Jean Seberg







    Jean Seberg.

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    Jean Seberg


    Jean Seberg (1938-79),
    b. Marshalltown, Iowa

    There was an endearing small-town common sense about Jean Seberg that stood up to the powerful attentions of several discoverers and that, on occasion, brought a deliberate naturalism to good films. Although at the time she was treated contemptuously by the critics, her Saint Joan (57, Otto Preminger) is a shrewd and touching fusion of provincial America, rural France, and Shaw's notion of a fustian saint picking logic with kings and bishops. She was chosen for that film, by Preminger, after an exhaustive search; even cropped and in armour she looked pretty and robust, and managed through her very disavowal of spirituality to bring odd conviction to the claims that she had heard voices.

    Preminger persisted, despite critics, and won a marvelous performance from her as the spoilt adolescent in Bonjour Tristesse (58). It was apparent by now that unlike most discoveries who had previously only done local stock, she was self-possessed and mature. Beauty, the conventional asset of the newcomer, had been restricted by the hairstyles of her first two films. Perhaps it was in reaction against the bad reviews, and as an emotional gesture toward American cinema, that—after The Mouse That Roared (59, Jack Arnold) and Let No Man Write My Epitaph (59, Philip Leacock)—Jean-Luc Godard got her to play Patricia, the American girl in Paris in Breathless (59).

    At first, she rather rebelled against his conception of a treacherous escapee from some film noir, but in the end was credibly degeulgasse, the more so for not knowing what the word meant. She then became the first notable American actress to work in France. Learning the language quickly, she was given a wig for Infidelity (61, Philippe de Broca) and matched Micheline Presle for sexiness. Here again, the Iowa girl proved surprisindy worldly. She married Frenchman Francois Moreuil and he directed her rather limply in Playtime (62). She divorced him and married novelist Romain Gary, and then played in In the French Style (63, Robert Parrish) and the "Grand Escroc" episode from Les Plus Belles Escroqueries du Monde (63, Godard), a Patricia Leacock blithely subjecting all around her to cinema verite.

    In 1963, despite the fact that Yvette Mimieux had recommended Lilith to him, Robert Rossen chose Seberg for that part. As with Joan, she brought an earthiness to a mythological character. The film is ambitious beyond its directors talent, but her playing throughout has a proper rapture and it is Seberg's most evident proof of poetic imagination.

    After that she worked in France and America, but never in really testing parts: Un Milliard dans un Billiard (65, Nicholas Gessner); Moment to Moment (65, Mervyn Le Roy); A Fine Madness (66, Irvin Kershner); La Ligne de Demarcation (66, Claude Chabrol); Estouffade à la Caraïbe (66, Jacques Besnard); Les Oiseaux Vont Mourir au Perou (68, Gary)— wildly pretentious and arty; Pendulum (68, George Schaefer); Paint Your Wagon (69, Joshua Logan); Airport (70, George Seaton); Macho Callahan (70, Bernard Kowalsld); Kill (71, Gary); L'Attentat (72, Yves Boisset); La Corrupcion de Chris Miller (72, Juan Antonio Bardem); and Cat and Mouse (74, Daniel Petrie).

    She married Dennis Berry, son of John Berry, and appeared in his Le Grand Delire (75). She directed a short film, Ballad of the Kid (74), and acted in Die Wildente (76, Hans Geissendorfer).

    On September 8, 1979, two policemen looked into a white Renault that had been parked ten days on a quiet street in Paris. They found the decomposing body of Jean Seberg, with a bottle of barbiturates. She had been involved with black activists. The FBI had hounded and harassed her. A child of hers had died. The hideous story is well told in David Richards's Played Out, but Seberg's tragedy has been attempted on stage, and it lingers.

    Rumours flew that Seberg's's suicide was masterminded by the FBI but it was never proven. Buried in the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris, France, her funeral was attended by such notables as Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.


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    Jean Seberg Dvds

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    Jean Seberg Biography Books @ amazon.com (direct link)


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    Jean Seberg

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