Brigitte Bardot is a former world-famous actress, sex idol, and fashion model who later became an animal rights activist. She began on an acting career during the 1950s and sooon became one of the best known sex symbols of that era. Blessed with radiant natural beauty, poise and grace, Bardot was the epitome of sexual femininity and gained a reputation for her free-flowing sensuality that made her famous all over the world.
Brigitte Bardo was introduced to dance as a young girl and developed a passion for it. Her mother was artistic and encouraged her daughter to attend ballet classes by Russian choreographer Boris Knyazev.
In her teens, Brigitte Bardo began modeling when she was just 15 and appeared on the cover of "Elle' magazine. A chance encounter with the young film director, Roger Vadim gave her the chance to enter the world of movies. She made her acting debut in a comedy film and soon endeared herself to the audiences. Eventually she gained a reputation as a sex symbol because of her sensuous beauty and became one of the best known actresses of the 1950s and 1960s. Following her retirement from the show business, she became an active animal rights activist and established the Foundation for the Protection of Distressed Animals.
She was a major icon of fashion during the 1950s and through the 70s. She influenced fashion trends, such as the popularity of the bikini. Since retiring from the entertainment industry in the 1970s, she has become a committed animal rights activist. She has also created controversy for criticising immigration and Islam in France.
Brigitte Bardot was born 28 September 1934 in Paris to a traditional Roman Catholic family. As a youngster, she was enrolled in a ballet school, and through studying at the Conservatoire de Paris became a skilled dancer.
Aged 15, she also began her first modelling job, and a year later had appeared on the front cover of Elle. Her modelling career gave her an international profile, and in 1952, she gained her first acting job, appearing in a comedy "Le Trou Normand.'
In 1952, she also married Roger Vadim, seven years her senior and a Russian Orthodox Christian. The marriage lasted only five years, but their relationship continued and was important for helping her acting career.
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born on 28 September 1934 in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, to Louis Bardot and Anne-Marie Mucel. Bardot's father, originated from Ligny-en-Barrois, was an engineer and the proprietor of several industrial factories in Paris. Her mother was the daughter of an insurance company director. She grew up in a conservative Catholic family, as had her father. She suffered from amblyopia as a child, which resulted in decreased vision of her left eye. She has one younger sister, Mijanou.
Bardot's childhood was prosperous; she lived in her family's seven-bedroom apartment in the luxurious 16th arrondissement. However, she recalled feeling resentful in her early years. Her father demanded she follow strict behavioural standards, including good table manners, and that she wear appropriate clothes. Her mother was extremely selective in choosing companions for her, and as a result Bardot had very few childhood friends. Bardot cited a personal traumatic incident when she and her sister broke her parents' favourite vase while they were playing in the house; her father whipped the sisters 20 times and henceforth treated them like 'strangers', demanding them to address their parents by the pronoun 'vous', which is a formal style of address, used when speaking to unfamiliar or higher-status persons outside the immediate family. The incident decisively led to Bardot resenting her parents, and to her future rebellious lifestyle. During World War II, when Paris was occupied by Nazi Germany, Bardot spent more time at home due to increasingly strict civilian surveillance. She became engrossed in dancing to records, which her mother saw as a potential for a ballet career. Bardot was admitted at the age of seven to the private school Cours Hattemer. She went to school three days a week, which gave her ample time to take dance lessons at a local studio, under her mother's arrangements. In 1949, Bardot was accepted at the Conservatoire de Paris. For three years she attended ballet classes held by Russian choreographer Boris Knyazev. She also studied at the Institut de la Tour, a private Catholic high school near her home.
Hélène Gordon-Lazareff, the then-director of the magazines Elle and Le Jardin des Modes, hired Bardot in 1949 as a 'junior' fashion model. On 8 March 1950, Bardot appeared on the cover of Elle, which brought her an acting offer for the film Les Lauriers sont coupés from director Marc Allégret. Her parents opposed her becoming an actress, but her grandfather was supportive, saying that 'If this little girl is to become a whore, cinema will not be the cause.' At the audition, Bardot met Roger Vadim, who later notified her that she did not get the role. They subsequently fell in love. Her parents fiercely opposed their relationship; her father announced to her one evening that she would continue her education in England and that he had bought her a train ticket, the journey to take place the following day. Bardot reacted by putting her head into an oven with open fire; her parents stopped her and ultimately accepted the relationship, on condition that she marry Vadim at the age of 18.
