Today is the 94th birthday of the actress and model Capucine. The world is a better place that she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.
DATE OF BIRTH: 6-Jan-1928
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saint-Raphaël, Var, France
DATE OF DEATH: 17-Mar-1990
PLACE OF DEATH: Lausanne, Switzerland
CAUSE OF DEATH: Suicide
REMAINS: Cremated (ashes scattered)
BEST KNOWN FOR: Capucine was a French fashion model and actress known for her comedic roles in The Pink Panther (1963) and What’s New Pussycat? (1965).
Capucine was born Germaine Hélène Irène Lefebvre on 6 January 1928 in Saint-Raphaël, Var, France. She often confused the issue of her birth by claiming that she was born in 1931 or 1933, and most sources indicate those years. She attended school in Saumur, France, and attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in foreign languages.
In 1945, at age 17, while riding in a carriage in Paris, Lefebvre was noticed by a commercial photographer. Adopting the name “Capucine” (French for nasturtium), she became a fashion model, working for fashion houses Givenchy and Christian Dior.
Capucine met Audrey Hepburn while modeling for Givenchy in Paris. They remained close friends for the rest of Capucine’s life.
Capucine made her film debut in Jean Cocteau’s The Eagle with Two Heads (1948). She only had a small unbilled role. She also appeared in Jacques Becker’s Rendezvous in July (1949) and Robert Dhéry’s Crazy Show (1949).
She was in My Friend Sainfoin (1950) and Dhery’s Bernard and the Lion (1951).
After a break of a few years Capuncine appeared in Mademoiselle from Paris (1955) and Frou-Frou (1955).
In 1957, film producer Charles K. Feldman spotted Capucine while she was modeling in New York City. Feldman put her under contract at $150 a week. He brought her to Hollywood to learn English and study acting under Gregory Ratoff.
She was signed to a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures in 1958. After unsuccessfully auditioning for the role of Feathers in Rio Bravo (1959) she landed her first English-speaking role in the film Song Without End (1960), a biopic of Franz Liszt where Capucine played Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. Producer William Goetz said “You can teach a girl to act but nobody can teach her how to look like a princess. You’ve got to start with a girl who looks like a princess.”
“Every time I get in front of the camera I think of it as an attractive man I am meeting for the first time,” she said in 1960. “I find him demanding and aloof so I must do all I can to interest him.”
Capucine followed this with North to Alaska (1960), a comedy which had been set up by Feldman at 20th Century Fox. She played a prostitute who becomes the love interest of John Wayne. It was successful at the box office.
Capucine returned to Europe to co star in Le triomphe de Michel Strogoff (1961) with Curt Jurgens, a sequel to Michel Strogoff (1956).
Back in Hollywood, she was second billed in Walk on the Wild Side (1962), produced by Feldman, in which she portrayed a redeemed hooker. Costar Laurence Harvey complained that Feldman cut his part to build Capucine’s role.
She was then William Holden’s love interest in The Lion (1962). During filming Capucine began a romance with Holden which led to the end of her romantic relationship with Feldman but the producer remained loyal professionally.
Feldman announced he would put Capucine in Mary Magdelene and Waltz of the Toreadors but neither happened.
She moved to Switzerland in 1962. She had a cameo Beach Casanova (1962) in Italy.
Blake Edwards cast Capucine in The Pink Panther playing the wife of Inspector Clouseau who is having an affair with a jewel thief played by David Niven. It was a huge hit and led to a number of sequels. In 1964 Capucine said the directors she had learned most from were Edwards and Henry Hathaway.
Capucine was reunited with Holden in The 7th Dawn (1964) produced by Feldman; it was a box-office disappointment.
Far more successful was another film she did for Feldman, the comedy What’s New Pussycat? (1965), which costarred Sellers and Peter O’Toole, and was filmed entirely in France.
Capucine was one of several European stars in Sex Quartet (1966) for Columbia (originally The Queens) then Feldman put her in The Honey Pot (1967) directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. She was announced for Feldman’s Casino Royale but did not appear in the film.
