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the first French actress ever to win an Academy Award, and the first actress of any nationality to win Best Actress for a role in a foreign film
Henriette Charlotte Simone Kaminker was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, on March 25, 1921, and grew up in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-Sur-Seine. Her Jewish father fled to England when the Nazis invaded France, leaving the family with no source of income, so Simone took up acting; she adopted her mother's maiden name, Signoret, in order to avoid problems with Nazi authorities.
Signoret spent most of World War II working as an extra, with an occasional line, but was able to make enough money to support herself, her mother, and three younger brothers. She first gained fame for playing a prostitue in La Ronde (1950). International celebrity came when she played the lead role in Casque d'Or (1952), which won the British Film Industry Award (BAFTA). She appeared in many other notable French films in the 1950's, including Thérèse Raquin (1953), Les Diaboliques (1954) and Les Sorcières de Salem (1956). In 1958, Signoret starred opposite Laurence Harvey in the British movie Room at the Top (1959), which earned her the BAFTA Best Actress Award, the Best Female Performance Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Academy Award for Best Actress (in 1960); she became the first French actress ever to win an Academy Award, and the first actress of any nationality to win Best Actress for a role in a foreign film.
Signoret's fame made her a "wanted woman" in Hollywood, but neither she nor her husband, Yves Montand, could get visas to enter the United States due to their ultra-conservative political activities (campaigning publicly against the execution of the Rosenbergs, the Vietnam War and the Algerian War, for example). The two were finally able to get visas in 1960 so Montand, who was a singer, could perform in New York and San Francisco and she could attend the Academy Awards ceremony. The couple ended up staying in the United States until returning to France in 1969, during which time Signoret appeared in Ship of Fools (1965), which earned her another Oscar nomination, and a few other films; she also appeared in the made-for-television movie A Small Rebellion, for which she won an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama.
Signoret continued to star in movies into the 1980's, with her last film being LÉtoile du Nord (1982). She died of pancreatic cancer on September 30, 1985. Her autobiography, Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be, was published in 1976. She was also the author of Adieu Volodia (1985), a novel about a group of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and Russia and their children working in the theatre/film industry in Paris during the years 1926-1945.
Yves Allégret -- 1944-1949, divorced
-- one child, Catherine
Le Prince charmant (1942)
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