Beginnings Bardot appeared on the cover of Elle again in 1952, which landed her a movie offer for the comedy Crazy for Love, starring Bourvil and directed by Jean Boyer. She was paid 200,000 francs for the small role portraying a cousin of the main character. Bardot had her second film role in Manina, the Girl in the Bikini, directed by Willy Rozier. She also had roles in the films The Long Teeth and His Father's Portrait .
Bardot had a small role in a Hollywood-financed film being shot in Paris, Act of Love, starring Kirk Douglas. She received media attention when she attended the Cannes Film Festival in April 1953.
Bardot had a leading role in an Italian melodrama, Concert of Intrigue and in a French adventure film, Caroline and the Rebels . She had a good part as a flirtatious student in School for Love, opposite Jean Marais, for director Marc Allégret.
Bardot in 1953 Bardot played her first sizeable English-language role in Doctor at Sea, as the love interest for Dirk Bogarde. The film was the third-most popular movie at the British box-office that year.
She had a small role in The Grand Maneuver for director René Clair, supporting Gérard Philipe and Michelle Morgan. The part was bigger in The Light Across the Street for director Georges Lacombe. She did another with Hollywood film, Helen of Troy, playing Helen's handmaiden.
For the Italian movie Mio figlio Nerone Bardot was asked by the director to appear as a blonde. Rather than wear a wig to hide her naturally brunette hair she decided to dye her hair. She was so pleased with the results that she decided to retain the hair colour.
Rise to stardom Bardot then appeared in four movies that made her a star. First up was a musical, Naughty Girl, where Bardot played a troublesome school girl. Directed by Michel Boisrond, it was co-written by Roger Vadim and was a big hit, the 12th most popular film of the year in France. It was followed by a comedy, Plucking the Daisy, written by Vadim with the director Marc Allégret, and another success at France. So too was the comedy The Bride Is Much Too Beautiful with Louis Jourdan.
Finally there was the melodrama And God Created Woman, Vadim's debut as director, with Bardot starring opposite Jean-Louis Trintignant and Curt Jurgens. The film, about an immoral teenager in a respectable small-town setting, was a huge success, not just in France but also around the world – it was among the ten most popular films in Britain in 1957. It turned Bardot into an international star. From at least 1956, she was being hailed as the 'sex kitten'. The film scandalized the United States and theatre managers were arrested for screening it.
Bardot during 1958 Venice Film Festival During her early career, professional photographer Sam Lévin's photos contributed to the image of Bardot's sensuality. One showed Bardot from behind, dressed in a white corset. British photographer Cornel Lucas made images of Bardot in the 1950s and 1960s that have become representative of her public persona.
Bardot followed And God Created Woman with La Parisienne, a comedy co-starring Charles Boyer for director Boisrond. She was reunited with Vadim in another melodrama The Night Heaven Fell and played a criminal who seduced Jean Gabin in In Case of Adversity . The latter was the 13th most seen movie of the year in France.
The Female for director Julien Duvivier was popular, but Babette Goes to War, a comedy set in World War II, was a huge hit, the fourth biggest movie of the year in France. Also widely seen was Come Dance with Me from Boisrond.
Her next film was the courtroom drama The Truth, from Henri-Georges Clouzot. It was a highly publicised production, which resulted in Bardot having an affair and attempting suicide. The film was Bardot's biggest ever commercial success in France, the third biggest hit of the year, and was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. Bardot was awarded a David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign actress for her role in the film.
She made a comedy with Vadim, Please, Not Now! and had a role in the all-star anthology, Famous Love Affairs.
Bardot starred alongside Marcello Mastroianni in a film inspired by her life in A Very Private Affair, directed by Louis Malle. More popular in France was Love on a Pillow, another for Vadim.
International films and singing career In the mid-1960s, Bardot made films which seemed to be more aimed at the international market. She starred in Jean-Luc Godard's film Le Mépris, produced by Joseph E. Levine and starring Jack Palance. The following year she co-starred with Anthony Perkins in the comedy Une ravissante idiote .
Dear Brigitte, Bardot's first Hollywood film, was a comedy starring James Stewart as an academic whose son develops a crush on Bardot. Bardot's appearance was relatively brief and the film was not a big hit.
