Arletty was born Léonie Marie Julie Bathiat in Courbevoie (near Paris), to a working-class family. After her father’s death, she left home and pursued a modeling career. She took the stage name “Arlette” based on the heroine of a story by Guy de Maupassant. She was not interested in acting until she met Paul Guillaume, a famous art dealer. He recommended some theaters and, at the age of 21, she was hired. Her early career was dominated by the music hall, and she later appeared in plays and cabaret. Arletty was a stage performer for ten years before her film debut in 1930. Arletty’s career took off around 1936, when she appeared as the leading lady in the stage plays Les Joies du Capitole and Fric-Frac, in which she starred opposite Michel Simon. She later starred as Blanche in the French version of A Streetcar Named Desire. Marcel Carné was known for his poetic realism filmmaking style. Arletty’s minor role of Raymonde in his film, Hotel du Nord, garnered attention for her “Atmosphere! Atmosphere!” performance. In 1945, Arletty appeared in her most famous film role, the central part of Garance in Les Enfants du Paradis, her fourth role for the director. For this role, she earned one of the highest salaries ever in French cinema.
Arletty was imprisoned in 1945 for her wartime liaison with a German Luftwaffe officer, Hans-Jürgen Soehring, during the occupation of France. She allegedly later commented on the experience, “My heart is French but my ass is international.” Although other French women fell in love with German soldiers, her romantic affiliation with Soehring during german occupation prompted a charge of treason. For her crimes she received a sentence of eighteen months imprisonment, most of which was served in a private chateau. In 1995, the government of France issued a series of limited edition coins to commemorate the centenary of film that included a 100 Franc coin bearing the image of Arletty.
- May, 15, 1898
- Courbevoie, France
- July, 24, 1992
- Paris, France
- Nouveau Cimetière de Courbevoie
- Courbevoie, France