Jean Seberg

She had a face as delicate as a rare orchid, a sweet, seductive voice and an offbeat personality that hinted at depths rippling beneath the surface - actress  Jean Seberg remains a fascinating icon of mid 20th century cinema. Eternally hip, Seberg's looks and fashion could easily slip into 21st century culture, as hers is a style statement that seems timeless. She was among the first to sport the gamine haircut .. a  decade before Mia Farrow appeared wih her striking vidal Sassoon ultra-short cut in Rosemary's Baby. Her clothes were French-trendy and her demeanour knowing and sophisticated...yet beneath the ice cool exterior she was a bundle of nerves.

Jean Seberg, Still from Breathless
American born Seberg rose to prominance in Otto Preminger's much hyped 1957 film Saint Joan, based on the play by George Bernard shaw. Chosen from thousands of hopefuls, at the time, the leading lady's only experience was a stint at Summer Stock performances - being thrown in at the deep end of a major International production was an overwhelming experience for the senstive Jean, who balked at the attention that was suddenly thrust upon her. Inexperience revealed itself and her performance in the film was heavily criticised. As she put it herself:
"I have two memories of Saint Joan. The first was being burned at the stake in the picture. The second was being burned at the stake by the critics"
Preminger took a second punt on Seberg the following year,  with the film Bonjour Tristesse but again the actress was pummelled by the critics, despite the fact that her performance is quite mesmerising.

However, not dissuaded from acting, Seberg moved to France and finally struck the right chord with Jen Luc Godard's ground-breaking New Wave film, Breathless, which fortuitously proved to be an International success. Both the role and cinematic style suited her fragile personality and she moved from defeat into the realm of 'critic's darling"...offers began pouring in, from Hollywood and elsewhere. Around this time, Seberg spent time in a private clinic, citing "fatigue", her divorce from director, Fran├žois Moreuil and "the shock" of too many changes, involving "things I didn't understand" as the cause. As the 1960s dawned, several US films followed, notably Lilith (1964) with Warren Beatty, Paint Your Wagon (1969) with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood and Airport (1970), opposite Dean Martin and Burt Lancaster.

Inspiration
Seberg the actress...script in hand.
Jean had been inspired to act from childhood, partly as the result of watching Marlon Brando's performance as a war -injured cripple in the 1950 film, The Men. She was deeply impressed with what she called the "strength and power of an actor". Yet her own emotional vulnerability seemingly grew as her professional success moved forward. Before the 60s were over she suddenly withdrew from Hollywood films and though she continued to work in European cinema, her last American film was in the made for televison, Mousey in 1974.

Jean Seberg died, too young, in August 1979. After having been reported missing for eleven days, she was finally discovered in the back seat of her car, not far from her Paris apartment, having apparently taken an overdose of barbituates and alohol and leaving a suicide note that read:
"Forgive me. I can longer live wih my nerves."
Strangely, Seberg's second and by then former husband, the much older Romain Gary, a novelist and diplomat, also committed suicide...15 months later.

Conspiracy Theories
Since her premature demise, several theories have emerged about Jean Seberg and the role of the FBI in her death. Many believe her support for radical causes such as the Black Panther Movement and rights of American Indians, targeted her as a subversive. Jean apparently believed this herself and there was some evidence that the FBI had surreptitiously obtained personal information about her in order to smear her name publically and 'cheapen her public image' by planting a derogatory article in Newsweek magazine. Whether or not the FBI can be implicated in her death is still an open question.