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Magali Noel, 83; prolific actress caused stir with song

Ms. Noel (right) posed with Italian actress Claudia Cardinale during the Cannes Film Festival in 1974.AFP/Getty Images/file

NEW YORK — Magali Noel, a Turkish-born French singer and actress who became a favorite of the director Federico Fellini and whose rendition of the song “Fais-Moi Mal, Johnny” (“Hurt Me, Johnny”) proved scandalous because of its masochistic lyrics, died June 23 in Chateauneuf-Grasse, in southeastern France. She was 83.

Her death, at a nursing home, was announced by Stéphanie Vial-Noel, her daughter with the actor Jean-Pierre Bernard, according to Agence France-Presse.

Beginning in 1951, Ms. Noel appeared in nearly 100 films, including Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (1960), in which she played a chorus girl, and “Satyricon” (1969), as Trimalchio’s wife, Fortunata. In Fellini’s “Amarcord” (1973), she played Gradisca, whom Vincent Canby, writing in The New York Times, described as “the town hairdresser, a silly, pretty, immaculately groomed (she even wears her saucy red beret to bed) femme fatale who dreams of Gary Cooper but settles down with a stodgy policeman.”

Her daughter described Ms. Noel as “the muse of Federico.”


“It was a great relationship,” she said. “Platonic or not at the start, I do not know.”

Among her many other film roles, Ms. Noel appeared in “Rififi,” Jules Dassin’s 1955 crime drama; “Elena and Her Men,” Jean Renoir’s 1956 tale of politics and romance, with Ingrid Bergman; and “Z,” Costa-Gavras’s 1969 political thriller.

Magali Noelle Guiffray was born June 27, 1931, to French parents in Izmir, formerly known as Smyrna, in western Turkey, where they were serving in the diplomatic corps. In 1951 she moved to France and appeared in her first film, a comedy titled “Demain Nous Divorçons” (“Tomorrow We Get Divorced”).

Scores of film roles followed in French and Italian productions, mostly through the 1980s. She later appeared in television movies.

Information on survivors besides her daughter was not immediately available.

Ms. Noel began her recording career in 1956, scandalizing radio listeners and live audiences with Boris Vian’s lyrics to “Fais-Moi Mal, Johnny,” one of the first French rock ‘n’ roll songs. While the song might seem relatively tame today, it was said to have been censored by some French radio stations and criticized by the Roman Catholic Church.


When she performed live, Ms. Noel sometimes muted the lyrics in which the singer urges Johnny, naked except for blue-striped yellow socks, to hurt her. In the original, she sings that she likes loving “that goes boom” but draws the line at “love that goes bing” and laments that he leaves her with a dislocated shoulder and a bruised backside.