Corinne Calvet

Corinne Calvet (April 30, 1925 – June 23, 2001), born Corinne Dibos, was a French actress who appeared mostly in American films. According to one obituary, she was promoted "as a combination of Dietrich and Rita Hayworth, but her persona failed to live up to this description, though the fault lay as much with a string of mediocre films as with a lack of a compelling talent, for Calvet's sultry looks and flashing eyes were allied with an impish sense of humour. She eventually became better known for her fiery private life... and some well- publicised legal battles."[1]

Corinne Calvet
Calvet on the August 1953 cover of Epoca
Born
Corinne Dibos

(1925-04-30)April 30, 1925
Paris, France
DiedJune 23, 2001(2001-06-23) (aged 76)
OccupationActress
Years active1945-1982
Spouse(s)
John Bromfield
(m. 1948; div. 1954)

Jeffrey Stone
(m. 1955; div. 1960)

Robert J. Wirt
(m. 1968; sep. 1971)
Children1

Biography

Early life

Calvet was born in Paris. Her mother was a scientist who played a part in the development of Pyrex glass.[2]

One of her sisters, a doctor, died when taken hostage by the Germans during the war. She and her father had to flee Paris when the Germans came.[3]

Calvet studied criminal law at the Sorbonne. "A lawyer needs exactly what an actor needs, strong personality, persuasive powers and a good voice," she said later.[4]

While studying law, she often went to the Deux Magots café where her group of friends included Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais, which prompted her to try acting. Marais advised her to join Charles Dullin's acting school, where he had trained alongside Simone Signoret and Gerard Philipe. She then studied at L'Ecole du Cinema.[1]

French acting career

Calvet made her debut in French radio, stage plays, and cinema in the 1940s. She appeared uncredited in the film Blind Desire (1945) and was the French voice of Rita Hayworth in dubbed versions of American movies.[1]

She had a speaking part in Petrus (1946) starring Fernandel.[5] Her father did not want her to use the family name, so she chose "Calvet" from a name on a bottle of wine (she felt that alliteration had been lucky for Michele Morgan, Dannielle Darrieux, and Simone Signoret).[6]

Calvet played a model in We Are Not Married (1946) and had a support role in Last Chance Castle (1947).

Hal Wallis and 20th Century Fox

According to one obituary, "Just after the Second World War, most of the major Hollywood studios were importing female talent from Europe in the hopes of finding another Garbo, Dietrich or Bergman to lend exoticism to their product. Alida Valli, Hildegard Knef and Denise Darcel were among those who had varying success during the period, and Corinne Calvet was the choice of Paramount."[1]

The studio were looking for a Frenchwoman to play a suspected collaborator in Sealed Verdict (1948). They signed Calvet in February 1947.[7][8] In April the studio announced she would be called "Corinne Calvat".[9] Eventually the studio decided Calvet was too young and in August cast Florence Marly instead.[3][10]

Paramount did not use her for a year. Calvet spent that time training and working on her English although Hedda Hopper later claimed she spent that time "in nightclubs instead of learning English."[11] Her visa was nearly rescinded because her association with the existentialist element in France was suspicious to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Paramount dropped her.[3]

Calvet did a test for MGM, who signed her for six months from July 1948.[11] She was in a car accident but recovered. She married actor John Bromfield who was under contrat to Hal B. Wallis. Wallis saw a test of Calvet and in August 1948 took her back to Paramount for a role in Rope of Sand (1949) opposite Burt Lancaster and Paul Henreid, directed by William Dieterle.[12]

She was given star billing in her second Hollywood film, When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950), starring Dan Dailey and directed by John Ford for 20th Century Fox. Fox bought half her contract from Paramount, having the right to use her for five films.[3]

Wallis put her in My Friend Irma Goes West (1950) a film best remembered for being the second movie released starring Martin and Lewis. "I couldn't believe he would cast me in such a script," she later recalled. "Rope of Sand had made me a valuable property. Doing this film would ruin my chances of rising higher as a dramatic star."[2]

In January 1950 actress and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper claimed that Calvert's "ego s [now] so inflated I doubt if she could get inside a jumping rope... Corinne thinks she's god's gift to America instead of being grateful for the opportunity after flopping at two studios."[13]

At Paramount she did a film about the Lower Canada Rebellion, Quebec (1951) with John Drew Barrymore.

