Anouk Aimée

Anouk Aimée

Aimée at Cannes, 2007
Born Nicole Françoise Florence Dreyfus
(1932-04-27) 27 April 1932
Paris, France
Years active 1947–present
Spouse(s) Edouard Zimmermann (1949–1950)
Nikos Papatakis (1951–1954)
Pierre Barouh (1966–1969)
Albert Finney (1970–1978)

Anouk Aimée (French pronunciation: [anuk ɛme]; born 27 April 1932) is a French film actress, who has appeared in 70 films since 1947, having begun her film career at age 14. In her early years she studied acting and dance besides her regular education. Although the majority of her films were French, she also made a number of films in Spain, Great Britain, Italy and Germany, along with some American productions.

Among her films are Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), after which she was considered a "rising star who exploded" onto the film world.[1] She subsequently acted in Fellini's (1963), Jacques Demy’s Lola (1961), George Cukor’s Justine (1969), Bernardo Bertolucci’s Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981) and Robert Altman’s Prêt à Porter (1994). She won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her acting in A Man and a Woman in (1966). The film "virtually reignited the lush on-screen romance in an era of skeptical modernism," and brought her international fame.[2]

She won the Award for Best Actress at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival. In 2002 she received an honorary César Award, France's national film award.

She was noted for her "striking features" and beauty, and considered "one of the hundred sexiest stars in film history," according to a 1995 poll conducted by Empire Magazine.[2] Her acting style often portrays a femme fatale, with a melancholy aura. In the 1960s, Life magazine wrote that "after each picture her enigmatic beauty lingered" in the memories of her audience, and called her "the Left Bank's most beautiful resident."[3]

Early years

Aimée was born Nicole Françoise Florence Dreyfus[4] in Paris, France, the daughter of actor Henri Murray (born Henry Dreyfus)[2] and actress Geneviève Sorya (born Durand).

According to one historian, although some have speculated that her background may be related to Captain Alfred Dreyfus, this has never been confirmed.[2] Her father was Jewish and her mother was Roman Catholic. She was raised Catholic but later converted to Judaism as an adult.[2][5] Her early education took place at l'École de la rue Milton, in Paris; École de Barbezieux; Pensionnat de Bandol; and Institution de Megève. She studied dance at Marseille Opera; studied theater in England, after which she studied dramatic art and dance with Andrée Bauer-Thérond.[6]


Anouk Aimée in , 1963

Aimée (then still Françoise Dreyfus) made her film debut in 1946, at the age of fourteen, in the role of "Anouk" in La Maison sous la mer, and she kept the name afterwards. Jacques Prévert, while writing Les amants de Vérone (The Lovers of Verona, 1949) specifically for her, suggested she take the symbolic last name Aimée, "that would forever associate her with the affective power of her screen roles."[2] In French, it means "beloved."[3][7]

Among her notable films were Alexandre Astruc’s Le Rideau Cramoisi (The Crimson Curtain, 1952), Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), Fellini's (1963), Jacques Demy’s Lola (1961), André Delvaux’s Un Soir, un Train (One Evening, One Train, 1968), George Cukor’s Justine (1969), Bernardo Bertolucci’s Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981), Robert Altman’s Prêt à Porter (Ready to Wear, 1994) and, Claude Lelouch’s Un Homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman, 1966) — described as a "film that virtually reignited the lush on-screen romance in an era of skeptical modernism."[2] Words like "regal," "intelligent" and "enigmatic" are frequently associated with her, notes one author, giving Aimée "an aura of disturbing and mysterious beauty" that has earned her the status of "one of the hundred sexiest stars in film history," according to a 1995 poll conducted by Empire Magazine.[2]

Because of her "striking features" and her beauty, she has been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy. Film historian Ginette Vincendeau notes that Aimée’s films "established her as an ethereal, sensitive and fragile beauty with a tendency to tragic destinies or restrained suffering."[2] Her abilities as an actress and the photogenic qualities of her face, its "fine lines, expression of elation and a suggestive gaze," helped her achieve success in her early films. Among those were Pot-Bouille (1957), a story by Émile Zola, Les Amants de Montparnasse (Montparnasse 19) (The Lovers of Montparnasse, (1958) and La tête contre les murs (Head Against the Wall, 1958).[6]

Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant in A Man and a Woman, 1966

