Sunday, February 28, 2021

WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE, continued: Brigitte Bardot


Continuing a brief look at the events and persons listed in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.


Each two lines represent a year.

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, "Rock Around the Clock"
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez



Brigitte Bardot (1934 - )


French animal rights activist and former actress and singer Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot made her name as one of the best known sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s. Although she withdrew from the entertainment industry in 1973, she remains a major popular culture icon.

Relevance to 1956:

Although she started her acting career in 1952, BB (as she became known) achieved international recognition for her role in the 1956 film And God Created Woman.

Facts and Trivia:

Born and raised in Paris, Bardot was an aspiring ballerina in her early life

Bardot's childhood was prosperous; she lived in her family's seven-bedroom apartment. Her father demanded she follow strict behavioural standards, including good table manners, and that she wear appropriate clothes. Her mother was extremely selective in choosing companions for her, and as a result Bardot had very few childhood friends.

Bardot cited a personal traumatic incident when she and her sister broke her parents' favourite vase while they were playing in the house; her father whipped the sisters 20 times and henceforth treated them like "strangers", demanding them to address their parents by the pronoun "vous", which is a formal style of address, used when speaking to unfamiliar or higher-status persons outside the immediate family. The incident decisively led to Bardot resenting her parents, and to her future rebellious lifestyle.

Although having studied ballet for years, she attended a film audition at age 15 where she met Roger Vadim. They subsequently fell in love but her parents fiercely opposed their relationship; her father announced to her one evening that she would continue her education in England and that he had bought her a train ticket, the journey to take place the following day. Bardot reacted by putting her head into an oven with open fire; her parents stopped her and ultimately accepted the relationship, on condition that she not marry Vadim until the age of 18.

In 1952, When Bardot turned 18, she married Vadim, who was 6 years her senior. According to Bardot: "He looked at me, scared me, attracted me, I didn't know where I was anymore.”

Vadim made his directorial debut in December 1956 with And God Created Woman, starring his wife. On set, however, Bardot fell in love with her co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant and, after only four years of marriage, she and Vadim divorced.

According to Ginette Vincendeau, the author of the book, Brigitte Bardot: The Life, The Legend, The Movies., after her affair with Trintignant, she went on to bed as many as 100 men and women.

She eventually met and married her second husband, French actor Jacques Charrier, with whom she had her only child.

Bardot has been vocal about not wanting to be a mother and resenting her pregnancy. In her memoirs Initiales BB, she describes her horror at finding herself pregnant in 1959, aged 25: "I looked at my flat, slender belly in the mirror like a dear friend upon whom I was about to close a coffin lid." She revealed, in an attempt to abort the child, repeatedly punching herself in the stomach and begging her doctor for morphine.

The revelations lead to a lawsuit by her ex-husband and son, Nicolas, who was raised by Charrier after their three-year marriage ended. Bardot was ordered to pay her son damages for the hurt inflicted by the book, in which she referred to her unborn son as a "cancerous tumour" and said she would have "preferred to give birth to a little dog".

On her 26th birthday in 1960, shortly after Nicolas was born, Bardot tried to take her life again, downing a bottle of sleeping pills and slitting her wrists at her villa in France, according to Vincendeau’s book.

Bardot has had a deeply troubled relationship with Nicolas. She was not invited to his 1982 wedding and did not see him for a decade, but they are believed to have reconciled recently after she became a great-grandmother for the first time. "I'm not made to be a mother," Bardot confessed years later. "I'm not adult enough – I know it's horrible to have to admit that, but I'm not adult enough to take care of a child."

After more suicide attempts and more husbands (her third husband, German playboy Gunter Sachs shot himself in 2011), Bardot turned her attentions to animal rights activism and established a foundation to care for "suffering animals" in 1986. "I gave my youth and my beauty to men, I am now giving my wisdom and my experience, the best of myself, to animals," Bardot is quoted as saying.

Bardot married her fourth husband, politician, Bernard d'Ormale in 1992. The couple live together, along with a menagerie of stray animals, at a secluded property in St Tropez. "I can no longer walk. I can no longer swim. But I'm lucky when I see how animals suffer. Suddenly, I discover that I have nothing to complain [about]."


Bardot at age 12, ballet class

This film launched Bardot into the public spotlight and immediately created her "sex kitten" persona, making her an overnight sensation.  When the film was released in the United States it pushed the boundaries of the representation of sexuality in American cinema, and most available prints of the film were heavily edited to conform with the prevailing censorial standards.

Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman.

1958 Venice Film Festival

Bardot, 1965

Bardot as a ballerina, 1959

With son, Nicholas, 1960

When Nicolas was 12, he came to his mother to stay with her for a while. However, Bardot returned him to his father, explaining that she could not take care of him because she had a social event that evening. After that incident, Nicolas did not want to see his mother for several years.

For the last 62 years Bardot has lived in a home in the French coastal town of La Madrague. Her house is situated directly on the waterfront, but is closed off from the outside world by a high wall, fences and large plants and trees. 

Bardot stopped acting at the height of her fame in 1973. She turned her back on the film world and finally started, as she calls it, ‘her real life’. “My whole life, before and after And God Created Woman, I was never what I wanted to be, which was direct and honest. I wasn’t outrageous at all and I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be myself, just myself.”

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