The actress Micheline Presle, doyenne of French cinema, is dead

French cinema mourns its oldest member: actress Micheline Presle, who shot more than 150 films, including some in Hollywood, died this Wednesday, February 21 at the age of 101.

The actress and doyenne of French cinema, Micheline Presle, during the opening screening of a retrospective of Philippe de Broca, at the Cinémathèque française in Paris, in May 2015. © BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

By: RFI Follow


Read more

Micheline passed away peacefully, at the National House of Artists in Nogent-sur-Marne 

” in Val-de-Marne, her son-in-law Olivier Bomsel announced to AFP, adding that the funeral would take place privately. . With his death,

a page in cinema

turns: his career includes a total of more than 150 films, including a few in Hollywood.

Born Micheline Chassagne in Paris in August 1922, Micheline Presle has long remained one of the

three favorite stars of the French

with the two other actresses Danielle Darrieux and Michèle Morgan. She was barely 17 when she was discovered by German filmmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst, who directed Greta Garbo and Louise Brooks in the 1920s and who offered her a role in

Girls in Distress

 in 1939. The name she wears in this film – Presle – becomes her stage name.

The star of the free zone

But it was

Paradise Lost

 (1940) by Abel Gance that made her known to the general public. The German Occupation even made her the great French star of the free zone. At the Liberation, Micheline Presle took another step in notoriety with


 (1945) by Jacques Becker and

Boule de suif

 (1945) by Christian-Jaque.

Her naturalness and classic beauty led her straight to Hollywood where she married actor and director Bill Marshall. Hollywood, which had never really been successful for French stars of the time, imposed a draconian contract on him. “

I didn’t do anything interesting there,”

she confided.

I even managed the feat of making with Fritz Lang his least interesting film,

Guerrilla in the Philippines

, a commissioned work on the return of General MacArthur


Back in France, she played in

L'Amour d'une femme

 by Jean Grémillon then, in London,

The Investigation of Inspector Morgan

 by Joseph Losey. At the end of the 1950s, the New Wave ignored it. At the beginning of the 1970s, she met a new family at the theater with the Grand Magic Circus by Jérôme Savary, with its delirious style.

But Micheline Presle will remain for many Marthe, Gérard Philipe's playmate in

Le Diable au corps

 (1947) by Claude Autant-Lara, adapted from the novel by Raymond Radiguet. Or the star of Saturday evenings in the TV series

Les Saintes Chéries

, an ORTF institution from the 1960s.

“I believe that there has always been in me the fear of seeing my personality as a woman, undermined by my life as an actress. » Portrait of Micheline Presle, an actress who has always prioritized her personal life over her acting career. Micheline Presle died on February 21, at…

— (@Inafr_officiel) February 21, 2024

Iconic figure

” of French cinema

Later, she will film with her daughter, director, notably

Vénus Beauté (institut)

", in 1999. By receiving the César for best director, the latter, who died in March 2020, will pay tribute to her mother, "

always ready to get up at 5 a.m. to wade through the rain and enthusiastically make a first film


Infinite sadness. France is orphaned by its beloved saint. At 101 years old, Micheline was beautiful, simple, lively, curious about everything, singing to delight, laughing, with a lively eye. Loving to love

,” responded the former president of the Cannes Film Festival Gilles Jacob to AFP.

“ Micheline Presle was an


figure of


cinema ,” greeted the Académie des Césars, two days before its 49th ceremony, and twenty years after having awarded her an honorary César. “

Cinema is without a doubt the most beautiful story of my life

,” the actress said on stage at the time, after paying tribute to the “

young filmmakers

 ” to whom she said she owed her “ 


” and “

many of her joys


Also read: The lady with the camellias, on the verge of words





Receive all the international news directly in your inbox

I subscribe

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI application

Share :

Continue reading on the same themes:

  • Arts

  • Movie theater

  • France

  • Culture