Besides the French cinema, Aimée's career include a number of films made in Spain, Great Britain, Italy and Germany. She achieved worldwide attention in Fellini's La Dolce Vita (the Good Life, 1960) and Lola (1961). She appeared again in Fellini's , and would remain in Italy during the first half of the 1960s, making films for a number of Italian directors. Because of her role in La Dolce Vita, biographer Dave Thompson describes Aimée as a "rising star who exploded" onto the film world. He adds that singer-songwriter Patti Smith, who in her teens saw the film, began to idolize her, and "dreamed of being an actress like Aimée."[1][8]

Aimée's greatest success came in 1966 with the film Un homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman,) directed by little known Claude Lelouch. Primarily due to the excellent acting by its stars, Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant, the film became an international success, winning both the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966 and an Oscar. Tabery states that with her "subtle portrayal of the heroine—self-protective, then succumbing to a new love—Aimée seemed to create a new kind of femme fatale. . ."[6] Film historian Jurgen Muller adds, "whether one like the film or not, it's still hard for anyone to resist the melancholy aura of Anouk Aimée."[9] In many of her subsequent films, she would continue to play that type of role, "a woman of sensitivity whose emotions are often kept secret."[6]

In 1969 she starred in the American film production of Justine, costarring Dirk Bogarde and directed by George Cukor and Joseph Strick. The film contained some nudity, with one writer observing, "Anouk is always impeccable, oozing the sexy, detached air of the elite . . . when she drops these trappings, along with her couture clothing, Anouk's naked perfection will annihilate you."[10]

Photojournalist Eve Arnold, assigned to photograph and write a story about Aimée and her role, spoke to Dirk Bogarde, who had known her since she was fifteen. He said that "She is never so happy as when she is miserable between love affairs," referencing her recent love affair with Omar Sharif.[5]

Arnold photographed Aimée, who talked about her role as the character Justine. Justine was also Jewish. Arnold recalls one of their talks:

I am still haunted by two things she quoted. They seemed to say more about her than anything else I experienced with her during the three weeks I knew her on the film:

Quote from Treblinka: "The Jews are prone to anguish but seldom given to despair."
And a quote by an anonymous Jewish poet to his wife when the Nazis came to get them: "Till now we have lived with fear, now we can know hope."[5]

Another American film, La Brava, starring Dustin Hoffman, was set to be made in 1984 but never completed. Hoffman at first decided it would play better if he were in love with a younger girl rather than the original story's older woman. "Where are you going to get a good-looking older woman?" he asked. He rejected Faye Dunaway, feeling she was "too obvious." A month later, after a chance meeting with Aimée in Paris, he changed his mind, telling his producer, "I can fall in love with the older woman. I met Anouk Aimée over the weekend. She looks great." He begged his producer to at least talk to her: "Come on, get on the phone, say hello to her. . . Just listen to her voice, it's great."[11]

Robert Altman, at another time, wanted to use Aimée in a film to be called, Lake Lugano, about a woman who was a Holocaust survivor returning long after the war. She "loved the script," according to Altman. However, she backed out after discussing the part with him more thoroughly:

I do remember he was like a bomb. He had a strong personality. He was tall, and he had a big voice. "I want this," and "I want that." I remember thinking it would be very difficult to work with him, and we didn't make the film.[12]

In late 2013, the Cinemania film festival in Montreal, Canada, paid tribute to Aimée's career.[13] In 2002, she received an honorary César Award, France's national film award, and in 2003 received an honorary Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.[14] In the 1960s, Life magazine called her "the Left Bank's most beautiful resident," adding that "after each picture her enigmatic beauty lingered" in the memories of her audience.[3]

