce du Boccage)


Paris la belle (Prevert—short) (as narrator)


Les Primitifs du XIIIe (Guilbaud—short) (as narrator)


La Gamberge (Carbonnaux) (as Mother); Les Petits Matins (Audry)


The Longest Day (Annakin, Marton, Wicki and Oswald) (as Mme. Barrault); La Loi des hommes (Gerard) (as La Comtesse); Temp di Roma (de la Patellière) (as Cri-Cri); Le Voyage à Biarritz (Grangier) (as Fernande)


Dina chez les lois (Delouche—short) (as narrator)


By ARLETTY: books—

La Défense, Paris, 1971.

Je suis comme je suis . . ., with Michel Souvais, Paris, 1987.

Les Mots d'Arletty, edited by Claudine Brecourt-Villars, Paris, 1988.

By ARLETTY: articles—

"Strictly Entre Nous," in Penguin Film Review (London), September 1948.

Interview with Edward Baron Turk, in American Film (New York), November 1981.

Interview with E. Decaux and Bruno Villien, in Cinématographe (Paris), March 1985.

On ARLETTY: books—

Perrin, Michel, Arletty, Paris, 1952.

Ariotti, Philippe, and Philippe de Comes, Arletty, Paris, 1978.

Monnier, Pierre, Arletty, Paris, 1984.

Gilles, Christian, Arletty: ou la liberté d'être, Paris, 1988.

On ARLETTY: articles—

Ecran (Paris), June 1978.

Siclier, Jacques, "The Great Arletty," in Rediscovering French Film, edited by M. L. Bandy, New York, 1983.

Beylie, C., "Arletty et ses peaux-rouges," in Cinéma (Paris), 18–24 March 1987.

Lacombe, A., "La Chaussee des geants," in L'Avant-Scène Cinéma, March 1988.

Barbry, F.R., "Arletty: la revanche de la mémoire et du talent," in Cinéma (Paris), 4 May 1988.

Cartier, J. "Tous les taxis du monde l'adorent . . . ," in Cine-Tele-Revue, 5 May 1988.

"La Vedette de la semaine," in Cine-Tele-Revue, 12 May 1988.

Stars (Mariembourg, Belgium), September 1990.

"Je m'appelle Garance . . . C'est un nom de fleur," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), supplement, May 1991.

Obituary in New York Times, 25 July 1992.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 3 August 1992.

"The End," in Skoop (Amsterdam), September 1992.

Berrier, H., and I. Champion, "L'Humain peut m'epater," in Positif (Paris), December 1992.

"Une fleur nommée Arletty," in La Revue de la Cinématheque, January/February 1993.

* * *

Arletty, the legendary and captivating actress was a major star during France's "Golden Age" of cinema in the 1930s and 1940s. As women's film roles during this period tended to lack complexity and left only a marginal space for women, Arletty is indeed quite an important and still treasured figure.

Well-known for her working-class origins, the beautiful and sublime Arletty was as famous for her work on the music hall stage as for her film performances. Her successful collaboration with the esteemed director Marcel Carné, especially in the films Hôtel du Nord, Le Jour se lève, Les Visiteurs du soir, and Les Enfants du paradis, brought both recognition and the opportunity to develop a "mysterious femininity"—and they are among the most popular and critically acclaimed films in the history of French cinema. Prior to her appearance in Carné's Hôtel du Nord, Arletty's film career was limited to supporting roles—most often she played prostitutes and, not surprisingly, music hall performers in which she capitalized on her working-class Parisian accent and gestures. In Pension Mimosas, for example, she played a street-smart woman of questionable virtue.

Despite her early inauspicious film roles and a certain constraint based upon typecasting, as her career evolved it was noteworthy for its diversity. Indeed, her performances in the somber "poetic realist" Le Jour se lève, the medieval fable Les Visiteurs du soir, and the epic study of the early 19th-century stage, Les Enfants du paradis, each demonstrate an extraordinary range and depth, and importantly, her characters exude a remarkably honest, complex, and unconventional sexuality, as well as a singular self-awareness and independence. In Le Jour se lève she quits her job and her lover, and in Les Visiteurs du soir she is an androgynous, shrewd, and seductive emissary of the devil posing as a traveling performer. But it was her characterization of the beautiful, ethereally elegant, and sexually desiring courtesan Garance who is loved by four different men in Les Enfants du paradis for which she is best remembered—and whose uncommon individuality became synonymous with Arletty's own persona.

Unlike many other French stars, Arletty remained in France during the German occupation of the 1940s; thus her work helped contribute to a partial sense of continuity in French cinema during this period. For a time, Arletty was discussed primarily in terms of her well-known love affair with a German officer and for her brief imprisonment after the liberation than for her work on-screen. She returned to the screen after 1949 in several films, the most notable of which was an adaptation of Sartre's play Huis clos. She continued to work on the stage, including as Blanche in the French version of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. Her only appearance in an American film was in an episode of The Longest Day. Then in the 1960s, her work as an actress was seriously hindered by an accident that badly affected her sight. In 1984, Arletty's legendary status was confirmed when a cinema opened in the Pompidou Centre in Paris that was named after her most famous character, Salle Garance.

—Cynthia Felando