Danielle Darrieux, a luminous beauty of French cinema whose portrayals of wistful ingenues, romantic temptresses and tragic adultresses spanned more than eight decades, died Oct. 18 at her home in Bois-le-Roi, France. She was 100.
Her companion, Jacques Jenvrin, confirmed the death but did not provide the cause.
Ms. Darrieux’s poise, languid glamour and fine singing voice catapulted her to stardom as a teenager in the early 1930s and kept her there for decades, whether in melodramas, frisky comedies or light musicals. She appeared in well over 100 films in addition to her work in television and theater.
Her career was seriously threatened immediately after World War II, when she faced accusations of collaboration with the wartime Vichy regime and the German government. But she managed to clear her name, and her career continued unimpeded through the years.
If her pre-war movies emphasized her sparkle and charm, the postwar years elicited some of her most riveting dramatic performances. Much of her critical legacy rests on three celebrated films she made with director Max Ophuls: “La Ronde” (1950), “Le Plaisir” (1952) and “The Earrings of Madame de ...” (1953).
They are love stories, droll, anguished and highly theatrical in their plotting and swirling camera movements. In “La Ronde,” she was the understanding paramour of a young man facing sudden impotence. She was a prostitute in “Le Plaisir,” based on stories by Guy de Maupassant, and in “Earrings” she played an aristocratic officer’s bored wife whose life is upended when she finds passion outside her marriage.
“These are extraordinary pieces of filmmaking,” Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan said in an interview for this obituary. “If you love film as visual medium, these are some of the masterpieces, and Darrieux was one of Ophuls’ muses. ‘Earrings’ is a quintessentially romantic film but a very artificial story, and it takes a really great actress to take this artificial character — an artificial character in an artificial art — to make it real and moving and subtle. She is quite a presence.”
Ms. Darrieux brought a tender and restrained sympathy to what she regarded as her most delicately calibrated performance: the married woman who falls in love with an opportunistic young man (Gerard Philipe) in “Le rouge et le noir” (“The Red and the Black,” 1954), based on the Stendhal novel set in post-Napoleonic France.
In addition to her movie roles, Ms. Darrieux worked in television and theater. In 1970, she replaced Katharine Hepburn on Broadway as the indomitable Gallic entrepreneur Coco Chanel in the musical “Coco.”
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