Simone Signoret

Last updated

Simone Signoret
Simone Signoret (Harcourt).jpg
Signoret in 1947
Simone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker

(1921-03-25)25 March 1921
Wiesbaden, Germany
Died30 September 1985(1985-09-30) (aged 64)
Years active1942–1985
(m. 1944;div. 1949)

(m. 1951)
Children Catherine Allégret

Simone Signoret (French:  [simɔn siɲɔʁɛ] ; born Simone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker; 25 March 1921 – 30 September 1985) was a French actress. She received various accolades, including an Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, a César Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress, in addition to nominations for two Golden Globe Awards.


Early life

Signoret was born Simone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker in Wiesbaden, Germany, to Georgette (née Signoret) and André 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 army officer from a Polish Jewish family, [1] [2] 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. [3]

Signoret grew up in Paris in an intellectual atmosphere and studied English, German and Latin. After completing secondary school during the Nazi occupation, Simone was responsible for supporting her family and forced to take work as a typist for a French collaborationist newspaper, Les nouveaux temps, run by Jean Luchaire. [4]


During the occupation of France, Signoret mixed with an artistic group of writers and actors who met at the Café de Flore in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter. 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 French films during the 1950s, including Thérèse Raquin (1953), directed by Marcel Carné, Les Diaboliques (1954), and The Crucible (Les Sorcières de Salem; 1956), based on Arthur Miller's The Crucible .

Simone Signoret with Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top; the film established her as an international actress. Room at the Top screenshot.jpg
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 independent film, Room at the Top (1959), from which her emotionally powerful performance won her numerous awards including the Best Female Performance Prize at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Actress. Not for nearly 40 years did another French actress receive an Oscar: Juliette Binoche (Supporting Actress, 1997) and Marion Cotillard (Best Actress, 2008). She was offered films in Hollywood, but turned them down for several years, continuing to work in France and England—for example, opposite Laurence Olivier in Term of Trial (1962). She earned a further Oscar nomination for her work on Ship of Fools (1965), 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. [5]

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". [6]

Signoret was never concerned with glamour, ignored sexist and ageist 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  [ fr ] (1980). She continued to appear in many movies before her death in 1985.

Personal life

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; the couple had no children.

Signoret died of pancreatic cancer in Autheuil-Authouillet, France, aged 64. She was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and Yves Montand was later buried next to her.


