When it came to late-’50s cheap thrills, this was better than Playboy or Swank. On Nov. 3, 1957, …And God Created Woman, a French import starring Brigitte Bardot, burned up movie screens in the U.S., offering more skin and titillation per minute than most American moviegoers had ever seen. Playing a Lolita-like vixen, blond, wide-eyed Bardot, 23, sprawled bare-assed on a St.-Tropez hillside, ripped open her skirt, danced lasciviously to hot jazz, gift-wrapped herself in a bed sheet, got hitched to a young fisherman, and then, for toppers, (Gasp!) bedded his brother.
Critics scoffed and the family-values brigade fumed, trying to ban the film. A Lake Placid, N.Y., priest offered his local theater $350 not to show it. His gesture was spurned. In fact, by grossing $12 million in the U.S. in a year, …And God Created Woman weakened the Catholic Legion of Decency, a powerful cultural watchdog that had condemned it.
But Woman‘s most striking contribution was B.B. herself. Director Roger Vadim, then her husband, had discovered her when she was 15, made her a minor star in Europe, and, with this film, turned her into a household name. Women copied her girlish gingham dresses and blond, piled-up tresses — a style still popular today atop Claudia Schiffer, Daryl Hannah, and Ivana Trump. Bardot, however, came to hate her fame and the relentless paparazzi, and retired in 1973 after 68 mostly forgettable films.
Today Bardot, 58 and divorced 35 years from Vadim, has become the Riviera’s Garbo, turning to the cameras only for her animal-rights foundation. Last month wire services everywhere carried news of her fourth marriage, to Bernard d’Ormale, 51, a right-wing businessman and adviser to National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. On Oct. 2 The Wall Street Journal reported Bardot’s victory over a neighbor who sued her for castrating his donkey, which got frisky with Bardot’s old mare. Like the horse, Bardot would rather be left alone. ”I gave my beauty and my youth to men,” she said in 1987, ”and now I am giving my wisdom and experience — the best of me — to animals.”
Time Capsule: November 3, 1957
Elvis Presley topped the charts with his Loving You soundtrack; Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged ruled the book world. Gunsmoke was No. 1 on TV, and Glenn Ford cavorted with Eva Gabor in Don’t Go Near the Water.