Jeanne Moreau, a woman who was described by Orson Welles as "the greatest actress in the world," has passed away at the age of 89. The legendary French film actress was an icon of the 1960s with a reputation as a femme fatale. She starred in films such as Jules et Jim, The Lovers, and Elevator to the Gallows. Her death was confirmed with an announcement from the office of the French president, Emmanuel Macron. No cause of death is known.
Born in 1926 to a dancer and a restaurateur, Moreau began her career on the stage and quickly became a successful theater actress. Soon, Moreau made the transition to films after her performance in a French production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
In her earliest films, Moreau received only small roles, but in 1958 came the film that allowed the actress to shine: Elevator to the Gallows. Helmed by first-time director Louis Malle, the film showed Moreau without heavy makeup in natural light. Putting the focus on her face gave Moreau a chance to let her acting talent show through. The film was praised by critics and currently has a 92% rating on Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim."
Moreau reteamed with Malle in The Lovers, which was released in the same year. For this role, Moreau became known as "The New Bardot," a reference to French sex symbol Brigitte Bardot. The film was also heavily criticized for its "obscene" material in which Moreau was shown in a long love scene that included nudity. The movie was used in a court case over the definition of obscenity - subsequently, helping to make Moreau a full-blown international star.
Moreau continued to be a major star throughout the 1960s, appearing mostly in films like Jules et Jim, and other movies associated with the French New Wave. She also appeared in the Hollywood films The Train with Burt Lancaster and The Last Tycoon with Robert de Niro, Tony Curtis, and Robert Mitchum. The actress eventually tried her hand at directing for a short time in the 1980s. Moreau remained active as an actress until her final film role in 2015.
Moreau's legacy as a femme fatale and French screen icon gained her an impressive number of lifetime achievement awards, one of which being an Academy Award which was presented to her in 1998 by her longtime friend, Sharon Stone.
In a statement on Twitter, French president Macron described her as a "free spirit" who "embodied cinema" and "always rebelled against the established order."