As we’ve often noted REAL stars can be identified by one name only.

First or Last.

Marilyn. Gable. Crosby. Elvis. And the World War II pinups. Grable, Lamour and Lana. And let’s not forget Rita.

On a recent trip to the French wine country, Frank accidentally stumbled upon a glossy coffee-table volume written by journalist Isabelle Giordano and published in 2002.

The title:  Elle S’appelait Romy…”  (She Was Called Romy)

In Continental Europe, there’s little doubt even among casual film fans of who the subject of this picture-laden book is — Romy Schneider.

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Ok, she was almost strictly a European actress, whose career STARTED at the end of Hollywood’s classic period (by our count). And she largely ignored Hollywood.  Why then  are we writing about her?

Schneider is hands down one of the most beautiful and expressive actresses ever to grace the big screen.  She was for quite a time (and perhaps still is) the “thnking man’s” hearthrob, an unnervingly gorgeous woman who really could act.  It was Hollywood’s loss that she was all but ignored in America during her career.

Schneider wasn’t French but Austrian, born Rosemarie Magdalena Albach in 1938 in Vienna, the child of a family of actors including her German mother (Magda Schneider) and her Austrian father. (After the couple’s divorce, Schneider took her mother’s maiden name as her marquee own.) By her mid-teens, Schneider was playing Elisabeth of Austria (see below) in the Sissi film series in the 1950’s.

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By the end of the Fifties, Schneider had decided to live and work in France, thanks in large measure to her torrid affair with French hearthrob Alain Delon (see below). This was a serious romance, not culminating in marriage but in a lifelong closeness. The couple did announce their engagement in 1959, but by 1963 called it off — at the time acrimoniously. (Nonetheless, Delon offered an emotional and moving recollection of Schneider at the 72d Cannes Film Festival.)

 

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Although Schneider was snapped up by Europe’s best film directors — among others, Max Ophuls, Luchino Visconti, Claude Sautet, Costa-Gavras, Bertrand Tavernier and Orson Welles (in his European financed Franz Kafka adaptation of The Trial in 1962) — she gave Hollywood short shrift (or perhaps it was the other way around.)

Anyway, Romy turned up in a 1964 Jack Lemmon comedy, Good Neighbor Sam, and in the year before, the World War II drama The Victors. And there was director Otto Preminger’s  star laden The Cardinal in 1963. Oddest of all, perhaps, was her presence in the 1965 Wood Allen sendup, What’s New Pussycat? 

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As you might expect (Schneider was a prima donna handful, after all), Romy had a tempestuous private life.

After her Delon interlude she married German director Harry Meyen. The couple had a son, David, who at the age of 14 was killed attempting to climb a spiked fence. The accident prompted a bout of heavy drinking by Romy.  A second marriage, to her private secretary, produced a daughter (now an actress),and ended in 1981.

That was about a year before Schneider was found dead in her Paris apartment; the official cause was cardiac arrest. Romy was just 43, and by then had made more than 60 films.

Supposedly Warner Bros, in 2009 was preparing a Schneider biopic.  It never panned out. The tentative title was to be A Woman Like Romy. No last name needed.

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