As the Summer of Love came to a close, Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg embarked on a brief but passionate affair that would transform their lives. In one brief shining moment they became a modern day incarnation of Bonnie and Clyde— devoted wholly to one another, throwing caution to the wind.
Bardot was so famous she was known by her initials alone, and over the course of the late ‘50s and ‘60s, had become the reigning sex kitten of the silver screen. No less than celebrated feminist Simone de Beauvoir was infatuated with B.B.’s smoldering presence, inspiring her to pen the 1959 essay The Lolita Syndrome, declaring this “locomotive of women’s history” the first and most-liberated woman in post-war France.
After a series of marriages to film director Roger Vadim, who turned her into a star with the 1956 films Naughty Girl, Plucking the Daisy, and And God Created Woman, Bardot married actor Jacques Charrier, father of her only child, and then married Gunter Sachs in 1966 — but soon grew weary of the German millionaire playboy. At 33, B.B. was in her prime and hardly one to deny herself the pleasures of an affair.
In 1967, Gainsbourg was a pop star on the rise. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he survived the Nazi occupation of France and enrolled in the Beaux-Arts de Paris after the war, supporting himself as a piano player working at bars and nightclubs. He changed his surname from Ginsburg in homage to English painter Thomas Gainsborough, and began recording albums in 1958 before striking it big with the advent of yé-yé pop in the 1960s.
Bardot and Gainsbourg’s illicit romance began innocently enough. On October 6, 1967, they met for breakfast to discuss an appearance on the Sacha Show, a TV variety show hosted by singer Sacha Distel, one of Bardot’s former lovers. Preparations had gone poorly and Bardot felt adrift. Their date had also been less than sparkling. Determined to get a second chance. Gainsbourg set forth to pen what he considered the “most beautiful love song ever heard” and by the following morning he wrote “Bonnie et Clyde” and “Je T’aime ... Moi Non Plus.”
The singer then called the siren, and asked if she had a piano at her place. She did and he came over, fingertips dazzling the ivories. In Gainsbourg: The Biography, author Gilles Verant recounts Bardot’s memory of this encounter. "I didn't dare sing in front of him,” she said. “There was something in the way he looked at me that made me freeze up. A sort of timid insolence, like he was waiting, with a hint of superior humility. He was full of strange contradictions, a scornful glare in an otherwise sad face, a cold humor betrayed by a warmth in his eyes."
But sing she did shortly thereafter, when they decided to record “Je T’aime ... Moi Non Plus.” In his 1994 memoir Piégée, la chanson-- ?, producer Claude Dejacques recalled their legendary studio session. "It's about 10 o'clock and I'm waiting to put down the vocal tracks,” he wrote. “No reporters or photographers. They bolt out of a black taxi, crazy in love, just like in the song, and make their way down the hallway to the studio. Things are going swimmingly and as soon as they hear the playback music that they're to sing over they plunge into the heart of the fantasy that is devouring them, clothed only in the music and lyrics, drunk with each other and so honest that the take becomes much more than a simple duo by singers in front of a microphone: they are leaving their mark for eternity.”
After recording, Bardot and Gainsbourg went to dinner with another couple. Impulsively, she grabbed his hand under the table. "I had a visceral need to be loved, desired, to belong body and soul to a man I loved, admired and respected,” Bardot wrote in her 1997 autobiography Initiales B.B.: Memoires. “The moment my hand touched his was a shock for the both of us, an interminable and endless melding, an uncontrollable and uninterrupted electrocution, a desire to crumble and melt, a magical and rare alchemy.”
For a brief, shining period, they set the gossip columns ablaze but Gainsbourg felt out of sorts with the attention they garnered. “Don't you understand that I'm the anonymous type?” he told French journalist Jacques Chancel. “I live on the fringe, and now all of the sudden I'm portrayed as some kind of playboy. I'm no Casanova…. I've found this great love, which is nobody's business, but it's not like I'm her future husband. B.B. is happy. B.B. is working. B.B. is having a grand time. We're happy together and there's no law against friendly relationships."
Although their affair lasted a mere three months, their collaboration resulted in beautiful works of art, including Gainsbourg’s Initials B.B. album released by Fontana Records in 1968. Eventually Gunter Sachs learned of the affair and separated from his wife, the divorce eventually becoming final in 1969. It has been said that life is brief but art is long, a sentiment evident in the work of Bardot and Gainsbourg. “We were all alone in the world!” Bardot fondly wrote in her autobiography. “From that very minute, which lasted centuries and still lasts today, I never left Serge, and he never left me."
Written by Miss Rosen
Hi there. We are currently away from the computer at the moment. Leave a message & we will promptly reply.
An error occured, please make sure you entered a valid email and message.