Juliette Greco’s first film to receive wide exposure outside of France was Jean Cocteau's ORPHEUS (Orphee). The film has its origins in the famous myth of the troubadour who traveled to Hell to rescue his soulmate, only to fail to live up to the restrictions of his deal with Death upon returning to Earth, but the French director updated and molded the material to fit the times. Set to a jazzy score by Georges Auric, the movie opens in a bohemian café. “Orpheus” (Jean Marais) has stopped in for a drink, only to suffer the open scorn of his peers and rivals who resent his success.
On this particular day, a Roll's Royce also delivers the latest enfant terrible of verse, a drunken teenager named “Cégeste” (Edouard Dermithe). The car belongs to Cégeste's patron, a dark-haired ice queen known only as the “Princess” (Maria Casarés). Its stoic driver is “Heurtebise” (François Périer). Before day’s end, the café will erupt in a rumble of poets, and Cégeste will be struck down by a pair of motorcycle riding messengers of death
When Cégeste is restored to life, Heurtebise takes Orpheus home, only to find that there is a scandal brewing. His wife, “Eurydice” (Marie Déa), is hiding from reporters who want to know what happened to Cégeste. A police inspector (Pierre Bertin) is in their kitchen, as well as “Aglaonice” (Juliette Gréco), a friend of Eurydice's who already hates Orpheus. She is a member of a group called the Bacchantes who will eventually come looking for the poet's head.
Twelve minutes of Georges Auric’s score were released on a 1995 compilation disc from Auvidis.
Juliette Greco’s first American film was 1952’s THE GREEN GLOVE, which was filmed on location in Paris. Directed by Rudolph Maté, this crime drama found ex-soldier Glenn Ford and his new girlfriend (Geraldine Brooks) combing France for a valuable relic...which others are willing to kill for. Greco was to appear as a singer in the film, but ultimately all of her scenes were cut from the final print.
Juliette Greco’s breakthrough American film came six years later with THE SUN ALSO RISES. Based upon Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel, the film had a long gestation period. Intending to star as "Lady Brett Ashley," in April 1934, actress Ann Harding purchased the rights to the novel, which follows a group of disillusioned American expatriate writers living a dissolute, hedonistic lifestyle in 1920s France and Spain. Leslie Howard was to play "Jake."
Correspondence between the would-be producers and the Production Code Authority (PCA) during subsequent years reveals why the project was so difficult to bring to fruition: In Hemingway's novel, Jake's war injuries resulted in his impotence and Lady Brett was depicted as a nymphomaniac. The PCA deemed the issues of impotence and nymphomania as "not proper for screen presentation," and thought the novel to be "salacious," its characters "promiscuous and immoral."
After Fox bought the rights in 1955, a new approach to the topic was suggested that finally won approval from the PCA. Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck proposed dropping all explicit references to Jake's impotence, thus divorcing it from a specific physical reason and instead putting it in the abstract realm of a "war injury." Zanuck's other tactic was to portray Lady Brett's problem not as nymphomania, but rather excessive drinking. In the film,
Juliette Greco plays “Georgette Aubin,” a world-weary prostitute. Mel Ferrer and wife Audrey Hepburn saw Juliette Gréco singing in a Paris nightclub, and they introduced her to Darryl F. Zanuck. He was so taken with her that he cast her in the film and had her part enlarged -- and reportedly began a relationship with her. Mel Ferrer had actually appeared with Gréco in Jean Renoir’s film ELENA AND HER MEN the previous year.
Henry King directed the 1957 film. Hugo Friedhofer’s score for the film was released on a Kapp LP and finally re-issued on CD by Quartet in 2018. THE SUN ALSO RISES was in the top 25 films of the year at the box office, with an $8.6 million gross.
Otto Preminger cast Juliette Greco as a nightclub singer in his 1958 romantic drama BONJOUR TRISTESSE. In an early scene in the film, she sings the title song:
The song had music by the film’s composer, Georges Auric, with English lyrics provided by the film’s screenwriter, Arthur Laurents. The song appeared on the RCA soundtrack LP. The LP has received only a gray market CD release, from Disques Cinémusique in 2010.
