Described by Simone de Beauvoir, the famous French intellectual, as a locomotive of women’s history and the first and most liberated woman of post-war France, Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born on 28 September 1934 in Paris, in a wealthy family. While her Mother, Anne-Marie, was a beautiful society woman who was keen on fashion and ballet, her Father, Louis Bardot, was an engineer and apart from being the proprietor of several industrial factories in Paris, he was also a poet and an amateur filmmaker. Brigitte and her sister Marie-Jeanne, born in 1938, were treated by their parents strictly, who taught them manners, supervised their education and refused to let them stay out late.
When Paris was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, the sisters were forced to spend more time at home due to increasingly strict civilian surveillance and at that time Brigitte used to be engrossed in dancing with phonograph records. It attracted the attention of her mother, who saw a potential ballet dancer in her. At the age seven, she was admitted to Cours Hattemet, a private school and at the same time she started to take dance lessons at a local studio, as arranged by her mother. She was accepted to the Conservatoire de Paris in 1949 and attended the ballet classes for three years under the Russian Choreographer Boris Knyazev. She was evidently gifted, as she won a prize at the Conservatoire in 1948, while the ballet training gave Bardot her distinctive, graceful posture and walk.
Madame Bardot, who had the dream to become a dancer or a model, was instrumental in getting her daughter into modeling, when in 1948 she convinced her friend Jean Barthet, a famous hat designer, to employ her 14-year old daughter to model his hats while dancing to music from the famous ballet, Swan Lake. Barthet’s show led to photo assignments for the traditional women’s magazines, which included Elle that started in 1945.With her large eyes, short nose, sensual lips, long and luxuriant hair, along with the perfect height of around 5 feet 7 inches, Bardot was perfect for modeling. While shooting for the cover of Elle that appeared on 8 March 1950, a photographer spotted the curvaceous beauty and suggested to give audition for a film directed by Marc Allegret. Although her parents opposed the idea of her becoming an actress, her grandfather was supportive, who reportedly said that cinema would not be the reason, if the little girl become a whore.
Brigitte was not selected for the role and the film was never made. It is interesting to note that the same audition also rejected Leslie Caron and Audrey Hepburn. However, at the audition Brigitte met Roger Vadim, the young assistant of Marc Allegret and became completely infatuated with him. In fact, she was intoxicated by the charismatic Frenchman and consequently, they fell in love. Later Brigitte confessed that the first impression that Roger made on her was the impression of a wild wolf and as he looked at her, he scared her, attracted her and she did not know any more about where she was. Scandalized at their daughter's budding relationship with the older man, her parents fiercely opposed their relationship and one evening her father announced that on the next day she would be sent to England to continue her studies. However, they had to relent when she attempted suicide by putting her head in a gas oven and reluctantly agreed that she could marry Vadim when she was 18. Finally, the 18-year old Brigitte Bardot was married to the 25-year-old Roger Vadim at the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce de Passy catholic church in Paris on 20 December 1952.
Bardot again appeared on the cover of Elle in 1952 that earned her the first movie offer for the comedy Crazy for Love (1952), in a small role, portraying a cousin of the main character, followed by The Lighthouse-keeper’s Daughter (1952), directed by Willy Rozier. In 1953, she had roles in The Long Teeth and Her Father’s Portrait and also played the role of a Parisian who fell in love with an American soldier, played by Kirk Douglas, towards the end of World War II, in Act of Love (aka Un Acte D’Amour 1953). In the same year Brigitte attended the Canes Film Festival in April 1953, along with Kirk Douglas and received media attention. However, her films of the early and mid 1950s were generally lightweight romantic dramas, some historical, in which she was cast mostly as an innocent girl or a siren, often appearing nude or nearly so.
Finally, she bagged a leading role in an Italian melodrama, Concert of Intrigue (1954), the role of the young and innocent sister of a handsome French officer in the French adventure film Caroline and the Rebels (1955) and a flirtatious student in Sweet Sixteen (aka School for Love (1955).In the same year, she played the love interest of Dirk Bogarde in Doctor at Sea (1955), her first sizeable English-language role and the film proved to be the third-most popular movie at the British box office that year.
Although she had a small role in Summer Maneuver (1955), it was bigger in The Light Across the Street (1956). In 1956 she also played the role of Helen’s handmaid in another Hollywood film Helen of Troy (1956) and was asked to appear as blonde in the Italia movie Mio figlio Nerone (aka Nero’s Weekend 1956), when instead of wearing a wig, she dyed her hair and was so pleased with her new look that she decided to retain the blond colour of her hair.
At that stage of her career, Brigitte Bardot appeared in consecutive four movies that made her a star and the world was introduced to the ‘Bardotmania’ that would continue for years together. It started with a musical, Naughty Girl (1956), where she played a troublesome school girl. The film, co-written by Roger Vadim, was a big hit in France, which was followed by two successful comedies, Plucking the Daisy (aka Mam’selle Striptease 1956) and The Bride Is Too Beautiful (1956).