Personal life

Aimée has been married and divorced four times. First to Eduard Zimmermann (married February 1949, divorced October 1950), secondly to film director Nico Papatakis (married August 1951, divorced October 1955), thirdly to actor and musical producer Pierre Barouh (married April 1966, divorced March 1969) and lastly to actor Albert Finney (married August 1970, divorced June 1978). She had one child, Manuela Papatakis (born 1951), from her second marriage.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Director
1947 La Maison sous la mer Anouk Henri Calef
1949 Les amants de Vérone ("The Lovers Of Verona") Georgia (a modern Juliet) André Cayatte
1950 Golden Salamander Anna Ronald Neame
1952 La Bergère et le ramoneur (animation film) Voice (the female shepherd) Paul Grimault
Le Rideau cramoisi Albertine Alexandre Astruc
1955 Contraband Spain Elena Vargas Lawrence Huntington
Les Mauvaises rencontres ("Bad Liaisons") Catherine Racan Alexandre Astruc
1956 Ich suche Dich Francoise Maurer O.W. Fischer
1957 Pot-Bouille Marie Julien Duvivier
1958 Les Amants de Montparnasse (Montparnasse 19) Jeanne Hébuterne Jacques Becker
1959 The Journey Eva Anatole Litvak
La tête contre les murs Stéphanie Georges Franju
Les Dragueurs Jeanne Jean-Pierre Mocky
1960 La Dolce Vita Maddalena Federico Fellini
Le Farceur Hélène Laroche Philippe de Broca
1961 Il giudizio universale ("The Last Judgement") Irene Vittorio De Sica
Lola Lola Jacques Demy
1962 Sodom and Gomorrah Queen Bera Robert Aldrich
Il giorno più corto ("The shortest Day") cameo appearance Sergio Corbucci
1963 Fellini's 8½ Luisa Anselmi Federico Fellini
1964 Le voci bianche ("White Voices") Lorenza Pasquale Festa Campanile
La fuga ("The Escape") Luisa Paolo Spinola
1966 Un homme et une femme ("A Man and a Woman") Anne Gauthier Claude Lelouch
Vivre pour vivre ("Live for Life") Jacqueline Claude Lelouch
1968 Model Shop Lola Jacques Demy
Un soir, un train (One Night... A Train) Anne André Delvaux
1969 Justine Justine George Cukor
The Appointment Carla Sidney Lumet
1976 Si c'était à refaire ("If I Had to Do It All Over Again") Sarah Gordon Claude Lelouch
1978 Mon premier amour Jane Romain (the mother) Elie Chouraqui
1979 (Salto nel vuoto) ("A Leap in the Dark") Marta Ponticelli Marco Bellocchio
1981 La Tragedia di un uomo ridicolo ("Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man") Barbara Spaggiari Bernardo Bertolucci
1983 Il generale dell'armata morte ("The General of the Dead Army") Countess Betsy Mirafiore Luciano Tovoli
Viva la vie Anouk Claude Lelouch
1984 Success Is the Best Revenge Monique Jerzy Skolimowski
1986 Un Homme et une femme : vingt ans déjà ("A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later") Anne Gauthier Claude Lelouch
1990 Bethune: The Making of a Hero Marie-France Coudaire Phillip Borsos
Il y a des jours... et des lunes as herself Claude Lelouch
1994 Les Cent et une nuits ("A Hundred and One Nights") Anouk Agnès Varda
Prêt-à-Porter Simone Lowenthal Robert Altman
1996 Hommes, femmes : mode d'emploi the widow Claude Lelouch
1998 L.A. Without a Map as herself Mika Kaurismäki
1999 Une pour toutes ("One 4 All") the musician's wife Claude Lelouch
2001 Festival in Cannes Millie Marquand Henry Jaglom
2002 Napoléon (miniseries) Letizia Bonaparte Yves Simoneau
2003 Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants ("Happily Ever After") Vincent's mother Yvan Attal
2010 Paris Connections Agnès Harley Cokeliss
2011 Tous les soleils Agathe Philippe Claudel
2012 Mince alors! Mom Charlotte de Turckheim


  1. 1 2 Thompson, Dave. Dancing Barefoot: The Patti Smith Story, Chicago Review Press (2011) p. 17
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy. "Anouk Aimée", Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia
  3. 1 2 3 Durham, Michael. "Aimée—It Means 'To Be Loved'", Life magazine, May 19, 1967 pp. 85-86
  4. "Anouk Aimée" (in French). L'encinémathèque. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 Arnold, Eve. Film Journal, Bloomsbury Publishing (2002) pp. 193-194
  6. 1 2 3 4 Unterburger, Amy L. (ed.) Actors and Actresses, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers (3rd Ed.), St. James Press (1997) pp. 9-11
  7. "Think Baby Names"
  8. Bockris, Victor; Bayley, Roberta. Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography, Simon and Schuster (1999) p. 33
  9. Müller, Jürgen. Movies of the 60s, Taschen (2004) cover
  10. Mr. Skin's Encyclopedia: A to Z Guide to Finding Your Favorite Actresses Naked, SK INtertainment (2005) p. 5
  11. Grobel, Lawrence. Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives, Da Capo Press (2001) pp. 267-268
  12. Zuckoff, Mitchell. Robert Altman: An Oral Biography, Random House (2009) pp. 138-139
  13. "Anouk Aimée: A charmed cinematic life", The Montreal Gazette, Nov. 8, 2013
  14. Oscherwitz, Dayna. The A to Z of French Cinema, Scarecrow Press (2007) p. 18

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