More successful was the Western buddy comedy Viva Maria! for director Louis Malle, appearing opposite Jeanne Moreau. It was a big hit in France and around the world although it did not break through in the US as much as it had been hoped.
Bardot visiting Brazil, 1964 After a cameo in Godard's Masculin Féminin, she had her first outright flop for some years, Two Weeks in September, a French–English co-production. She had a small role in the all-star Spirits of the Dead, acting opposite Alain Delon, then tried a Hollywood film again: Shalako, a Western starring Sean Connery, which was a box-office disappointment.
She participated in several musical shows and recorded many popular songs in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly in collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg, Bob Zagury and Sacha Distel, including 'Harley Davidson'; 'Je Me Donne À Qui Me Plaît'; 'Bubble gum'; 'Contact'; 'Je Reviendrai Toujours Vers Toi'; 'L'Appareil À Sous'; 'La Madrague'; 'On Déménage'; 'Sidonie'; 'Tu Veux, Ou Tu Veux Pas?'; 'Le Soleil De Ma Vie' ; and 'Je t'aime... moi non-plus'. Bardot pleaded with Gainsbourg not to release this duet and he complied with her wishes; the following year, he rerecorded a version with British-born model and actress Jane Birkin that became a massive hit all over Europe. The version with Bardot was issued in 1986 and became a popular download hit in 2006 when Universal Music made its back catalogue available to purchase online, with this version of the song ranking as the third most popular download.
Final films From 1969 to 1978, Bardot was the official face of Marianne to represent the liberty of France.
Bardot in 1968 Les Femmes was a flop, although the screwball comedy The Bear and the Doll performed slightly better. Her last few films were mostly comedies: Les Novices, Boulevard du Rhum . The Legend of Frenchie King was more popular, helped by Bardot co-starring with Claudia Cardinale. She made one more with Vadim, Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman, playing the title role. Vadim said the film marked 'Underneath what people call 'the Bardot myth' was something interesting, even though she was never considered the most professional actress in the world. For years, since she has been growing older, and the Bardot myth has become just a souvenir... I was curious in her as a woman and I had to get to the end of something with her, to get out of her and express many things I felt were in her. Brigitte always gave the impression of sexual freedom – she is a completely open and free person, without any aggression. So I gave her the part of a man – that amused me'.
'If Don Juan is not my last movie it will be my next to last', said Bardot during filming. She kept her word and only made one more film, The Edifying and Joyous Story of Colinot .
In 1973, Bardot announced she was retiring from acting as 'a way to get out elegantly.
Animal rights activism After appearing in more than forty motion pictures and recording several music albums she used her fame to promote animal rights.
In 1986, she established the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals. She became a vegetarian and raised three million francs to fund the foundation by auctioning off jewellery and personal belongings.
She is a strong animal rights activist and a major opponent of the consumption of horse meat. In support of animal protection, she condemned seal hunting in Canada during a visit to that country with Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. On 25 May 2011 the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society renamed its fast interceptor vessel, MV Gojira, as MV Brigitte Bardot in appreciation of her support.
She once had a neighbour's donkey castrated while looking after it, on the grounds of its 'sexual harassment' of her own donkey and mare, for which she was taken to court by the donkey's owner in 1989. Bardot wrote a 1999 letter to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, published in French magazine VSD, in which she accused the Chinese of 'torturing bears and killing the world's last tigers and rhinos to make aphrodisiacs'.
She has donated more than $140,000 over two years for a mass sterilization and adoption program for Bucharest's stray dogs, estimated to number 300,000.
In August 2010, Bardot addressed a letter to the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II of Denmark, appealing for the sovereign to halt the killing of dolphins in the Faroe Islands. In the letter, Bardot describes the activity as a 'macabre spectacle' that 'is a shame for Denmark and the Faroe Islands ... This is not a hunt but a mass slaughter ... an outmoded tradition that has no acceptable justification in today's world'.
On 22 April 2011, French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand officially included bullfighting in the country's cultural heritage. Bardot wrote him a highly critical letter of protest.
From 2013 onwards, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation in collaboration with Kagyupa International Monlam Trust of India has operated an annual Veterinary Care Camp. She has committed to the cause of animal welfare in Bodhgaya year after year.
On 23 July 2015, Bardot condemned Australian politician Greg Hunt's plan to eradicate 2 million cats to save endangered species such as the Warru and Night parrot.
