Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Michèle Morgan : for his eyes, for his voice – Obs

“Kiss me !”. In all that she can have daily or even trite, the reply written by Jacques Prévert and launched in response to the “You have beautiful eyes, you know” Jean Gabin was among the most famous in the history of French cinema. The day she declares, Michèle Morgan just turned 18 years old, and Gabin has 15 more. “Quai des Brumes” is the ninth movie of the one who is born Simone Renée Roussel on February 29, 1920, a so-called first Simone Morgan, the time of two films where she was only to appear, before choosing to name Michèle. The name of Morgan would come of the Morgan bank, which the name the was a dream of Hollywood…

Its first character marking, it must to Marc Allégret, is that of a young girl accused of the murder of her lover, with face with the great Raimu in the role of a juror convinced of his innocence : “Spicy” comes out in theaters in September of 1937, here is Michèle Morgan elevated to the rank of star, even as Danielle Darrieux, three years his senior, was already at his 25th film.

undated Photo (Lido / Sipa)


Then, there will be particular “Storm”, another film by Marc Allégret, and then “Quai des Brumes” (Marcel Carné) and “Trailers” (Jean Grémillon, always with Jean Gabin). Then there was the war, and then the young actress sailed for America, and to Hollywood, where a contract is waiting, where she married William Marshall (which will thereafter be the husband of Micheline Presle, the other grande dame of French cinema, and one of Ginger Rogers). In Beverly Hills, she will build a house that will become tragically famous twenty years later, when it was the scene of the massacre perpetrated by Charles Manson and his band of cracked.

In Hollywood, it will not find the roles that may enhance it : a practice incorrectly assured the language would have deprived it of the character that will interpret Joan Fontaine in “Suspicion” (Hitchcock) and the one played by Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”. Certain decisions that are unhappy will prevent it from imposing. But upon his return to France, she meets a great success thanks to the young blind of the novel by André Gide, “La Symphonie pastorale”, as brought to the screen by Jean Delannoy, movie since fallen in a fair enough omission.

With Bouvil, Gérard Philippe…

The drama, if there is one, is that the fate that has known “The pastoral Symphony” is also one of the most of the movies shot by the actress, years 30 except. Michèle Morgan has been working in France, many, Italy a little, but of the approximately 40 films in which she appears in the years 50 and 60, they only remain low : “The Proud” (Yves Allegret, 1953), because it was Gérard Philipe as a partner ? Yes, if one wants to. “The Big Maneuvers” (René Clair, 1954), also with Gérard Philippe ? Without a doubt, because it is there that she becomes the great lady, who requires that men respect, but reveals faults, unsuspected, a job in which she excels.

“The Mirror has two sides to it” (André Cayatte, 1958) ? Yes, because Bourvil, and because the filming makes the encounter with Gérard Oury, which it will share the life until his death in 2006. And since it was a question of Bourvil, add “Fortunat” (Alex Joffé, 1960), the story of an impossible love under the occupation, in which she shows great. And then still the “Landru” of Claude Chabrol, one of the few who have been able to get her out of her job customary.


oversights ? There are necessarily, but the career of Michèle Morgan appears with the passing of the years below to the image that his early films had drawn of her and not quite worthy of the promises they had made to be born. What other actress, it is true, can claim to be passed without the release of a great role in a masterpiece ? No, and no actor either. However, it is not surprising that Michèle Morgan had grown tired of the cinema, she who in the aftermath of ‘Benjamin or Memories of a virgin” (Michel Deville, 1968), announced that it had ended with the profession of actress.

this fatigue, “With these eyes”, the book she published in 1977, bears the trace of each of its pages, or almost. Only Claude Lelouch manages to get her out of her seclusion, and on three occasions, offering him including one of his finest roles in “The Cat and the Mouse” (1975). She also tried his hand at theatre, which once made him so afraid, with a certain happiness, playing in particular, “Honey”, Colette, in a staging of Jean-Laurent Cochet, but it did not hide that his great, true and only passion now was the paint. In 2001, she announced her permanent withdrawal from public life. She died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, where she was born, but Neuilly in 1920 there was not, of course, not what it has become today.

It is likely to be told that his eyes will fail us, which, no doubt, is true. We will say less, perhaps, that his voice will continue to resonate as long as we will continue to show movies. And there, there will not be reason, because, the voices of Michèle Morgan, it was something also. To convince yourself, if need be, just to hear him say, again and again, “Kiss me.”

Pascal Mérigeau


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