20th Century Fox borrowed her to play Danny Kaye's leading lady in On the Riviera (1951), which earned her a Roscoe by the Harvard Lampoon for giving one of the worst film performances of 1951.[4]

Wallis co starred her with Joseph Cotten in Peking Express (1951) and Martin and Lewis in Sailor Beware (1952).

John Ford reteamed her with Dailey in What Price Glory (1952). Calvet began appearing on television shows like Lux Video Theatre.

She made a rare television appearance on the Colgate Comedy Hour with Donald O'Connor on February 3, 1952, televised nationwide by NBC. She also appeared on the game show The Name's the Same, in the "I'd Like to Be" segment, where she stumped the panel with her choice of Rocky Marciano.

At Paramount she did Thunder in the East (1953) with Alan Ladd, then at Fox was Rory Calhoun's leading lady in a Western, Powder River (1953).

Paramount put her in a low budget thriller, Flight to Tangier (1953), and she appeared on The Ford Television Theatre. She developed a night club act and toured the country performing it.[1]

In April 1954 she unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide.[14]

Calvert made two films at Universal: The Far Country (1954) with James Stewart, and So This Is Paris (1954) with Tony Curtis. In 1955 she became an American citizen.[15]

Return to Europe

Calvet returned to France to star in One Step to Eternity (1955) then went to Italy to appear in Le ragazze di San Frediano (1955) and Sins of Casanova (1955).

In February 1955 it was announced she would star in a TV series based on the radio show Cafe Istanbul but it appears to not have been made.[16]

She did make Operazione notte (1957) in Italy.

Calvet went back to Hollywood to appear in episodes of Climax!, Studio One in Hollywood, and Richard Diamond, Private Detective. She had the lead in a low budge Western, Plunderers of Painted Flats (1959) and supported George Sanders in Bluebeards Ten Honeymoons (1960).

Upset with her treatment in Hollywood, in 1960, Calvet "decided to return to France to make her headquarters".[17]

She did continue to work in the US, appearing in Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962) and Apache Uprising (1965) (with Calhoun), as well as episodes of The DuPont Show of the Week, Burke's Law, and Batman.

Later career

Calvet's later appearances include Pound (1970) by Robert Downey Sr, The Phantom of Hollywood (1974), an episode of Police Story, She's Too Hot to Handle (1977), The French Atlantic Affair, an episode of Starsky and Hutch, and She's Dressed to Kill (1979).

She studied at the Arica Institute, a human potential movement group, and made a new career for herself as a hypnotherapist, specialising in regressing people to their past lives.

Her last appearances were in Hart to Hart (1979), Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980), The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), and Side Roads (1988).

In her memoir, entitled Has Corinne Been a Good Girl? (1983), she stated that the roles she played for Hollywood studios never challenged her acting ability. In 1958, referring to being cast as a French temptress, she told an interviewer, "If I had come to Hollywood as a dramatic actress, I never would have been Corinne Calvet, and you never would have been sitting here talking to me."[18]

Personal life

Calvet was married three times. Her first marriage was to actor John Bromfield (1948 – 17 March 1954), who had co-starred with her in Rope of Sand and whom she claimed had been ordered to marry her by his studio. She then married actor Jeffrey Stone (1955–1960)[19] and producer Robert J. Wirt (1968 – October 1971). All three marriages ended in divorce.

She had a son with Jeffrey Stone, John, born in 1956.[20]

Between her last two marriages, she had a six year de facto relationship with millionaire Donald Scott and they adopted a boy together.[1] She later admitted she never earned more than $10,000 a year during this period.[21]

Calvet once said, "American men make wonderful husbands if you don't love them. But if you love them, don't marry them. "I don't mean they are lousy lovers," Calvet said. "I just think they are little boys who don't know what they want. In America, you don't have romances, you have affairs. And these affairs really lack class."[22]

In 1952, Calvet sued actress Zsa Zsa Gabor for $1 million, accusing her of slander after Gabor was quoted as saying that Calvet was not really French, but was "a cockney English girl who coldn't even speak French a few years ago".[23] An obituary noted: "Gabor countered that Calvet's suit was without merit. The court apparently agreed because the legal wrangle quickly disappeared from the media."[4]

In 1967, her boyfriend of six years, Donald Scott, sued Calvet to recover $878,000 in assets that Scott had put under her name in an effort to hide them from his wife in a divorce battle. A two week trial resulted in which Scott claimed Calvet had used voodoo to control him. She and Scott settled and she was awarded with $200,000.[4][24][25][26]

Death

Calvet died June 23, 2001 in Los Angeles of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was survived by a son, Michael.[4]

Selected filmography

Radio appearances

YearProgramEpisode/source
1953Broadway PlayhouseCandle Light[27]

Bibliography

  • Calvet, Corinne (1983). Has Corinne Been A Good Girl? : The Intimate Memoirs of a French Actress in Hollywood. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-36405-9.

