French actress Marie Laforêt moonlighted as a singer in the 1960s, enjoying a string of hits at the folk end of the musical spectrum. She is best loved by yé-yé fans for Marie douceur, Marie colère, her version of the Rolling Stones’ Paint it black.
She was born Maïténa Doumenach in Soulac-sur-Mer, in south-western France, on 5 October 1939. Her parents were of Armenian origin.
Her career break came by accident in 1959 when she stepped in at the last minute to replace her sister in a radio talent contest – and won. Her success led to an offer of a role in a film by Louis Malle called Liberté. The film was eventually abandoned but Marie went on to take the lead female role in the classic Plein soleil – based on book The talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith – opposite French heart throb Alain Delon.
Further film roles ensued, including 1961’s Saint Tropez blues, for which Marie recorded the theme tune. She earned her nickname, La fille aux jeux d’or, after the title of her third film outing, issued later the same year.
It was another two years, however, before she scored her first hit, with the chirpy folk-ish Les vendanges d’amour, issued on the Festival label. In a translated version, the song also gave Marie a top ten hit in Italy, as La vendemmia dell'amore, a year later.
In 1963, she also took a part in the film Cherchez l’idole, appearing alongside Sylvie Vartan and Sophie, amongst others, and in À cause, à cause d’une femme.
Further folk-oriented releases throughout 1963 and 1964 included Blowin’ in the wind (a version of the Bob Dylan song) and Viens sur la montagne (Peter, Paul and Mary’s Go tell it on the mountain).
However, only La tendresse, issued in December 1964, provided another top ten hit – and confirmed the actress’s second career as a singer.
1965 kicked off with the release of an EP that included Katy cruelle and Entre toi et moi. The latter had been penned by André Popp and Pierre Cour, who also wrote for Françoise Hardy and Chantal Goya amongst others, and later went on to write L’amour est bleu for Greek-born singer Vicky. Marie, however, recorded more of Popp’s material than any of her contemporaries.
The follow up, Ah! Dites, dites, was issued in the autumn of 1965 and remained true to her folk style. The EP also included a great version of Marianne Faithfull’s The sha la la song, retitled A demain my darling. The release gave her her only top 20 hit of the year.
Her first release of 1966, La voix du silence, was a version of the Simon and Garfunkel’s debut The sound of silence, but it was her second EP of the year that proved more successful, bringing her a host of new fans. It led with Marie douceur, Marie colère, a cracking version of the Rolling Stones’ Paint it black, and gave the singer another top ten hit, in the summer of that year.
Manchester et Liverpool, issued in December 1966, failed to recpature the glory of its predecessor but made the top 20 nevertheless.
Mon amour, mon ami represented a return to form and swept into the top ten upon its release in April 1967.
Her only other EP of the year, the folkier Ivan, Boris et moi, proved another hit. By this time, her acting career had taken a back seat to her music, though she continued to appear in the occasional film.
1968’s Le lit de Lola and El polo fared less well, but Marie bounced back at the end of the year with one of her biggest hits, Que calor la vida.
The song proved hard to follow up, however, and further releases – including Au printemps and Pour une étoile – failed.
A switch of labels to CBS at the end of the decade did nothing to help. Indeed, Marie fell out with the record company’s bosses over her choice of material, which they felt not to be sufficiently commercial.
She went on to enjoy a number of further hits in the 1970s, notably with Viens, viens in 1973, Cadeau in 1974 and the 1977 chart-topper Il a neigé sur yesterday (her biggest hit). Disillusioned with her recording career, she moved to Geneva, Switzerland, to open an art gallery at the end of the 1970s and returned to the recording studios only sporadically.
Since then, she has continued to appear in a number of French and Italian films and on the Paris stage. In 2005 she undertook a tour of France, her first for over 30 years.