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Jeanne Moreau, Star of Jules et Jim and French Film Icon, Dies at 89

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Sipa/AP

Actress Jeanne Moreau, an icon of French New Wave cinema who went on to become an international film star, has died in Paris, according to AFP. She was 89.

While cause of death has not been disclosed, reports in French media indicate she was found Monday morning in her apartment on Faubourgh-St.-Honoré by a maid.

French president Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the late star on his twitter early Monday morning, calling her a “movie and theater legend” who was “engaged in the whirlwind of life with absolute freedom.”

The star of François Truffaut’s classic 1962 film Jules et Jim, Moreau also worked with Orson Welles, who once called her “the greatest actress in the world.” 

She lived as flamboyantly off screen as on, frequently serving as a muse and lover to directors. Among her reported liaisons were affairs with Marcello Mastroianni, Lee Marvin, director Tony Richardson and designer Pierre Cardin. 

In 1977, she married American director William Friedkin before they divorced in 1979. She was previously married to French actor Jean-Louis Richard from 1949 to 1964.

Hulton Archive/Getty Image
Moreau in 1955

Paris-born, Moreau was a trained stage actress and member of the Comedie Francaise before receiving critical attention for a pair of 1958 films, both directed by Louis Malle — Elevator to the Gallows and The Lover — before capturing international acclaim for her role in Truffaut’s Jules et Jim.

Her refinement and smoky-edged appeal contributed to her frequent comparison and description as “the French Bette Davis” 

Often flitting between popular and art-house films, Moreau appeared in a wide variety of international films including, Viva Maria! alongside Brigitte Bardot and George Hamilton, The Yellow Rolls Royce, Frankenheimer’s The Train alongside Burt Lancaster and Luc Besson’s Nikita.

In 1998, Sharon Stone presented Moreau with a Lifetime Achievement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.