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Anouk Aimee: Muse Of 'Dolce Vita' And '8 1/2,' Then And Now

Entertainment | February 5, 2021

French actress Anouk Aimée in 1961. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio by Getty Images)

With the Fellini movies La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8 1/2 (1963), as well as the global hit A Man And A Woman (1966), Anouk Aimée became one of a few French actresses -- Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Jeanne Moreau were others -- whom Americans noticed in the '60s. And unlike her fellow Gauloises, she actually won a prestigious American award, a Golden Globe for her performance in A Man And A Woman, which also earned her an Oscar nomination. The strikingly gorgeous Aimée captivated audiences with her loveliness and charming down-to-Earth presence. She started her career young and although it took a while to truly love her profession, Aimée made a lasting impression to the world and continues to act even in the present day as she nears the age of 90.

Anouk Aimée Began Her Career As A Teenager

Source: Pinterest

Anouk v was born as Francoise Sorya Dreyfus on April 27, 1932 in Paris France to Henri Murray and Genevieve Sorya, both former actors. They raised her Catholic, but she practiced Judaism when she became an adult. At the age of 13, Aimée and her mother were casually strolling down a street in Paris when a director approached the adolescent. Aimee has stated about him, “He said, ‘Would you liked to make a film?’” Aimée then made her film debut at 14-years-old in the 1946 feature The House On The Sea. From that moment on, everything seemed to fall into place. 

Anouk's Name Change Was Based On Her First On-Screen Character

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In her first film, Francoise Sorya Dreyfus played a character named Anouk, and to establish herself more professionally she decided to adopt her character’s name as her own. Screenwriter Jacques Prevert convinced her to also change her last name to Aimée. “He said when you are going to be 40 you cannot be called Anouk alone.” Prevert wrote a role specifically for her in his 1949 film The Lovers Of Verona where she really impressed audiences and began scoring even more major parts. 

Federico Fellini Taught Anouk Aimée To Enjoy Acting

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Although all of the top European directors wanted to work with her and she was landing roles left and right, Aimée did not truly enjoy acting until she took the part of a nymphomaniac in the 1960 film La Dolce Vita, which also starred Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg. The film’s Italian director Federico Fellini created a fun atmosphere and taught Aimee, who was known for her reserved aura, how to lighten up and have a good time while acting:

What embarrassed me before was that a lot of [actors] think of themselves seriously. That bored me. But with Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni, it was a big festival, a beautiful party. From then I began to love [acting].

The next year she continued to love her profession with her part as a cabaret dancer in Jacques Demy’s Lola, what she considers possibly her favorite film she has starred in. Aimée worked again with Fellini in his 1963 comedy-drama 8 1/2.

Anouk Aimée Received Worldwide Recognition For 'A Man And A Woman'

Source: Vogue

In the 1966 drama A Man And A Woman, Aimée played a young widow, and the performance is considered by many to be the best in her career. Aimée’s disturbed character befriends and falls in love with a widower, but eventually suffers as she can’t shake the memory of her deceased husband, and this struck the emotional core of viewers. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and Aimee won the Golden Globe for Best Actress and was also nominated for an Academy Award. Despite her successes, Aimée was extremely humble and believed she didn’t even deserve all of this recognition. As she recalled for the L.A. Times:

John Wayne came over to talk to me. Groucho Marx. These are people I admired when I was a kid and here they are applauding me. I don’t understand. It’s wrong… It was an incredible adventure. I must say I owe a lot to American films because I have always been received very well here. People behave very well with me in America--that’s true. I am one of the Europeans who love it [in America]… It sounds pretentious, but American film people behave so incredibly with me. So nice. They ask me to work. It’s wonderful. I have always been lucky here.

Anouk Aimée Fascinated Some Americans

Anouk Aimee and Marcello Mastroianni in 'La Dolce Vita.' Source: Pinterest

American moviegoing audiences may not have followed her film career too closely, because so much of her filmography is European, but she did penetrate American culture. Like Bardot, she was considered to be among the most beautiful women in the world, and of course French women have always fascinated Americans. Aimée attracted attention in the press because of her resemblance to Jacqueline Kennedy, and she was an inspiration to American women who idolized the glamour of European fashion and cinema. One young girl inspired by Aimee was Patti Smith, who told Circus magazine in 1976:

I wanted to be a movie star. I don't mean like an American movie star. I mean like Jeanne Moreau or Anouk Aimée in La Dolce Vita. I couldn't believe her in those dark glasses and that black dress and that sports car. I thought that was the heaviest thing I ever saw. Anouk Aimée with that black eye. It made me always want to have a black eye forever. It made me want to get a guy to knock me around. I'd always look great. I got great sunglasses.

Certain Hollywood actors were obviously big fans of Aimée -- her lovers included famous ladies' men Warren Beatty and Ryan O'Neal.

Anouk Aimée Almost Broke Through To Hollywood In 1969

Anouk Aimee in 'Model Shop.' Source: IMDB

Aimée's forays into English-language movies were limited -- sometimes by bad luck, other times by choice. She was considered for The Baroness in The Sound of Music, but didn't get the part, and she turned down the role ultimately played by Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair. She joined an interesting, mostly-European cast (including Stewart Granger, Pier Angeli and Scilla Gabel) for her first English-language film, Sodom And Gomorrah (1962), a Biblical epic directed by Robert Aldrich that was a modest commercial success -- but savaged by critics as a poor imitation of Cecil B. DeMille. 

Nineteen sixty-nine might have been the year she broke through in Hollywood, with three English-language films, two of them directed by Americans. Alas, it didn't work out that way. The Appointment, directed by Sidney Lumet and co-starring Omar Sharif, was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but never got an American theatrical release. Justine seemed to have even more going for it -- the legendary director George Cukor, and co-stars Michael York and Dirk Bogarde -- but it flopped.

The third movie from 1969 was Model Shop, directed by Jacques Demy. In it, she reprised her role as Lola (who has now relocated in Los Angeles) opposite Gary Lockwood, who'd just made 2001: A Space Odyssey. Model Shop wasn't successful in its day, but has come to be considered a neglected classic, with many modern-day critics as fans.

Aimée returned to making European movies, almost exclusively, after 1969. Her "breakthrough" of sorts -- a celebrated role in a successful American film -- finally came in 1994, in Robert Altman's Pret a Porter.

Anouk Aimée Continues To Act In The Present Day

Source: Pinterest

Aimée accomplished wonderful feats in her career, but wasn’t quite so lucky in the love department. She was married and divorced four times -- to Edouard Zimmerman (1949-1950), director Nico Papatakis (1951-1954) with whom she had her only child Manuela Papatakis, actor/producer Pierre Barouh (1966-1969), and actor Albert Finney (1970-1978). Although she was most known for her work from the 1940s to 1960s, Aimée never gave up acting throughout the remaining decades. Her latest role was the character Anne Gauthier in the French drama The Best Years Of A Life in 2019. Today, she is just as exquisite as ever even well into her eighties.  

Tags: Anouk Aimee | Federico Fellini | Ladies | Movies In The 1960s | Then And Now

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Emily Morenz

Author

Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.