Michèle Girardon



This stunning, fragile starlet was born Henriette Michèle Leone Girardon in Lyon in August 1938. Having completed her acting studies at the local conservatoire she won a competition as “the most photogenic girl in France” by the age of twenty. Photo shoots followed and a minor career as a model with appearances on the cover of prestige magazines “Vogue” and “”Marie-Claire”. She began on screen with prominent supporting roles as a deaf mute in Luis Buñuel’s Death in the Garden (1956) and as a secretary in Louis Malle’s The Lovers (1958). Her first starring role came courtesy of Éric Rohmer who cast her in the lead of Le signe du lion (1962) — one of the first films of the French Nouvelle Vague movement, shot on location in Paris. Though not a commercial success at the time, the acting received general praise throughout and Michèle attracted attention from Hollywood. Paramount approached her with an offer to appear as the owner of a Tanzanian game farm opposite John Wayne in the African adventure Hatari! (1962). According to a Life magazine profile of July 1961 Michèle ‘taught herself English’ on the set. Her role did not lead to a Hollywood contract. Nevertheless, for a while she remained in demand for European productions, the pick of the bunch being leads in the Spanish-made swashbuckler The Adventures of Scaramouche (1963) and the Italian comedy The Magnificent Cuckold (1964). Less high profile, but decidedly decorative, was her supporting role in the Franco-Italian “Alfie’-lookalike comedy Tender Scoundrel (1966). By the early 70’s, film offers had dried up and Michèle’s career was seriously on the skids. She became increasingly despondent, especially after the end of an unhappy dalliance with a married Spanish aristocrat, José Luis de Vilallonga (a writer and occasional actor with a well-earned reputation as a cad and spendthrift). Michèle Girardon decided to end her life by ingesting an overdose of sleeping pills in her home town on March 25, 1975, aged just 36. In a tragic irony, two co-stars in Michèle’s penultimate film Good Little Girls (1971), Marie-Georges Pascal and Bella Darvi, also committed suicide at the ages of 39 and 42, respectively.