1942 Bolero Une employée de la maison de coutureUncredited
Prince Charming ExtraUncredited
Les Visiteurs du Soir ExtraUncredited
The Benefactor La sécrétaire du journalUncredited
1943 Strange Inheritance ExtraUncredited
Goodbye Leonard La gitaneUncredited
1944 The Angel of the Night Une étudianteUncredited
Behold Beatrice Liliane Moraccini
Night Shift La danseuse à la taverneUncredited
Le mort ne reçoit plus  [ fr ]La maitresse de Firmin
1945 Box of Dreams Une femmeUncredited
1946 Les Démons de l'aube  [ fr ]Lily, la cabaretière
The Ideal Couple Annette
Back Streets of Paris Gisèle
1947 Fantômas Hélène
1948 Against the Wind Michele Dennis
Dédée d'Anvers Dédée
Dilemma of Two Angels Marianne
1950 Manèges Dora
Swiss Tour Yvonne
La Ronde Leocadie, the Prostitute
Gunman in the Streets Denise Vernon(also released as Le Traqué )
1951 ...Sans laisser d'adresse Une journalisteUncredited
Shadow and Light Isabelle Leritz
1952 Casque d'or Marie 'Casque d'Or' BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
1953 Thérèse Raquin Thérèse Raquin
1955 Les Diaboliques Nicole Horner
Mother Courage and Her Children Yvette, Lagerhure(unfinished)
1956 Death in the Garden Djin
1957 The Crucible Elisabeth Procter BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
1958 Room at the Top Alice Aisgill
1960 General Electric Theater WomanEpisode: Don't You Remember?
Adua and Friends Adua Giovannetti(also released as Hungry for Love)
1961 Les Mauvais Coups Roberte
Famous Love AffairsJenny(segment "Jenny de Lacour")
1962 Term of Trial Anna
1963 The Shortest Day
The Day and the Hour Therese Dutheil
Sweet and Sour Madame Geneviève
1965 Ship of Fools La Contessa
The Sleeping Car Murders Eliane Darès
1966 Is Paris Burning? La patronne du bistrot / Cafe Owner
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Sara LescaultEpisode: A Small Rebellion
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama
1967 The Deadly Affair Elsa FennanNominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
Games Lisa SchindlerNominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1968 Mr. Freedom CameoUncredited
The Sea Gull Arkadina, an actress
1969 Army of Shadows Mathilde
L'Américain  [ fr ]Léone
1970 The Confession Mme L.
Lise London
A HostageMegTV movie
1971 Comptes à rebours  [ fr ]Léa
Le Chat Clémence Bouin Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival [7]
La Veuve Couderc  [ fr ]Veuve Couderc Tati
1973 The Burned Barns Rose
Rude journée pour la reine  [ fr ]Jeanne
1975 La Chair de l'orchidée Lady Vamos
1976 Police Python 357 Thérèse Ganay
1977 Madame Rosa Madame Rosa
1978 Madame le juge  [ fr ]Elisabeth MassotTV Series, 6 episodes
Judith Therpauve Judith Therpauve
1979 The Adolescent Mamie
1980 I Sent a Letter to My Love Louise Martin
1982 L'étoile du nord Mme Louise BaronNominated — César Award for Best Actress
Guy de Maupassant  [ fr ]Maupassant's mother
1983 Thérèse Humbert Thérèse Humbert
1985 Des terroristes à la retraite Narrator

Television award

Emmy Awards

See also

Related Research Articles

Yves Montand French-Italian actor and singer

Ivo Livi, better known as Yves Montand, was an Italian-French actor and singer.

Geneviève Bujold Canadian actress

Geneviève Bujold is a Canadian actress. For her portrayal of Anne Boleyn in the period drama film Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), Bujold received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her other film credits include The Trojan Women (1971), Earthquake (1974), Obsession (1976), Coma (1978), Murder by Decree (1979), Tightrope (1984), Choose Me (1984), Dead Ringers (1988), The House of Yes (1997), and Still Mine (2012).

Claude Sautet French film director and screenwriter

Claude Sautet was a French film director and screenwriter.

Michèle Morgan French actress

Michèle Morgan was a French film actress, who was a leading lady for three decades in both French cinema and Hollywood features. She is considered to have been one of the great French actresses of the 20th century. Morgan was the inaugural winner of the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1992, she was given an honorary César Award for her contributions to French cinema.

Catherine Allégret French actress

Catherine Allégret is a French actress. She is the daughter of Simone Signoret and Yves Allégret.

<i>Madame Rosa</i> 1977 film directed by Moshé Mizrahi

Madame Rosa is a 1977 French drama film directed by Moshé Mizrahi, adapted from the 1975 novel The Life Before Us by Romain Gary. It stars Simone Signoret and Samy Ben-Youb, and tells the story of an elderly Jewish woman and former prostitute in Paris who cares for a number of children, including an adolescent Algerian boy. The film required a transformation in Signoret's appearance as Madame Rosa.

<i>The Crucible</i> (1957 film) 1957 film by Raymond Rouleau

The Crucible is a 1957 joint Franco-East German film production directed by Raymond Rouleau with a screenplay adapted by Jean-Paul Sartre from the 1953 play The Crucible, by Arthur Miller.

Pierre Granier-Deferre was a French film director and screenwriter

<i>Lets Make Love</i> 1960 film by George Cukor

Let's Make Love is a 1960 American musical comedy film made by 20th Century Fox in DeLuxe Color and CinemaScope. It was directed by George Cukor and produced by Jerry Wald from a screenplay by Norman Krasna, Hal Kanter, and Arthur Miller. It starred Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, and Tony Randall. It would be Monroe's last musical film performance.

