Raised in Paris, she studied the cello at the Conservatoire de Musique. At 13, she won a part in the musical film Le Bal (1931). Her beauty combined with her singing and dancing ability led to numerous other offers, and the film Mayerling (1936) brought her to fame. In 1935, Darrieux married director/screenwriter Henri Decoin, who encouraged her to try Hollywood. She signed with Universal Studios to star in The Rage of Paris (1938) opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Afterwards, she elected to return to Paris. Under the German occupation of France during World War II, she continued to perform, a decision that was severely criticized by her compatriots. However, it is reported that her brother had been threatened with deportation by Alfred Greven, the manager of the German run film production company in occupied France, Continental. She got a divorce and then fell in love with Porfirio Rubirosa, a Dominican Republic diplomat and notorious womanizer. They married in 1942.
His anti-Nazi opinions resulted in his forced residence in Germany. In exchange for Rubirosa's freedom, Darrieux agreed to make a promotional trip in Berlin. The couple lived in Switzerland until the end of the war, and divorced in 1947. She married scriptwriter Georges Mitsikidès in 1948, and they lived together until his death in 1991. She gave a good performance in the 1951 MGM musical Rich, Young and Pretty.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz lured her back to Hollywood to star in 5 Fingers (1952) opposite James Mason. Upon returning to France, she appeared in Max Ophüls' The Earrings of Madame de... (1953) opposite Charles Boyer, and The Red and the Black (1954) opposite Gérard Philippe.
The next year she starred in Lady Chatterley's Lover, whose theme of uninhibited sexuality led to its being proscribed by Catholic censors in the United States. During the late 1950s, she played a supporting role in her last American film, United Artists' epic Alexander the Great (1956) starring Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. In 1961 she went to England at the request of director Lewis Gilbert to star in The Greengage Summer opposite Kenneth More. In 1963, she starred in the romantic comedy La Robe Mauve de Valentine at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris. The play was adapted from the novel by Françoise Sagan.
Then, in 1966, she played a memorable supporting role in Jacques Demy's musical The Young Girls of Rochefort. She is notable for being the only principal actor in any of Demy's film-musicals to sing her own songs. (All other actors had a separate person voice their singing parts.) During the 1960s she also was a concert singer. In 1970, Darrieux replaced Katharine Hepburn in the Broadway musical Coco, based on the life of Coco Chanel, but the play, essentially a showcase for Hepburn, soon folded without her. In 1971 and 1972 she also appeared in the short-lived productions of Ambassador.
In 1982, she worked again with Demy for his film Une chambre en ville, an opera-like musical melodrama reminiscent of the director's earlier masterpiece The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Once again, Darrieux provided her own vocals for her songs. For her long service to the motion picture industry, in 1985 she was given an Honorary César Award. She continued to work, her career spanning eight decades, most recently providing the voice of the protagonist's grandmother in the animated feature, Persepolis (2007), which deals with the impact of the Islamic revolution on a girl's life as she grows to adulthood in Iran. Danielle Darreux died on 17 October 2017 aged 100. She was paid homage in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009): when Shosanna Dreyfus is preparing to take the Nazis down, her assistant calls her Danielle Darrieux. Read more on Last.fm.
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