Thinking about Jean Seberg, our latest Quiz subject, led us (not necessarily willingly) to think about director Otto Preminger. Was he actually the onset martinet he was portrayed as?
(I do not welcome advice from actors, Preminger is quoted as saying. Ironically, he was an actor himself in addition to being a successful director.)
In any event, Seberg is explicit about Preminger’s working habits:
She was that 17-year-old unknown, from Marshalltown, Iowa, picked by Preminger out of a field of some 18,000 prospects to play the title role of Joan of Arc in the director’s 1957 costume drama, Saint Joan. At the time it was billed as the biggest talent search since the quest for Scarlett O’Hara in 1939’s Gone With The Wind.
Making Saint Joan was not a happy experience.
Seberg told a French interviewer years later that the whole thing permanently damaged her. She compared Preminger to a tank, who crushes people and terrifies them. He yells and shouts and insults you. Bit by bit I drew back inside myself like a turtle.
Despite this, Seberg again wound up under Preminger’s direction in the 1958 screen version of French writer Francoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness), playing the spoiled, worldly-beyond-her-years daughter of playboy father (David Niven).
Then the French Nouvelle Vague came into her life. The rest, we say breathlessly, is history. Ok, let’s get to the answers to our Jean Seberg Quiz. To review the questions, just scroll down to the blog below. Here we go:
1) Answer: Oops, sorry. This is one of our trick questions. Seberg appeared in all four choices.
2) Answer: b) False. Seberg was paid modestly by Hollywood standards — just under $10,000 to make the picture (about $75,000 in today’s dollars) the biggest line item in Breathless’ bare-bones-budget picture. Although she was fluent in French, her dialogue arrived via prompts from Godard as scenes were being filmed. Seberg had no hopes for the picture at all.
3) Answer: b) Clint Eastwood, Seberg’s costar in the 1969 film version of the musical Paint Your Wagon.
4) Answer: J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI took notice because (c) Seberg flirted with various left wing causes in the late Sixties, notably the Oakland-based Black Panthers. But her involvement with the group moved beyond flirtation. She had affairs with at least two Panther figures, and supposedly ran guns for the cause.
5) Answer: d) Seberg committed suicide. Towards the end of her Thirties, her mental state became more and more troubled. She survived several suicide attempts. In August of 1979, the actress succeeded. Her breathless body was found under a blanket of a car parked on a Paris street. Empty vials of barbituates were strewn about the vehicle. A sad end to a budding talent.