Beautiful siren of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve has been a sex symbol and acclaimed actress for over half a century. Beloved icon of Gallic beauty, Catherine was so admired by her people that she would eventually become synonymous with the very symbol of the French people. Something akin to a French Nicole Kidman, much of her fame as an actress is rooted in the films produced in her home nation. Though her unparalleled beauty and grace has made her an icon around the world.
Born Catherine Fabienne Dorléac in occupied Paris in 1943, Catherine was the daughter of a prominent stage and screen actor Maurice Dorléac. Following her father's lead early in her life, Catherine made her film debut at the age of 11. Quickly enraptured by the glitz and glamor of motion picture making, yet not wanting to trade on nepotism, Catherine chose to adopt her mother's maiden name, Deneuve, and set out to make her name.
Of course, sometimes things don't always work out the way you plan. Taking a break from the fast track to breakthrough French cinema phenom, Catherine instead chose at the age of 17 to live with director and mentor Roger Vadim, a man almost twice her age. The two would go on to have a child together 2 years later and then almost immediately split.
One might dismiss such a choice as the misplaced ebullience of a young girl, infatuated with her director lover. Except, she did nearly the same thing shortly thereafter, marrying photographer David Bailey after an all too brief courtship. Unfortunately their relationship was doomed to failure, as he spoke next to no French and she was anything but fluent in English. The two soon parted amicably, as did Catherine's interest in marriage from that time forth.
Despite her manic personal life, or even perhaps because of it, Catherine continued to make movies and make a name for herself in French cinema of the 1960s. Working with some of the most acclaimed French filmmakers of her time, her films soon began to garner her worldwide attention and she became a darling of art house film fans. In the US her already extensive filmography made her a symbol not only of French cinema, but also as a symbol of the beauty of French women. This acclaim would come in handy for her later on.
Despite her growing fame around the world, a move into Hollywood films was never a priority for Catherine. She would make a few small films in the US during the late 60s and 70s, but they were mostly overlooked. It wasn't until Catherine became the spokesperson for Chanel No. 5 perfume that she truly arrived as a major name in the US. Her beauty and sophistication instantly skyrocketed sales of Chanel No. 5 to new heights. This would win her a reputation as the most elegant woman in the world and instantly propel her out of the art house scene and into true worldwide superstardom.
Of course, for many, her true claim to fame was her role as the ancient vampire seductress Miriam in 1983's THE HUNGER. After essentially draining the life out of her boy toy, played by David Bowie in the movie, she turns her sights on a much younger and much more naked Susan Sarandon, playing a doctor who becomes infatuated with Miriam and her vampiric charms. What happens next has become the stuff of late night movie legend. Check it out below (for the impatient, you can fast-forward to 4:20 to see the goods. Definitely NSFW, btw).
After 30 years as a top name in French cinema, Catherine was selected in the mid 80s for one of her country's greatest honors - representing Marianne, the female symbol of resistance and fortitude of the French people for 200 years, on French currency and stamps. This honor was eventually followed up by an entirely different honor - her first Oscar nomination, which would come a few years later for her performance in the 1992 film INDOCHINE, where she played a plantation owner in 1930s Vietnam who has an affair with a younger man. A true beauty, even at the ripe old age of 50, Catherine proved that she could still turn on the sexy and make it work.
With over 100 films on her resume, Catherine is not only still a major name, but also still cranking out the films in her native land. A legendary woman with few equals for sheer beauty and grace, Ms. Deneuve was and is very much an icon, not only of her people, but of cinema as a whole.