The iconic French singer and actor, Juliette Gréco, has died at the age of 93. Gréco famously played a huge role in shaping the cultural landscape of Paris following the war.
Gréco became the poster girl and voice of postwar Paris, she was a friend of Left Bank intellectual giants such as Jean-Paul Sartre and had relationships with Hollywood studio boss Darryl F Zanuck and the legendary jazz musician Miles Davis. Gréco was always a radical figure who was arrested by the Gestapo when she was just 16 after her older sister and her mother—a member of the French Resistance—were sent to a concentration camp.
Gréco was born on February 7th, 1927, in the southern town of Montpellier, but after her parents separated she spent the majority of her childhood being brought up by her grandparents near Bordeaux. During the second world war, both her parents were active in the resistance, and because of her age, she was thankfully spared deportation to Germany. This horrible experience she had as a child made her an ally of the political left, which she tried to embody throughout her life.
Following the war, when Saint-Germain-des-Prés became one of the global creative hotspots, it wasn’t long before she became the most sought after model in the whole of the French capital with esteemed photographers fighting over getting to shoot with her.
Gréco also had success as a cabaret artist which led to a number of performances at the legendary Paris Olympia in 1954. She had already started her long film career, which did take her to Los Angeles but she never did quite make it as a Hollywood starlet. Later in life she would become recognised for her role in successful French TV series Belphegor, a detective drama about a ghost haunting the Louvre museum — which became a hit across Europe.
“Juliette Gréco died this Wednesday surrounded by her family in the house she loved so much. Her life was one like no other,” her family said in a statement sent to AFP. “She was still making French songs shine at the age of 89” when her career was unfortunately ended by a stroke in the same year that she also lost her only daughter, Laurence-Marie.
“I miss it terribly. My reason for living is to sing! To sing is everything, there is the body, the instinct, the head,” she told Télérama magazine in an interview in July.