In the 1960s, French actress Michel Mercier was the object of male worship and female envy. Beautiful, daring, famous. But few people knew what she had to go through on the way to the top of fame. Disliked by her parents, she was looking for success in the profession and one single man with whom she would spend her whole life. And if she succeeded in the first, then she did not cope with the second task …
Happiness and the curse of Michelle Mercier: how the fate of the star of the film “Angelica and the King”
At birth, the future star was named Jocelyn. She was born in January 1939 in a Jewish family: her father was from France, and her mother was from Italy. The couple owned a pharmaceutical company and hoped that the firstborn, whom they dreamed of seeing a boy, would inherit their family business and take it to a new level.
The couple’s disappointment knew no bounds when, instead of a son, they had a daughter, and moreover, over the years, she began to show interest in art, and not the exact sciences.
Since childhood, Jocelyne dreamed of dancing. She entered a ballet school (much to the displeasure of her parents) and tried with all her might to prove that she would make a good artist. Mother and father were not very interested in the girl’s life – she was dressed, well-fed, and thanks for that. And finally, they stopped showing love for her when the second daughter Michelle was born in the family.
To succeed in ballet, Jocelyne literally and figuratively walked barefoot on nails. In the choreographic studio, she often got it from mentors for the fact that she holds her back unevenly – then she was beaten with panicles, and once in a creative competition the girl performed immediately after the removal of appendicitis. Not only did they spoil her pointe shoes, they also poured nails into them. But there was no time to change shoes, and Joceline Mercier danced, overcoming incredible pain. She became the best, but immediately after the victory, she went to the hospital.
Parents did not appreciate the daughter’s diligence and sacrifice, noting that she acted stupidly, risking her health. The girl did not receive praise for the first place …
Soon the sister of the future star died of a serious illness. Mother and father could not find a place for themselves from grief, and Jocelyn had no choice but to finally break away from the parental home.
At the age of 17, she left her native Nice for Paris to declare herself as a ballet dancer. There, the girl met Charlie Chaplin (he was fascinated by her beauty) and Roland Petit (it was he who once discerned the talent of Charles Aznavour, and later – Mireille Mathieu). They began to persuade Jocelyn to try herself in the cinema, but she was adamant – she only dreamed of a big stage.
The career of a ballet dancer in Paris did not work out. The troupes with which Jocelyne performed broke up. She went to London to try her luck, but they’re the first big disappointment awaited her. The artistic director of the theater, where the young dancer was admitted, summoned her to him and bluntly stated that talent alone would not go far, and in order to obtain good prospects, it was necessary to enter into an intimate relationship with him and his two assistants.
Depressed, Mercier returned to Nice, but her parents did not expect her at all. In addition, the mother accused the eldest daughter of indecent behavior in London.
But suddenly Jocelyn’s luck smiled. They came to her hometown to shoot the film “Turning the Doorknob”. And a film crew came to the pharmacy to Mersa to ask for medical props. It was there that the representatives of the film company noticed the young beauty – slender, artistic, relaxed.
The only thing that confused the director was, in his opinion, a name that was not sound. Then Jocelyne became Michelle.
After the success of her first picture, Michelle Mercier began to receive offers for new filming, but she was sent scripts where she was assigned secondary roles. After the girl appeared in the films “The Only Angel on Earth”, “The Nights of Lucrezia Borgia”. Critics praised her for her natural behavior in front of cameras. The aspiring artist never stopped dreaming that she would one day become a real star of a big movie.
In 1958, Michelle made her theater debut, but she did not like this work, and Mercier returned to the cinema.
Soon the actress left for the UK and then Italy. Here she became famous for her roles in lyric and comedy projects. And the success in these countries was greater than in his native France.
The turning point in his career came in 1963. Michelle, 24, was invited to audition for a costume historical project.
Previously, Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot, and Jane Fonda turned down the role. And Michelle Mercier successfully passed screen tests.
The mini-series about Angelica came out for five years – a film every year (1964-1968). Michelle Mercier has proven to be incredibly popular. She was adored by men, and women from many countries envied her, but at the same time copied her makeup and hairstyles.
Millions of viewers watched Angelica in Europe. The tape came to the USSR only during perestroika, and then with great censorship. Many explicit scenes were cut out of the picture, and one of the last two was completely “blinded”. Then they said that Michelle Mercier was the first to show the Soviet viewer sex.
Despite the incredible success of the series, Michelle made almost nothing on it. She did not read the terms of the contracts, she signed them without looking. “The conditions were such that the fees were ridiculous,” the celebrity later admits.
The success that Michelle was striving for turned into her curse as well. The image of Angelica was so firmly entrenched in the minds of directors and viewers that Mercier was not perceived as an actress who could turn into other heroines on the screen.
“I have played in films over 50 different women, but only Angelica was seen in me,” Michel Mercier lamented.
After that she starred in such films as “Shoot the Pianist”, “Do you love Brahms?”, “Thursday”, “Casanova 70” and many others. Michelle worked a lot in the 70s and 80s, and then took a long break in her career.
She returned to the screens in 1998 in the film “Landmark”. In the early 2000s, Michel Mercier also worked with Russian directors (Red Chapel, Parisian Love of Kostya Gumankov).
The last project with her participation was released in 2013. But despite the fact that she no longer appears on the big screen, Mercier is still a welcome guest at film festivals. And in 2006, the French government awarded the actress with the Order of Arts and Letters.
Michel Mercier lives alone. Her dream of the only and beloved husband for life did not come true.
The actress was married twice. Divorces undermined her nervous system, so she left the cinema for a while. After Michel Mercier had a long romance. But, by her confession, she never knew her personal life.
Her creative destiny is inextricably linked with Angelica. In 1999, after another financial crisis, Mercier had to part with expensive things: she sold Angelica’s dresses at an auction, which she had once bought from a film studio.
The last gentleman of her heart was an aristocrat from Italy, but it did not work out. Michelle Mercier has no children.