Brigitte Bardot, the cinema darling of the French New Wave and a blonde bombshell, was one of the most prominent European sex symbols of the 1950s to 60s. Let’s get to know her a little bit more.
Who is Brigitte Bardot?
Brigitte Bardot is a dancer, model, and actress who became an international icon due to her exemplary beauty and sexy roles. She graced the cover of Elle magazine as a teen and gained international recognition for her role in the controversial And God Created Woman (1957). Famous for portraying sexually emancipated roles with hedonistic lifestyles, she became known as a sex symbol of the 1950s to 1960s. Bardot is considered as the first and most liberated woman of post-war France.
She appeared in dozens of films over her career in France and in Hollywood and retired from acting in the 1970s. During her retirement, she devoted her life to animal activism.
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born on September 28, 1934, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris to Anne-Marie Mucel and Louis Bardot. Brigitte had a prosperous childhood, as her father was an engineer and proprietor of several factories, while her mother was a daughter of an insurance company director. Their family lived in a seven-bedroom apartment in the luxurious 16th arrondissement.
During World War II, when the Nazis occupied Paris, Bardot spent more time at home and became engrossed with dancing to phonograph records. At the age of seven, Bardot was admitted to a private school that gave her ample time to take ballet dance lessons at a local studio, under her mother’s arrangements. For three years, she attended ballet classes at the Conservatoire de Paris since 1949.
The then-director of Elle magazine hired Bardot in 1949 to be a “junior” fashion model. In March 1950, when Bardot was only 15 years old, she appeared on the cover of Elle. This brought her an acting offer for the film Les Lauriers sont coupés, directed by Marc Allégret. She did not get the role, but she met Roger Vadim, her future first husband, at the audition.
Bardot appeared on the cover of Elle again in 1952, which landed her a movie offer for Crazy for Love (1952). That same year, she married Vadim at 18 years of age, with her parents’ consent. She appeared in a couple of films before she rose to stardom, including a romantic leading lady in La Lumiere d’en Face (1954) and a handmaiden in Helen of Troy (1955).
Rise to Fame
Bardot appeared in four films that made her famous. First was a musical entitled Naughty Girl (1956), where Bardot played a troublesome school girl. She also appeared in a comedy Plucking the Daisy (1956), written by Vadim, and in The Bride is Much Too Beautiful (1956).
Then she starred in the melodrama And God Created Woman (1956), which was Vadim’s debut as a director. The film, which was about an immoral teenager in a respectable small town, became a huge success in France and also around the world. The film was noted for its sensual dynamics and daring nudity, making it popular with moviegoers. It brought Bardot to international fame, and since then, she was hailed as the sex kitten.
Bardot and Vadim divorced after five years of marriage but maintained a professional relationship. Bardot starred in other projects like The Parisienne (1957), The Night Heaven Fell (1958), In Case of Adversity (1958), The Female (1959), and Babette Goes to War (1959). In the late 1950s, Bardot married actor Jacques Charrier, by whom she had a son and only child.
During the making of La Verité (1960), Bardot had an affair and attempted suicide. Decades later, Bardot opened up about her suicide attempt, talking about how nightmarish the celebrity world has become. The film turned out to be Bardot’s biggest commercial success in France and was even nominated for an Oscar award for Best Foreign Film.
Final Films and Singing Career
During the mid-1960s, Bardot made films that are aimed at international markets. She co-starred with Hollywood stars like Jack Palance, Anthony Perkins, James Stewart, and Sean Connery. Much of her later films weren’t a big hit. She divorced with his husband Jacques Charrier in 1962 and then married German millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs in 1966. They divorced after three years.
In the 1960s to 70s, Bardot participated in several musical shows and recorded some popular songs. She released albums such as Brigitte Bardot Sings (1960), and Special Bardot (1968). Also, she recorded hits with French songwriter and vocalist Serge Gainsbourg.
Years later, she was married to right-wing political aide Bernard d’Ormale in 1992. The couple is still together.
In 1973, Bardot retired from acting and lived in St. Tropez. She lives there with her husband and the many animals she rescued from the pound.
Bardot turned from moviemaking to focus on her love for animals and to defend their rights. In the mid-70s, Bardot established an animal welfare organization, and in 1987, she founded the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals. Her work led to the council of Europe banning seal fur importation, and the French government banning ivory imports.
