Happy Birthday, Jean Seberg

The phrase “tormented actress” never seemed to fit more than with the late great Jean Seberg, who was castigated–and almost burned alive by–Otto Preminger, possibly hounded to suicide by the FBI, put into a really weird movie (see above) by husband/director Romain Gary and underestimated by Hollywood.

Seberg, who was a newcomer picked by Preminger to star in Saint Joan, eventually proved her cinematic immortality by starring in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, thereby indirectly influencing all directors claiming to be auteurs ever since. Unfortunately, she was effectively blacklisted in Hollywood, thanks to a pervasive FBI COINTELPRO  project aimed at ruining her professional career and her life for supporting The Black Panther Party. The FBI even went so far as to claim that a baby born to Seberg, and dying two days later, was fathered by Black Panther member Raymond Hewitt. A devastated Seberg held an open casket funeral to dispel the rumor–the baby was white. However, it was not fathered by Romain Gary, her husband at the time, but by a student revolutionary.

Although there are several works recounting the life of Seberg, you would do very well to watch the fantastic film essay From the Journals of Jean Seberg directed by Mark Rappaport.  It not only tells of her outrageous mistreatment by the FBI and by Hollywood, but also makes the case that Seberg is a much more iconic figure in film than many actresses who came before or since.

You should check out her films, even the strange ones like Kill! starring fellow independent-minded actor Stephen Boyd and with a great theme featuring Doris Troy:

 

 

 

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