However, Roger Vadim, her husband at that time, was not satisfied. He strongly believed that Bardot was being undersold, as the New Wave of French and Italian art film directors and their stars were riding high internationally. The result was his debut as the director of And God Created Women (1956), in which Brigitte portrayed the role of Juliet Hardy, an immoral teenager in a respectable small-town setting. The film turned out as a great success around the world and was among the ten most popular films in Britain in 1957.Her explosive sexuality took the people of the United States by storm and irrespective of good or bad, her French films were dubbed into English. In short, the film made Brigitte Bardot an international star and she was hailed as the sex kitten.
In fact, during those days of the 1950s, Brigitte Bardot signaled the change of ideas. The Hollywood actresses played according to the prescribed rules, but Bardot set her own. She became the face of a new generation and her sense of freedom showed the women of the world that they have the individual purpose of their lives, apart from only being housewives and mothers. She not only attracted men, who simply wanted her, but women were also attracted by her, as they wanted to be like her.
While married with Vadim, Bardot had an affair with Jean-Louis Trintignant, her co-star in And God Created Women. Though the two were married to other persons, they lived together for about two years that spanned before and after Bardot's divorce from Vadim. However, they never married each other and their relationship became complicated by Trintignant’s frequent absence due to his military obligations and Bardot’s involvement with musician Gilbert Becaud. Her divorce from Vadim on 6th December 1957, was followed by her break up with Trintignant, followed by her nervous breakdown in Italy. It is said that during that period she again tried to commit suicide with sleeping pills, which was denied by her public relations manager. Whatever may be the case, she recovered within weeks to begin an affair with French actor Jacques Charrier and became pregnant well before they were married on 18 June 1959. But Bardot was always vocal about not wanting to be a mother and resented her pregnancy.
Later, she revealed that in an attempt to abort the child, she repeatedly punched herself in the stomach and begged her doctor for morphine. Despite everything, Bardot's only child, her son Nicolas-Jacques Charrier, was born on 11 January 1960. After her divorce with Jacques Charrier on 20 November 1962, Nicolas was raised in the Charrier family and had little contact with his biological mother until his adulthood. Later in his life, Nicolas sued her mother for stating in her autobiography that she would have preferred to give birth to a little dog. Much later, she confessed that she was not made to be a mother and was never adult enough to take care of a child. Nevertheless, Bardot had an affair with the famous Hollywood actor Glenn Ford in the early 1960s and on her 26th birthday in 1960, she tried again to take her life, downing a bottle of sleeping pills and slitting her wrists at her villa in France.
After the huge success of And God Created Women, Bardot appeared in a number of films that included, among others, La Parisienne (1957), The Night Heaven Fell (1958), The Female (1959) and the widely seen Come Dance with Me (1959). However, the courtroom drama La Verite (aka The Truth 1960) was her biggest ever commercial success in France, which was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. She was awarded a David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign actress for her role in A Very Private Affair (Vie privee 1962), directed by Louis Malle and also starred in Jean-Luc Godard’s film La Mepris (1963). After that, her performance in Viva Maria (1965), another film directed by Louis Malle, earned her a nomination for the Best Foreign Actress in BAFTA Award.
Bardot married her third husband, the German millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs, on 14 July 1966, which ended with his suicide on 7th May 2011, by a gunshot wound to the head, as he was said to be suffering from a hopeless illness, which was probably Alzheimer’s. After his death, she began dating actor Patrick Gilles and ended the relationship in spring 1971.Over the next few years, Bardot dated lots of men that included bartender/ski instructor Christian Kalt, musician turned producer Bob Zagury, Club owner Luigi Rizzi, writer John Gilmore, singer Serge Gainsbourg, actors Warren Beatty and Laurent Vergez. However, she had a long relationship with sculptor Miroslav Brozek, with whom she lived from 1975 to 1979 and posed for some of his sculptures. After that, she was in a long-term relationship with French TV producer Allain Bougrain-duBourg. She is currently married to Bernard d'Ormale, a French industrialist, whom she married on 16 August 1992, two months after their first meeting.
In 1973, just shy of her 40th birthday and at the top of her career, Brigitte Bardot announced her retirement from acting, as a way to get out elegantly and celebrated the occasion with a naked photo shoot for Playboy magazine. However, by that time she had starred in more than 40 films and recorded several music albums, most notably with one-time lover Serge Gainsborough.
Brigitte Bardot fulfilled the long cherished dream of her life in 1986, when she established the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals and raised three million francs to fund the foundation by auctioning her jewellery and other valuable personal belongings. She also became a vegetarian and declared that she gave her youth and beauty to men and henceforth would dedicate her wisdom and experience for the welfare of the animals.