Shocking Facts About Brigitte Bardot
With great beauty comes great controversy – that’s the case with Brigitte Bardot. She was a popular actress, model, dancer, and singer of her time, but in recent years, she still continues to make headlines for her animal activism work and controversial comments about political issues. Here are some outrageous facts about Brigitte Bardot:
- Bardot was born in a wealthy Catholic family. However, her privilege was often dampened by her conservative parents’ moral routine. She wasn’t allowed to choose her own friends and even had to refer to her parents in a formal French “vous,” instead of the familial “tu.”
- Bardot resented her parents, which led to her rebellious lifestyle. One traumatic incident got her father forever treating her and her sister as strangers – it was when she and her sister were playing inside the house and accidentally broke their parents’ favorite vase. Her father punished them by whipping the sisters 20 times and then treated them like strangers, demanding them to address their parents by the pronoun “vous.” This moment forever changed their parental relationship.
- Bardot’s relationship was Roger Vadim was not approved by her parents. They were vehemently against the pairing, and her father announced that he brought her a train ticket to continue her education in England. When Vadim proposed, her father threatened him with a gun. Bardot reacted violently by putting her head into an oven with an open fire. Her parents eventually stopped her before she got killed, and they were forced to accept the relationship on the condition that she must wait to marry Vadim when she turns 18.
- She has an inborn eye condition called amblyopia or lazy eye, which caused a decreased vision in her left eye.
- While she was married to Vadim, she had an affair with And God Created Menco-star Jean-Louis Trintignant for two years. At the time, Trintignant was married to an actress. The two dated for two years, spanning the time before and after Bardot’s divorce with Vadim. However, their relationship ended after Trintignant’s military service and Bardot’s other love affair with Gilbert Bécaud.
- One affair after another became a pattern in Bardot’s life, and she was always the first to leave the relationship. In her memoir, she admitted that she had more than 100 lovers, some of them women.
- Bardot never bonded with her son, who was her child with Jacque Charrier, her co-star in Babette Goes to War. She didn’t want the pregnancy, but Charrier’s parents convinced her to carry the baby. During the delivery, she couldn’t leave the house to get to the hospital in time due to the many paparazzi outside her home, so she was forced to give birth at home. Charrier took custody of the child, as she believes she is not fit to be a mother.
- On her 40th birthday, Bardot bore it all for a nude photoshoot for Playboy magazine.
- The Beatles were famously infatuated with Bardot. The band even had plans to have her star in their musical film A Hard Day’s Night, but it never worked out. Nevertheless, their crush on the French actress impacted their love lives: John Lennon’s wife dyed her own hair blond to resemble Bardot better, while George Harrison liked to compare his wife to the French sex symbol.
- Speaking of hair, Bardot is a natural brunette. She wasn’t blonde until her role in an Italian movie in 1956. It was more common for actresses to put on a wig instead of dyeing the hair for a role during their day. However, when Bardot tried the peroxide, she liked it so much that she never went to her original hair color.
- As a model, Bardot’s lasting influence was the “Bardot pose.” In a 1960 photoshoot, she was featured wearing nothing but a black pantyhose, with her arms and legs crossed to cover the essentials. This pose has been copied by the likes of every cover girl, from Monica Belluci to Elle Macpherson to Lindsay Lohan.
- Though Bardot loves animals, you can’t fully trust her to pet-sit. In 1989, she castrated her neighbor’s pet donkey without the owner’s consent because it kept on mating with her own pet donkey, saying her pet is sexually harassed. The owner took her to court.
- Bardot is also credited for popularizing the wearing of a bikini in modern culture. In her early film roles, she is seen wearing a bathing suit, which was taboo and daring in her time.
- Bardot has been charged five times due to inciting racial hatred and discrimination against Muslims in France. She was first charged in 2000 after she expressed sentiments against Muslim immigration in her book. She also criticized the procedure used in the slaughter of sheep, which was a ritual during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
- Bardot also influenced fashion, as the Bardot neckline was named after hers. The iconic French actress had a personal liking for open-necked jumpers and knitted sweaters, which inspired the fashion trend.