Juliette Greco co-starred with Errol Flynn and Trevor Howard in THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN. In the town of Biondi in French Equatorial Africa, “Morel” (Howard) launches a campaign to save the majestic elephant herds from hunters, poachers and zoo collectors. Morel's crusade is rebuffed by the territorial governor and a missionary priest, who both refuse to sign his petition on the grounds that their concern is the betterment of humankind, not animals. At the local café, “Saint Denis” (Paul Lukas), a government official, ridicules Morel and declares that the killing of elephants is too profitable to be outlawed. The only people who agree to sign Morel's petition are “Minna” (Greco), a barmaid who was forced into prostitution by the Germans during World War II, and “Forsythe” (Flynn), an incorrigible drunk.
Juliette Greco and Trevor Howard in THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN
Romain Gary, co-screenwriter and author of the novel on which the film was based, served as the French Consul General in Los Angeles during the 1950s. Location filming took place in French Equatorial Africa from mid-March until mid-May 1958. While interiors were filmed at Studios de Boulogneogne in Paris, associate producer Robert Jacks spent a year in French Equatorial Africa and France to prepare for filming.
According to director John Huston's autobiography, Darryl F. Zanuck insisted that Juliette Greco play the female lead. Huston recalled that the “romance” between Greco and Zanuck was a one-way affair. Greco was not at all in love with the mogul, but he did whatever she wanted him to do. The movie was edited in London rather than Paris so that Zanuck could be near Greco, who was making her next film there.
The extreme temperatures and primitive conditions of filming in remote parts of Africa caused health problems for much of the cast. Greco contracted a rare blood disease, Eddie Albert nearly died from sunstroke, and many other cast members were victims of heat prostration, malaria and sunstroke. Upon returning to Paris to film interiors, Zanuck and Errol Flynn were hospitalized.
Malcolm Arnold’s score for the 1958 film was released on a 20th Century Fox LP. In 2001, William T. Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra re-recorded the score for a Marco Polo CD. The original LP received a gray market release in 2010 from el/Cherry Red, on a Juliette Greco-themed CD compilation. Finally, Twilight Time’s 2012 Blu-ray release of the film had an isolated score track. THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN was in the top 30 films of the year at the box office, with an $8.6 million gross.
In the 1959 crime drama WHIRLPOOL, on the run from her murderous wartime partner in crime “Herman” (William Sylvester), “Lora” (Juliette Greco) hides on a small cargo boat captained by heroic “Rolph” ( O.W. Fischer). The crew of three, “Georg” ( Marius Goring), “Dina” (Muriel Pavlow), and “Braun” (Peter Illing), quickly accepts her. But both Herman and the police are on her trail.
O.W. Fischer and Juliette Greco in WHIRLPOOL
Lewis Allen directed the film, which was shot on location in Germany, with interiors at Pinewood Studios in London. Eleven minutes of Ron Goodwin’s score was released on a French EP, but it has not been re-issued on CD. The film’s main theme was re-recorded by Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic for a 2004 Goodwin compilation CD from Chandos. WHIRLPOOL barely got a U.S. release, from Continental Distributing.
Bradford Dillman and Orson Welles worked again with director Richard Fleischer in 1960's CRACK IN THE MIRROR, after the previous year’s COMPULSION. The film is a melodrama about two love triangles, in which three performers play six roles--this is the game of the film.
In a sordid Paris tenement, "Hagolin" (Welles), a boorish, tyrannical laborer, berates "Eponine" (Juliette Gréco), his young mistress, accusing her of cheating on him with the virile "Robert Larnier" (Dillman). Meanwhile, in a wealthy Paris mansion, celebrated attorney "Lamorciere" (Welles) hosts a party attended by his assistant, "Kerstner" (William Lucas), promising attorney "Claude Lancaster" (Dillman) and "Florence" (Gréco), his mistress of ten years.
