Thursday, September 26, 2013
Romy Schneider 1938 - 1982
The life and career of the Austrian born actress Romy Schneider make a bewildering combination of fairytale and Greek tragedy. One of the most beautiful and intelligent actors of her generation, she was hired by some of the greatest filmmakers of her time. She had – and continues to have, more than two decades after her death – an immense popular appeal, and is loved and respected by film enthusiasts across the world, particularly in France and her native Austria. Yet, blessed as she was in her professional career, her personal life was marked by a series of brutal tragedies that cut short her life and robbed cinema of one of its finest artistes. The life of Romy Schneider is a screenplay that no writer or producer could ever have conceived, a screenplay in which no one other than Romy could have played the lead role.Romy's career was mapped out for her from childhood. She was born, on 23 September 1938, Rosemarie Magdalena Albach-Retty, to parents who were successful actors living in Vienna. After her parents' divorce in 1945, she was brought up by her mother, Magda Schneider and her younger brother, Wolfgang. She made her film début in 1953, a small part in Wenn der weiße Flieder wieder blüht. Two years later she took on the role that would earn her instant stardom in Austria and Germany – the Empress Elisabeth of Austria – in the 1955 film Sissi.Having played Sissi in two subsequent sequels, Romy became nauseated by the saccharine "nice girl" image she had fashioned for herself and was determined to make a fresh start. In 1957, Paramount Studios was ready to offer her a three year contract, but her family intervened, thwarting a promising career in America.
film career in France.It was whilst making Christine that Romy and Alain Delon fell in love; their very public engagement was announced to the world in 1959. Although the couple lived together for five years, they never married. Delon had been having an affair with another woman, Nathalie Barthélemy, whom he chose to marry on learning she was pregnant with his child. Although the separation was painful (Delon couldn't bring himself to face Romy at their parting; he just left her a note saying goodbye), the two actors later renewed their friendship and remained on the best of terms, with Delon dispensing both moral and financial support during periods of crisis.Meanwhile, Romy Schneider's film career forged ahead. She achieved international fame through her part in Luchino Visconti's segment (Il lavoro) of the 1962 film Boccacio '70. She would subsequently work again with Visconti on Ludwig (1972), where she once again portrayed Elisabeth of Austria, but in a very different vein to that of the earlier Sissi films of the 1950s. Another legendary director, Orson Welles, was impressed by her talents, and cast her in his 1963 film Le Procès, an inspired adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel The Trial.In the mid-1960s, Hollywood beckoned and Romy Schneider made a few notable appearances, in Good Neighbor Sam (1964) and What's New, Pussycat? (1965). Having failed to make much of a mark in America, Romy returned to France. She had a starring role in L'Enfer (1964), although the film was aborted when its director, H.G. Clouzot, suffered a fatal heart attack. In La Voleuse (1966), she appeared for the first time alongside the actor Michel Piccoli, who would become one of her closest friends. By this time, Romy had married, to the theatre director Harry Meyen, and had given birth to a son, David.Romy's career was floundering a little but received a sudden boost when she starred with Alain Delon in Jacques Deray's stylish psychological thriller La Piscine (1969). The same year, she appeared in Claude Sautet's Les Choses de la vie, again with Michel Piccoli. Sautet was so taken with Romy Schneider that he gave her substantial roles in four subsequent films: Max et les ferrailleurs (1971), César et Rosalie (1972), Mado (1976) and Une histoire simple (1978). It was for her moving portrayal of an independent woman in the latter film that Romy won her second César in 1979.Romy had previously won a César for her role in Andrzej Zulawski's controversial L'Important c'est d'aimer (1975), regarded by some as her finest performance. Another notable hit was Le Vieux fusil (1975), directed by Robert Enrico and co-starring Philippe Noiret. This film – an uncompromising wartime drama - was not just a huge commercial success, but it also took three awards at the first Césars Ceremony in 1976 (including best film). Other notable film appearances in the 1970s include: Le Train (1973), Le Mouton enragé (1974) and the deliciously gory black comedy Le Trio infernal (1974).