French New Wave Film Icon Jeanne Moreau Dies at 89

Image via AP.
Image via AP.

Famed French actress Jeanne Moreau reportedly died in her home on Monday at the age of 89. Moreau was considered one of the greatest actresses of her time, and is perhaps best known for her role in Francois Truffaut’s new wave film Jules et Jim.


Moreau was the daughter of a restaurant owner, and her mother was a Tiller Girl dancer, one of the most famous dance troupes of the late 1800s, the BBC reports. Her father discouraged her from acting, but Moreau pursued it and appeared in her first two films in 1957. According to the Hollywood Reporter, she was also a prolific stage actress, becoming the youngest member of La Comédie Française at just 20 years old in 1948.

Aside from her work with Truffaut, she appeared in several films directed by Orson Welles, Chimes at Midnight and Kafka’s The Trial. Welles called her a “king” actor, meaning she drew people’s attention to her in every scene. She also worked with Louis Malle on Les Amants, Michelangelo Antonioni on La Notte, Tony Richardson in Mademoiselle and Luis Bunuel in Diary of a Chambermaid.

She won Best Actress at Cannes in 1960 for her work in Peter Brook’s Moderato Cantabile, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1998, and served on the jury at Cannes twice, including as president in 1995.

Her talent included an ability to work behind the camera. Moreau directed three films, Lumiere, which she also wrote, L’adolescente, and Solstice.

Though she was renowned for her attractiveness as well as her power as an actress, the BBC reports that Moreau once said, “Physical beauty is a disgrace.”

The Hollywood Reporter characterized her romantic life as being linked with her line of work:

Her personal life proved to be as captivated as her onscreen performances. “When I am in love, it influences my pleasure in acting,” she told Playboy in 1965. “Most people don’t have the energy for passion, so they give up and go to the movies.”


The LA Times reports that that passionate personal life included a brief marriage to The Exorcist director William Friedkin, and a relationship with designer Pierre Cardin, who she called her “true love.” Moreau eventually starred in over 100 films, and also recorded albums, as she had a beautiful singing voice.

In a statement, President Emmanuel Macron said that Moreau “embodied cinema,” with a “spark in her eye that defied reverence and was an invitation to insolence, to liberty, to this whirlpool of life that she loved so much, and that she made us love.”

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin



When I heard this morning that Ms. Moreau passed away, it kinda took the air out of me, even though she was 89 years old. She was so damned sultry and sexy and French! I recall seeing her in The Lovers when I was a teenager (in the late 80s) and thinking that she was everything that a teen girl would want to be. I still think that!