Personal life Bardot and Sami Frey in Saint-Tropez, 1963 On 20 December 1952, aged 18, Bardot married director Roger Vadim. They divorced in 1957; they had no children together, but remained in touch, and even collaborated on later projects. The stated reason for the divorce was Bardot's affairs with two other men. In 1956, she had become romantically involved with Jean-Louis Trintignant, who was her co-star in And God Created Woman. Trintignant at the time was married to actress Stéphane Audran. The two lived together for about two years, spanning the period before and after Bardot's divorce from Vadim, but they never married. Their relationship was complicated by Trintignant's frequent absence due to military service and Bardot's affair with musician Gilbert Bécaud.
In early 1958, her break-up with Trintignant was followed in quick order by a reported nervous breakdown in Italy, according to newspaper reports. A suicide attempt with sleeping pills two days earlier was also noted, but was denied by her public relations manager. She recovered within weeks and began a relationship with actor Jacques Charrier. She became pregnant well before they were married on 18 June 1959. Bardot's only child, her son Nicolas-Jacques Charrier, was born on 11 January 1960. After she and Charrier divorced in 1962, Nicolas was raised in the Charrier family and had little contact with his biological mother until his adulthood.
Bardot had an affair with Glenn Ford in the early 1960s. From 1963 to 1965, she lived with musician Bob Zagury.
Bardot's third marriage was to German millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs, lasting from 14 July 1966 to 7 October 1969, though they had separated the previous year. In 1968, she began dating Patrick Gilles, who co-starred with her in The Bear and the Doll ; but she ended their relationship in spring 1971.
Over the next few years, Bardot dated in succession bartender/ski instructor Christian Kalt, club owner Luigi Rizzi, singer Serge Gainsbourg, writer John Gilmore, actor Warren Beatty, and Laurent Vergez, her co-star in Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman.
In 1974, Bardot appeared in a nude photo shoot in Playboy magazine, which celebrated her 40th birthday. In 1975, she entered a relationship with artist Miroslav Brozek and posed for some of his sculptures. Brozek was also an actor; his stage name is Jean Blaise . The couple lived together at the house La Madrague in Saint-Tropez. They separated in December 1979.
From 1980 to 1985, Bardot had a live-in relationship with French TV producer Allain Bougrain-Dubourg .
On 28 September 1983, her 49th birthday, Bardot took an overdose of sleeping pills or tranquilizers with red wine. She had to be rushed to the hospital, where her life was saved after a stomach pump was used to evacuate the pills from her body.
Bardot was treated for breast cancer in 1983 and 1984.
Bardot's fourth and current husband is Bernard d'Ormale; they have been married since 16 August 1992.
Politics and legal issues Bardot expressed support for President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s.
In her 1999 book Le Carré de Pluton, Bardot criticizes the procedure used in the ritual slaughter of sheep during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. Additionally, in a section in the book entitled, 'Open Letter to My Lost France', Bardot writes that 'my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims'. For this comment, a French court fined her 30,000 francs in June 2000. She had been fined in 1997 for the original publication of this open letter in Le Figaro and again in 1998 for making similar remarks.
Bardot and John Paul II in Rome, 1995 In her 2003 book, Un cri dans le silence, she contrasted her close gay friends with homosexuals who 'jiggle their bottoms, put their little fingers in the air and with their little castrato voices moan about what those ghastly heteros put them through,' and said some contemporary homosexuals behave like 'fairground freaks'. In her own defence, Bardot wrote in a letter to a French gay magazine: 'Apart from my husband — who maybe will cross over one day as well — I am entirely surrounded by homos. For years, they have been my support, my friends, my adopted children, my confidants.'
In her book she wrote about issues such as racial mixing, immigration, the role of women in politics, and Islam. The book also contained a section attacking what she called the mixing of genes and praised previous generations who, she said, had given their lives to push out invaders.
On 10 June 2004, Bardot was convicted for a fourth time by a French court for inciting racial hatred and fined €5,000. Bardot denied the racial hatred charge and apologized in court, saying: 'I never knowingly wanted to hurt anybody. It is not in my character.'