Juliette Greco in CRACK IN THE MIRROR
Richard Fleischer tells in his biography that he accepted the script of CRACK IN THE MIRROR only because producer Darryl F. Zanuck asked him to direct it in front of Juliette Greco, with whom Zanuck was deeply, madly in love. Zanuck himself had written the screenplay, under the pseudonym “Mark Canfield,” and Fleischer did not want to take the risk of telling Zanuck that the script was lousy in front of Greco, because Fleischer did not want Zanuck to lose face in front his girlfriend.
Zanuck was on set during much of the filming with Juliette Greco and did not refrain from interrupting a scene before Fleischer would yell "Cut." Fleischer felt that Zanuck behaved like a spoiled child because of Greco's presence.
As for Orson Welles, he was all too aware of the inadequacies of the screenplay, found neither of his roles interesting, and disliked his leading lady Juliette Greco.
CRACK IN THE MIRROR marked the first of many scores written for American productions or co-productions by noted French composer Maurice Jarre. It has not had a release. The film was an also-ran at the U.S. box office, with only a $2.9 million gross.
THE BIG GAMBLE found Juliette Greco starring in another Darry F. Zanuck-produced African adventure, and again directed by Richard Fleischer. This time, however, Irwin Shaw was the screenwriter. The film chronicled the misadventures of an ambitious unlucky Irishman (Stephen Boyd) who goes on a long and arduous trip to Africa along with his wife (Greco) and bumbling cousin (David Wayne) in hopes of starting a trucking business there.
Stephen Boyd, Juliette Greco, and David Wayne in THE BIG GAMBLE
Darryl F. Zanuck behaved very badly on the set, according to director Richard Fleischer. He was not only there for scenes involving his girlfriend Juliette Gréco, but for the other actors as well--including rehearsals. He sat in his chair on the set, smoking a cigar, but not looking up from the script, something that Fleischer had never seen before or since. If an actor had to move, he had to move around Zanuck.
Maurice Jarre’s score was released by Intrada in 2008. THE BIG GAMBLE turned out to be a bad bet, and the $4 million production barely registered at the U.S. box office. Darryl Zanuck and Juliette Greco parted ways, and Greco appeared only sporadically in films thereafter. In truth, Greco had begun an affair with American jazz musician Miles Davis in 1949. In 1957, they decided to always be just lovers because their careers were in different countries and because of his fear of damaging her career by being in an interracial relationship. They remained lovers and friends until his death in 1991.
Returning to France, Juliette Greco starred in Maléfices (“Hexes”). In the film, Jean-Marc Bory plays a veterinarian named “François Rauchelle,” who lives with his pretty wife “Catherine” (Liselotte Pulver) on a craggy island, which is briefly connected to the mainland at low tide. One day he is called to take care of a sick cheetah. Its owner, the mysterious “Myriam Heller” (Juliette Gréco), has one eye on the vet. Myriam has such a strong fascination and magnetism that Dr. Rauchelle can't help but quickly become her lover. She lived in Africa for a few years and seems to have magical powers. In addition, she is extremely possessive and does not countenance sharing her lover with another woman. Madame Heller is in possession of a statuette that is said to have dark magic powers. Suddenly Catherine falls seriously ill; no doctor seems to be able to help her ...
When Paramount acquired the thriller for U.S. distribution, they re-titled it WHERE THE TRUTH LIES.
Juliette Greco and Jean-Marc Bory in WHERE THE TRUTH LIES
The film was directed by Henri Decoin. Selections from Pierre Henry’s score were released on a Philips LP in France, but have not been re-issued on CD. The film made no discernable impact on the U.S. box office.
An inspiration for The Beatles' "Michelle." Paul McCartney's words:
"We'd tag along to these parties, and it was at the time of people like Juliette Greco, the French bohemian thing. They'd all wear black turtleneck sweaters, it's kind of where we got all that from, and we fancied Juliette like mad. Have you ever seen her? Dark hair, real chanteuse, really happening. So I used to pretend to be French, and I had this song that turned out later to be 'Michelle'."