<i>The Confession</i> (1970 film) 1970 film

The Confession is a 1970 French-Italian film directed by Costa-Gavras starring Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

Claude Renoir was a French cinematographer. He was the son of actor Pierre Renoir, the nephew of director Jean Renoir, and the grandson of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

<i>The Sleeping Car Murders</i> 1965 French film

The Sleeping Car Murders is a 1965 French mystery film directed by Costa-Gavras from the novel by Sébastien Japrisot. It stars Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Michel Piccoli, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Catherine Allégret, Jacques Perrin, Charles Denner and Pascale Roberts. This film was the first movie for Costa-Gavras, to be followed later by other, more politically-oriented work.

Benjamin Castaldi is a French television host, columnist, radio host and producer. He is the former host of Secret Story which is a spinoff of Loft Story that he hosted as well.

Lila De Nobili was an Italian stage designer, costume designer, and fashion illustrator. She was noted for her collaborations with leading stage and opera directors such as Luchino Visconti and Franco Zeffirelli, as well as her early work on fashion illustration at French Vogue magazine.

Mathilda Marie Berthilde Paruta, better known as Darling Légitimus, was a French actress. In 1983, she received the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for her performance in the film Sugar Cane Alley.

<i>Le Chat</i> (film) 1971 film

Le Chat is a 1971 French-language drama film directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre and based on Georges Simenon's 1967 novel The Cat. It recounts the story of an elderly married couple, Julien Bouin, a former typographist, and his wife Clemence, who used to perform in a circus, who have been loathing each other for years. They hardly talk to each other in their small house, soon to be demolished. Their only form of communication being occasional notes on scraps of paper. A stray cat being the only one he still gives affection to, the cat becomes the object of Clemence's anger. However, they are soon to understand that they cannot live without each other. The storyline of The Cat is speculated to have originated from Georges Simenon's difficult relationship with his mother.

<i>Manèges</i> 1950 French film

Manèges is a French film directed by Yves Allégret and released in 1950. The film stars Simone Signoret, Bernard Blier and Jane Marken. It is shot in black-and-white in film noir style, with extensive use of flashback and the voiceover of characters' unspoken thoughts. Manèges is noted for the exceptionally harsh and cynical manner in which Allégret delineates the characters of his two female leads, and has been accused of being misogynistic in tone.

Le Joli Mai is a 1963 French documentary film by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme.

<i>Box of Dreams</i> (film) 1945 film

Box of Dreams is a 1945 French comedy drama film directed by Yves Allégret and Jean Choux and starring Viviane Romance, Henri Guisol and Frank Villard. Simone Signoret had a small role in the film but would go on to marry Allégret and make several films with him which would contribute to her rise to stardom.


  1. Signoret, Simone (1979). Nostalgia isn't what it used to be . Harmondsworth, England New York: Penguin Books. ISBN   978-0-14-005181-0.
  2. "Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be (Paperback)". Film Guardian . 7 August 2000. Signoret was descended from Polish/Hungarian Jews
  3. Hayward, Susan (November–December 2000). "Simone Signoret (1921–1985) — The body political". Women's Studies International Forum . 23 (6): 739–747. doi:10.1016/S0277-5395(00)00147-3.
  4. DeMaio, Patricia A. (January 2014). Garden of Dreams: The Life of Simone Signoret. University Press of Mississippi.
  5. Signoret 1978, pp. 324–328.
  6. Sutcliffe, Tom. "Sir Alec Guinness". Film Guardian, 7 August 2000.
  7. "Berlinale 1971: Prize Winners". Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  8. Source: "What Happened, Miss Simone", documentary on Nina Simone's life, 2015


  • DeMaio, Patricia A. "Garden Of Dreams: The Life of Simone Signoret," 2014
  • Monush, Barry (ed). The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors From the Silent Era to 1965. New York: Applause Books, 2003. ISBN   1-55783-551-9.
  • Signoret, Simone. Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978. ISBN   0-297-77417-4.