Monday, October 6, 2008
Francoise Dorleac (March 21, 1942 -June 26, 1967) was a French film actress.
Dorleac was born into a theatrical family in Paris. Her father was actor Maurice Dorleac and her younger sister Catherine, who would later change her last name to Deneuve, would also become an actress. Francoise first appeared on stage at 10 and entered the film industry with the short movie "Mansonges" when she was 15. She studied at the Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique (1959-1961) and had modeled for Christian Dior by the time she started making a cinematic impact.
A free-spirited extrovert with gamine pale skinned beauty, Francoise Dorleac graced a number of movies before hitting stardom, but all that changed with Francois Truffaut's melodrama "Le Peau Douce" ("The Soft Skin") and the classic James Bond-like spy spoof "L'Homme de Rio" ("That Man from Rio") both released in 1964. Both films displayed Francoise's incredible allure and talent. In the former she played an airline stewardess who falls into a tragic affair with a married businessman (Jean Desaille) and in the latter she played a fun and flaky heroine opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Unlike Catherine, Francoise proved a carefree, outgoing presence both on and off the camera. Known for her chic, stylish ways she continued making strong marks as the adulterous wife in Roman Polanski's black comedy "Cul-de-Sac" (1966) and even joined Gene Kelly, George Chakiris and her sister, who was now a cinematic star by this time too, in the rather candy coated "The Young Girls of Rochefort" (1967), a colorful movie which paid homage to the Hollywood musical. Francoise and Catherine played singing twins who dreamed of one day living in Paris.
Branching out into such non-French films as "Genghis Khan" (1965), "Where the Spies Are" (1965) and "Billion Dollar Brain" (1967) the fabulous and feisty Francoise was on the brink of international stardom when her rented Renault 10 hit a sign post 10 kilometers from Nice. The car flipped over and burst into flames. She had been en route to the Nice airport and was afraid of missing her flight. Francoise was seen struggling to get out of the car, but she couldn't open the door. Her body was identified by the police only from a fragment of a check book, a diary and her driver's license. She was only 25 years old.
The death of Francoise affected Catherine for many, many years afterward and France's goddess of the screen released a book about her sister in 1996 entitled "Elle S'Appelait Francoise" ("Her Name Was Francoise"), which was turned into a French documentary.