In 1965, Juliette Greco appeared in a German-Italian-Yugoslavian co-production of UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, which was based on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel. Set in the pre-Civil War South, the story follows “Simon Legree” (Herbert Lom), a sadistic plantation owner who brutalizes his slaves to the point of them having no other choice but to rebel. Always obedient, peaceful and honest old slave “Uncle Tom” (John Kitzmiller) plays a central role in this tragedy. Juliette Greco plays “Dinah,” the head cook in the kitchen of Vermont abolitionist “Aunt Ophelia” (Erika von Thellmann).
Filmed in Superpanorama 70 by Hungarian director Géza von Radványi, UNCLE TOM’S CABIN played in a different form in nearly every country where it was shown. The most complete version, shown in Germany, was in 70mm and ran 170 minutes plus an intermission.
The French version ran 125 minutes. When Kroger Babb and Associates picked up the film for 35mm U.S. distribution in 1969, they cut it to 118 minutes, but retained the stereophonic sound. The advertising emphasized the racial nature of the story rather than its historical aspects. The film did decent business, grossing $10 million in the U.S.
Peter Thomas’s score was released in the U.S. on a Philips LP, which was re-issued on CD by Bear Family Records in 1998.
In the 1959 crime drama WHIRLPOOL, ... Eleven minutes of Ron Goodwin’s score was released on a French EP, but it has not been re-issued on CD. The film’s main theme was re-recorded by Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic for a 2004 Goodwin compilation CD from Chandos....
The Main Theme (as included on that French release Odeon SOE 3571 (1959)) does have a CD release, included on the compilation album Classic British Film Music Vol.2 Filmophone FILMCD 1003.
I watched the film (TV broadcast) a couple of years ago and found it entertaining, being interested in the background characters who spend their lives travelling the main waterways of Europe. The film's limited budget was obvious but it made for an enjoyable 'B'-movie with all the cast playing their parts well. Mitch
In the 1959 crime drama WHIRLPOOL, ... Eleven minutes of Ron Goodwin’s score was released on a French EP, but it has not been re-issued on CD. The film’s main theme was re-recorded by Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic for a 2004 Goodwin compilation CD from Chandos.... -------------------------------------------------------------- The Main Theme (as included on that French release Odeon SOE 3571 (1959)) does have a CD release, included on the compilation album Classic British Film Music Vol.2 Filmophone FILMCD 1003.
It's tough to keep up with all the gray market CD releases.
Producer Sam Spiegel reunited Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, and composer Maurice Jarre from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA for the World War II thriller THE NIGHT OF THE GENERALS. Sharif played Major Grau of German Intelligence who investigates three top-ranking Nazi generals who may be involved in a murder.
Both O'Toole and Sharif were being held to the Spiegel contracts they had signed several years earlier, when they were less famous, and consequently they both had to accept smaller fees than one would expect, given how famous they were by 1967. Neither was very happy with this situation, but they took care to claim the lavish living expenses to which they were entitled. Location scenes were filmed in Warsaw and Paris.
Juliette Greco appeared in the film in a small role as “Juliette,” a nightclub singer. In Paris, the studio art department recreated the interior of the shuttered Rose Rouge Cabaret nightclub, where Greco had launched her career after the war.
Maurice Jarre’s score was released on a Colgems LP, which was re-issued on CD in an expanded version by Intrada in 1990. Greco’s song did not appear on the soundtrack release. THE NIGHT OF THE GENERALS fought its way into the top 50 films of the year, with a $6 million gross.
THE NIGHT OF THE GENERALS was Juliette Greco’s last appearance on U.S. theater screens for more than 50 years, until in 2019, she appeared in the documentary MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL.
A straight-forward biography of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, with plenty of performance footage and musical excerpts included, this film goes into detail on his recording contracts with Prestige and Columbia, his multi-year affair with Juliette Gréco, his marriage to dancer Frances Taylor, his struggles with alcohol and drugs, and the contrast between the acceptance he received in Europe and the racism he suffered at home. As far as talking heads go, most of the ones in the film are Davis' (then-still-living) contemporaries, including both of the women (Taylor died shortly after her sequences were shot).
Never a big presence on the Silver Screen, Juliette Greco’s reputation lies in her vocal abilities. With dozens of albums to her credit since her 1952 LP debut, she was an active singer for 70 years. Au revoir, Juliette.