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Jean Seberg


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Jean Seberg (November 13, 1938 – September 8, 1979) was an American actress. She starred in 34 films in Hollywood and in France. Seberg became even more of an icon after her roles in numerous French films and the tragedy of her turbulent life.

Seberg was born in Marshalltown, Iowa to Edward Seberg and Dorothy Benson. Her family background was Lutheran.[1]

[edit] Career

Seberg was discovered by Otto Preminger, who directed her in her first two films. She made her film debut in 1957 in the title role of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan. She secured the role after being chosen from 18,000 hopeful actresses. The young Seberg was then thrust into the glaring spotlight and subject of countless Cinderella stories. Expectations were high. When the film was released, reviews were generally mediocre, praising Jean's fresh beauty, but finding her in over her head playing Joan. Preminger never came to her defense. Among her roles, she co-starred with Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard's classic work of New Wave cinema, Breathless (original French title: A bout de souffle). Seberg also appeared in the 1959 classic Peter Sellers comedy, The Mouse that Roared. In 1969, she appeared in her first and only musical film, Paint Your Wagon, based on Lerner and Loewe's stage musical, but her voice was dubbed. She was one of the many stars in the 1970 disaster film, Airport.

[edit] Personal life

During the latter part of the 1960s, Seberg used her high-profile image to voice support for the NAACP and supported Native American school groups such as the Mesquakie Bucks at the Tama settlement near her home town of Marshalltown, for whom she purchased $500 worth of basketball uniforms. She also supported the Black Panther Party.[2] FBI director J. Edgar Hoover considered her a threat to the American state. Her telephone was tapped and her private life has been closely observed. She knew about it and felt chased. In 1970, when she was seven months pregnant, FBI created a false story[3] to leak to the media that the child she was carrying was not fathered by her second husband, Romain Gary, but by a member of the Black Panthers Party. The story was reported by Joyce Haber of the Los Angeles Times newspaper.[4], and Newsweek magazine[5] She gave birth to a girl on 23 August but the infant died two days later.[6] In a press conference she presented the press with a picture of her fetus to demonstrate that the child did not have a father of African heritage. Seberg stated that the trauma of this event brought on premature labor and her child was stillborn. The child was named Nina Gary; the baby was actually fathered by Carlos Navarra.[7] According to her husband, after the loss of their child she suffered from a deep depression and became suicidal. She also became dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs. She made several attempts to take her own life, including throwing herself under a train on the Paris Métro.

Seberg's problems were compounded when she went through a form of marriage to an Algerian playboy, Ahmed Hasni, on May 31, 1979. The brief ceremony had no legal force because she had taken film director Dennis Charles Berry[8] as her third husband in 1972 and the marriage was still valid[9] In July, Hasni persuaded her to sell her opulent apartment on the Rue du Bac, and he kept the proceeds (reportedly 11 million francs in cash), announcing that he would use the money to open a Barcelona restaurant.[10] The couple departed for Spain but she was soon back in Paris alone, and went into hiding from Hasni, who she said had grievously abused her[11].

In August 1979, she went missing, and was found dead 11 days later in the back seat of her car in a Paris suburb. The police report stated that she had taken a massive overdose of barbiturates and alcohol (8g per litre). A suicide note ("Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves") was found in her hand, and suicide was ultimately ruled the official cause of death. However, it is often questioned how she could have driven to the address in the 16th arrondissement with that amount of alcohol in her body, and without the distance glasses she always maintained she absolutely needed for driving.[12] She was not yet 41 years old when she died. Her second husband, Romain Gary, with whom she had a son, Alexandre Diego Gary, also committed suicide a year after her death.

Seberg was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris, France.

[edit] Legacy

Mexican author Carlos Fuentes' novel Diana, The Goddess Who Hunts Alone (1972) is a fictionalized account of his affair with Seberg. In 1995, a documentary of her life was made by Mark Rappaport, titled From the Journals of Jean Seberg. Mary Beth Hurt played Seberg in a voice-over. Coincidentally, Hurt was also born in Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1946, and attended the same high school as Seberg. Seberg was for a short time Hurt's babysitter. A musical, Jean Seberg, by librettist Julian Barry, composer Marvin Hamlisch, and lyricist Christopher Adler, based on Seberg's life, was presented in 1983 at the National Theatre in London.

The short 2000 film Je T'aime John Wayne is a tribute parody of Breathless, with Camilla Rutherford playing Seberg's role. Actress Kirsten Dunst has proposed making a film about Seberg's life. The British band, The Divine Comedy, make reference to 'Little Jean Seberg' in their song titled "Absent Friends".

In 2004, the French author Alain Absire published Jean S., a fictionalised biography. Seberg's son Alexandre Diego Gary brought a lawsuit unsuccessfully attempting to stop publication.

[edit] Partial filmography

Saint Joan - (1957)

Bonjour tristesse - (1958)

The Mouse That Roared - (1959)

Breathless - (1959) - (A bout de souffle)

Five Day Lover - (1961)

In the French Style - (1962)

Lilith - (1964)

The Beautiful Swindlers - (1964)

Échappement libre (Backfire) - (1964)

A Fine Madness - (1966)

Line of Demarcation - (1966)

The Road to Corinth - (1968)

Birds in Peru - (1968)

Pendulum - (1968)

Paint Your Wagon - (1969)

Airport - (1970)

L'attentat - (1972)

Kill! - (1972)

Camorra - (1972)

The Corruption of Chris Miller - (1973)

Les Hautes solitudes - (1974)

Große Ekstase - (1975)

White Horses of Summer - (1975)

The Wild Duck - (1976)

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