Simone Signoret was a French actress who became the first French person to win an Academy Award. Often referred to as one of France's greatest film stars, she won the coveted Academy Award for her role in ‘Room at the Top’, in which she played an unhappily married woman who looks for love outside her marriage. As a character actress, she gained much acclaim for portraying prostitutes with golden hearts and as liberated women who dared to question the social norms. Born in Germany to French nationals, she was raised in Paris where she received a comfortable upbringing in an intellectually stimulating environment. During the German occupation of France during the World War II, she became acquainted with an artistic group of writers and actors and developed an interest in acting. She ventured into acting in the early 1940s and over the years she became a critically acclaimed actress who gained much respect for her acting prowess. A highly successful actress, she was the recipient of several coveted awards including BAFTA, Emmy, Cannes Film Festival Award, and NBR Award. She continued to act into her early 60s and died of cancer at the age of 64.
Signoret straddled the classic era of French cinema, 1960s Hollywood and British kitchen-sink drama in a series of brilliant performances. On the 100th anniversary of her birth, we look back at the highlights.