In 2008, Bardot was convicted of inciting racial/religious hatred in regard to a letter she wrote, a copy of which she sent to Nicolas Sarkozy when he was Interior Minister of France. The letter stated her objections to Muslims in France ritually slaughtering sheep by slitting their throats without anesthetizing them first. She also said, in reference to Muslims, that she was 'fed up with being under the thumb of this population which is destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its habits'. The trial concluded on 3 June 2008, with a conviction and fine of €15,000, the largest of her fines to date. The prosecutor stated she was tired of charging Bardot with offences related to racial hatred.
During the 2008 United States presidential election, she branded the Republican Party vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as 'stupid' and a 'disgrace to women'. She criticized the former governor of Alaska for her stance on global warming and gun control. She was also offended by Palin's support for Arctic oil exploration and by her lack of consideration in protecting polar bears.
On 13 August 2010, Bardot lashed out at director Kyle Newman regarding his plan to make a biographical film on her life. She told him, 'Wait until I'm dead before you make a movie about my life!' otherwise 'sparks will fly. In 2015, she threatened to sue a St. Tropez boutique selling items with her face on them.
In 2018, Bardot expressed support for the yellow vests movement.
On 19 March 2019, Bardot sent an open letter to Réunion prefect Amaury de Saint-Quentin in which she accused inhabitants of the Indian Ocean island of animal cruelty and referred to them as 'aboriginals who have kept the genes of savages.' The public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against her the following day, once again for inciting racial hatred.
Connections to Le Pen Bardot's husband Bernard d'Ormale is a former adviser to Jean-Marie Le Pen, former leader of the far right party National Front, the main far-right party in France, known for its nationalist beliefs. Bardot expressed support for Marine le Pen, leader of the National Front, calling her 'the Joan of Arc of the 21st century. She endorsed Le Pen in the 2012 and 2017 French presidential elections.
Legacy In fashion, the Bardot neckline is named after her. Bardot popularized this style which is especially used for knitted sweaters or jumpers although it is also used for other tops and dresses. Bardot popularized the bikini in her early films such as Manina . The following year she was also photographed in a bikini on every beach in the south of France during the Cannes Film Festival. She gained additional attention when she filmed ...And God Created Woman with Jean-Louis Trintignant . In it Bardot portrays an immoral teenager cavorting in a bikini who seduces men in a respectable small-town setting. The film was an international success. The bikini was in the 1950s relatively well accepted in France but was still considered risqué in the United States. As late as 1959, Anne Cole, one of the United States' largest swimsuit designers, said, 'It's nothing more than a G-string. It's at the razor's edge of decency.'
She also brought into fashion the choucroute hairstyle and gingham clothes after wearing a checkered pink dress, designed by Jacques Esterel, at her wedding to Charrier. She was the subject of an Andy Warhol painting.
Bardot's fashion in 1961 The Bardot pose describes an iconic modeling portrait shot around 1960 where Bardot is dressed only in a pair of black pantyhose, cross-legged over her front and cross-armed over her breasts. This pose has been emulated numerous times by models and celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Elle Macpherson and Monica Bellucci.
In addition to popularizing the bikini swimming suit, Bardot has been credited with popularizing the city of St. Tropez and the town of Armação dos Búzios in Brazil, which she visited in 1964 with her boyfriend at the time, Brazilian musician Bob Zagury. The place where she stayed in Búzios is today a small hotel, Pousada do Sol, and also a French restaurant, Cigalon. The town hosts a Bardot statue by Christina Motta.
Brigitte Bardot statue in Búzios, Brazil Bardot was idolized by the young John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They made plans to shoot a film featuring The Beatles and Bardot, similar to A Hard Day's Night, but the plans were never fulfilled. Lennon's first wife Cynthia Powell lightened her hair color to more closely resemble Bardot, while George Harrison made comparisons between Bardot and his first wife Pattie Boyd, as Cynthia wrote later in A Twist of Lennon. Lennon and Bardot met in person once, in 1968 at the Mayfair Hotel, introduced by Beatles press agent Derek Taylor; a nervous Lennon took LSD before arriving, and neither star impressed the other. According to the liner notes of his first album, musician Bob Dylan dedicated the first song he ever wrote to Bardot. He also mentioned her by name in 'I Shall Be Free', which appeared on his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The first-ever official exhibition spotlighting Bardot's influence and legacy opened in Boulogne-Billancourt on 29 September 2009 – a day after her 75th birthday. The Australian pop group Bardot was named after her.
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