Feldman died in May 1968 and Capucine’s career never regained its former momentum. She inherited the rights to the book Zandy from his estate and sold them to the makers of Zandy’s Bride.
Capucine had a support role in Fraulein Doktor (1968) and the lead in the Spanish thriller The Exquisite Cadaver (1969). She was in the supporting cast of Fellini’s Satyricon (1969). Fellini said “she had a face to launch a thousand ships… but she was born too late.”
In 1968 she told an Italian magazine she wished she didn’t always have to be elegant, that she longed to play a “dishevelled woman”, but “since the directors know I was a model, it is obvious that they can’t see me as anything else.”
Dirk Bogarde suggested her for the role of Tadzio’s mother in Death in Venice (1971), but Luchino Visconti turned her down saying “She has a horrible voice and too many teeth. She looks like a horse, a beautiful horse, I know that, I was a trainer. I know all about horses, but I don’t want a horse.”
Capucine had a supporting role in the Western Red Sun (1971) and guest starred on Search Control (1972), her first TV series.
She supported Jean Paul Belmondo in Incorrigible (1975) and Richard Burton in Jackpot, which ultimately was abandoned.
She appeared on television in Cinéma 16, and La pêche miraculeuse (1976), and had roles in The Con Artists (1976), Per amore (1976), Ecco noi per esempio… (1977), Nest of Vipers (1978), From Hell to Victory (1979), Atrocious Tales of Love and Death (1979), Neapolitan Mystery (1979), Arabian Adventure (1979), Jaguar Lives! (1979), and Martin Eden (1979).
Capucine was in episodes of Orient Express and Hart to Hart.
She went to Europe to make Les invités (1982), Aphrodite (1982), Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).
Capucine could be seen in episodes of Série noire, Voglia di cantare, Murder, She Wrote, Honor Thy Father, Sins, Delirium (1987), My First Forty Years (1987), Gila and Rik (1987), Una verità come un’altra (1989), Quartier nègre (1989), Blaues Blut [fr] (1990) and Il giudice istruttore.
Capucine met Pierre Trabaud on the set of Rendez-vous (1949) and they married the next year. The marriage lasted only eight months, and she never married again.
She had an affair with Charles K. Feldman, who produced her films What’s New Pussycat?, The 7th Dawn, and The Honey Pot. This affair ended when Capucine met William Holden, but the two remained close until Feldman’s death. He left her $75,000.
Capucine met actor William Holden in the early 1960s. They starred in the films The Lion (1962) and The 7th Dawn (1964). Holden was married to Brenda Marshall, but the two began a two-year affair. After the affair ended, she and Holden remained friends until Holden’s death in 1981. When he died he left her $50,000.
On 17 March 1990, at age 62, Capucine jumped to her death from her eighth-floor apartment in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she had lived for 28 years, having reportedly suffered from illness and depression for some time. The police said an investigation left no doubt that she committed suicide. Neighbors said she had led a reclusive life with her three cats, hardly ever leaving her apartment and spending most of her time reading.
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
My First Forty Years (5-Nov-1987)
Curse of the Pink Panther (13-Aug-1983) · Lady Litton
Trail of the Pink Panther (17-Dec-1982) · Lady Litton
Jaguar Lives (9-Aug-1979)
Arabian Adventure (5-Jul-1979)
From Hell to Victory (1979)
The Con Artists (13-Aug-1976)
Red Sun (15-Sep-1971)
Fräulein Doktor (24-Jan-1969)
The Honey Pot (21-Mar-1967) · Princess Dominique
The Queens (1966)
What’s New, Pussycat (22-Jun-1965) · Renée
The 7th Dawn (2-Sep-1964) · Dhana
The Pink Panther (19-Dec-1963) · Simone Clouseau
The Lion (19-Aug-1962) · Christine
Walk on the Wild Side (21-Feb-1962) · Hallie
North to Alaska (7-Nov-1960) · Angel
Song Without End (11-Aug-1960) · Princess Carolyne