Obituaries

Danielle Darrieux, 100, French film star

NEW YORK — Danielle Darrieux, the French actress and singer whose career of sophisticated film roles spanned eight decades and indelible incarnations as ingénue, coquette, femme fatale, and grande dame, died Tuesday at her home in Bois-le-Roi, France, south of Paris. She was 100.

When the Cinémathèque Française à Paris honored Ms. Darrieux with a retrospective in 2009, more than 90 of her films were screened, yet at least a score were left out. If Ms. Darrieux — who was beloved by her countrymen as D.D. — had a career prime, it was the 1950s, in which she typified the desirable European married woman.

Ms. Darrieux became an international film star in Anatole Litvak’s “Mayerling” (1936), playing the mistress of Rodolfo (Charles Boyer), crown prince of Austria, in a retelling of the Habsburg tragedy. American critics praised both her beauty and her performance. She was 19 and it was her 19th film.

Advertisement

Her new stardom was ratified by a timeless phenomenon: Women around the world copied her hairstyle. “Danielle Darrieux appears with her hair bundled on top of her head in ‘Mayerling,’” Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times in 1938, reviewing another film entirely. “And a few months later, all the girls are building bird’s nests in their tresses.”

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Ms. Darrieux had an abbreviated chance at Hollywood stardom, traveling to the United States in 1937 and signing a contract with Universal. She was cast as a woman looking for a rich husband in “The Rage of Paris” (1938), which starred Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

But after dipping her toe in the Hollywood waters, she declined to plunge in, returning to France and, pleading illness, delayed her return. Again and again.

By the time she made her next American movie, she was in her 30s and, by Hollywood standards, ready for older-generation roles. She was cast as Jane Powell’s long-lost mother in “Rich, Young and Pretty” (1951). In 1956 she played Richard Burton’s mother (although she was only eight years his senior) in “Alexander the Great.”

Back in France, directors clamored to work with her. Claude Chabrol cast her in “Landru” (1963) as one of a Blackbeard-like character’s victims. Jacques Demy’s musical comic drama “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort” (1967) was one of several occasions when Ms. Darrieux played Catherine Deneuve’s mother.