Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

The life of Yves Montand

Posted on

The life of Yves Montand

That cigarette dancing from the lips. That lilting Gallic accent. That all right, that je ne sais quoi. To American audiences familiar with him from ”art” movie houses and cable TV, Yves Montand, who died near Paris on Nov. 9 of a heart attack at age 70, was the very embodiment of a French lover.

This quintessential Frenchman was born an Italian, Ivo Livi, of working- class parents in Tuscany. His family fled fascism to France, where, in his early 20s, he took to the stage, changed his name, and charmed Edith Piaf, who helped him launch a singing career. Montand made the jump to movie star with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear (1953), playing a desperate man driving a truck full of nitroglycerin through dangerous terrain. Over the years his private life proved to be equally explosive. He lived with Piaf for two years and had a highly publicized affair with Marilyn Monroe. With his wife of 36 years, the late actress Simone Signoret, Montand was active in leftist politics, flirted with the Communist Party, and even visited the Soviet Union after its 1956 invasion of Hungary. He eventually broke with the left and late in life made a turn toward Thatcherism. But his politics never encumbered his career. After 45 years in film, Montand had made more than 50 movies and had become a pillar of the international film establishment, though the old rebel would surely have cringed at the thought. Here’s the best of Montand on video:

The Wages of Fear (1953)
As a ne’er-do-well hired to haul explosives over the Andes, Montand enacts a terrifying descent into greed. A

Let’s Make Love (1960)
So said Marilyn Monroe offscreen to the married Montand, and their scandalous attraction sparks this backstage musical to life. B+

Z (1969)
Best of the three political thrillers he made with director Costa- Gavras; here he’s a Greek pacifist leader slain by the government. A

Jean De Florette and Manon of the Spring (1986) His showiest role, in the two-part screen story of a despicably covetous Provencal farmer whose plot to steal a neighbor’s land backfires. A-

Comments