Tributes

In her collection "Ariege", fashion designer Marcela Calvet named one of her most sought-after handbags "Corinne", in her honor.

References

  1. Obituary: Corinne Calvet: [FOREIGN Edition] Vallance, Tom. The Independent; London (UK) [London (UK)]30 June 2001: 7.
  2. Bergan, Ronald (July 5, 2001). "Corinne Calvet". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  3. Corinne Calvet Revives Family Actress Tradition Strong, Edwin J. Los Angeles Times 22 July 1951: D1.
  4. Thurber, Jon (June 27, 2001). "Corinne Calvet; French Actress". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  5. Obituary: Corinne Calvet Anonymous. Variety; Los Angeles Vol. 383, Iss. 7, (Jul 9-Jul 15, 2001): 46.
  6. The Life Story of CORINNE CALVET Picture Show; London Vol. 60, Iss. 1556, (Jan 24, 1953): 12.
  7. Laraine's in a Rush The Washington Post 16 Feb 1947: S5.
  8. ROLE IN NEW FILM TO CORIME CALVET: French Actress to Make Debut in 'The Sealed Verdict,' a Paramount War Study By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. 21 Mar 1947: 29.
  9. STUDIO DROPS FILM ON DEVIL'S ISLAND: Columbia Abandons Project in Line With Industry Policy on Foreign Markets By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]11 Apr 1947: 30.
  10. LOUIS CALHERN SET FOR ROLE IN FILM: Actor Agrees to Assignment in 'Look Homeward, Angel' -- Sherman Signs Peerce By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES 26 Aug 1947: 27.
  11. Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 6 July 1948: A7.
  12. WALLIS GIVES ROLE TO CORINNE CALVET: Producer Will Co-Star French Actress in 'Rope of Sand,' With Burt Lancaster Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times 20 Aug 1948: 13.
  13. Film Actor Steps from Boxing to Bull Ring: Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 27 Jan 1950: A1.
  14. ACTRESS TRIES SUICIDE: Police Say Corinne Calvet Was Felled by Sleeping Pills New York Times 1 Apr 1954: 40.
  15. Corinne Calvet and 178 Others Become Citizens Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]09 July 1955: a1.
  16. Corinne Calvet Gets TV Version of Marlene Dietrich's Radio Show Ames, Walter. Los Angeles Times 16 Feb 1955: 30.
  17. "Corinne Makes H'Wood Exit". Sunday Gazette-Mail. May 1, 1960. p. 53. Retrieved June 21, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  18. "(untitled brief)". The Tipton Daily Tribune. January 27, 1958. p. 2. Retrieved June 21, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  19. "Corinne Calvet Wins Divorce". Ocala Star-Banner. March 29, 1960. p. 22. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  20. Corinne Calvet Wins Divorce New York Times30 Mar 1960: 43.
  21. $750,000 in Gifts to Star Called Silencers CORINNE CALVET SUED. Los Angeles Times 12 Dec 1967: 25.
  22. MEN HERE ONLY 'LITTLE BOYS': Corinne Calvet Sails, 'Forsakes' U.S. After 12 Years, 2 Husbands Los Angeles Times 21 Apr 1960: 15.
  23. "Corinne Calvet Sues Zsa Zsa For $1 Million". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. August 13, 1952. p. 1. Retrieved June 21, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  24. Heir Loses Round in Corinne Calvet Suit Los Angeles Times 19 May 1966: b8.
  25. DENIES LOVE WAS A PRETENSE: Denise Darcel Aids Corinne Calvet in Suit Los Angeles Times 19 Dec 1967: a1.
  26. Miss Calvet to Get $200,000 of Assets Given Her by Scott Los Angeles Times 27 Dec 1967: sf1.
  27. Kirby, Walter (January 18, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 20, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
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