A photograph of the late actor Jean-Paul Belmondo is seen on a giant screen during a ceremony at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, France, September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Two years ago, France was in mourning. One of his great cinema icons was leaving this world and was preparing to pay him a very emotional tribute led by President Macron. Jean-Paul Belmondo did not have the harmonious beauty of his friend and eternal rival Alain Delon, but her tender gaze, seductive smile and his charisma were irresistible to the French public and the entire world. Bebel, as he was affectionately called, filmed a total of 80 films and had a life full of action: not only because of his fictional adventures, but also because of his countless love conquests in real life.
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“With that face you will never be able to have a woman in your arms. His audience would die laughing,” said a conservatory professor at the beginning of his training as an actor. A TVE journalist reminded him of the phrase when Jean-Paul was 53 years old and already a celebrity. And she, clad in a leather jacket with a forehead furrowed by expression lines, she responded: “Of course, it was at the conservatory. I believe that life is like that. When he was young, at the conservatory, first-year people had to have very delicate features. It was understandable. But I didn’t lose heart. In life my face was normal. Of course, I was never going to imagine becoming a movie star,” she said and added: “In any case, making a woman laugh is a good thing. “My teacher was wrong.” Beyond the mistake, the actor knew how to take advantage of his nickname, “The most attractive ugly guy in the French country.”
Jean Paul Belmondo came into this world on April 9, 1933, in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, a bourgeois neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris. His father, Paul Belmondo, was a renowned sculptor of Italian descent, and his mother, Madeline Raynaud-Richard, was a painter. His two brothers were also inclined towards art. Alain dedicated himself to film production and Muriel, to ballet.
Archive photo taken on March 9, 1963, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo performs the “motorcycle in a line” trick at the traditional Union of Artists Gala in Paris (Photo by – / AFP)
If Belmondo had not insisted on his acting goal, he would not have gotten far. He had always been a bad student and he was rejected from the Paris Conservatory of Dramatic Arts at least three times. For him, the fourth was the charm and by virtue of his talent, standing out from the crowd, he became the benchmark of the nouvelle vague or new wave of French cinema, after the premiere of À bout de souffle (1959), a low-budget film. by Jean-Luc Godard, with whom he filmed three films. The great directors of French cinema such as Truffaut, Resnais, Lelouch, Chabrol, among others, wanted to work with him.
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The actor, despite being the darling of directors who anointed him with their prestige, had no prejudice in making commercial films. And he also claimed it. He felt pride in both works, without detracting from the public’s, popular taste. He said that he disliked “false intellectual cinema,” not authentic ones. What would be pretentious cinema. In France, his action films were a guaranteed success that even surpassed the million-dollar American tanks. Between 1969 and 1982, five of his films were the most watched of the year in France. And in 11 of those 13 years, one of his projects was in the top five.
His motto was to make a good movie, have fun with it and offer the audience a good time. With this critical view, he also rejected awards, such as the 1989 César for best actor for the film Empire of the Lion (1988). In 2016 he let his guard down and accepted the Golden Lion, awarded for his lifetime achievement at the Venice International Film Festival.
Movie poster for À bout de souffle, 1960 French crime drama directed by Jean-Luc Godard, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg
In his youth, Jean Paul Belmondo had dreamed of being a professional boxer, but he realized that he did not have enough qualities to achieve it. However, this sport left him with a broken nose and an athletic body for the risky action scenes where he did not use doubles. He forged the spirit of it. In the same interview, he said: “Boxing is life. The boxing I did helped me know how to suffer in moments when things were not going very well. It is a job that requires enormous will and great intelligence. Boxers are always portrayed as idiots, but no. All the great boxers I have seen were very intelligent. “Sometimes the one who is less strong because of his intelligence wins.”
Belmondo had several partners: two marriages and an endless list of lovers. In addition to cohabitations and marriages, there are also numerous famous actresses with whom he had affairs. Among them, several of his co-stars, such as Claudia Cardinale, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot.
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The dancer Elodie Constantin was his first wife. She was a childhood friend with whom he married in 1953 and had 3 children: Patrice (who died in a fire in 1993), Florence and Paul, who had an affair with Estefanía de Monaco and almost linked him to the Monegasque court.
Actress Ursula Andress holding a pen and notebook while listening to actor Jean-Paul Belmondo around 1965, the year he divorced his wife, Elodie (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
In 1965 he divorced Elodie, to whom he was not exactly faithful. Jean-Paul had fallen in love again, this time with a sex symbol of the moment, Úrsula Andress. She was the new Bond girl in the film Agent 007 against Dr. No (1962) alongside Sean Connery, who became one of the most desired women in the world after a scene on the beach wearing a white bikini. The couple met while filming The Tribulations of a Chinese Man in China and ended up together, first as a clandestine relationship, because he was married and later, legally.
Úrsula and Jean-Paul exuded magnetism together. They were together for 7 years, in a relationship where neither of them felt safe. Belmondo’s friends had warned him when he met her: “Be careful. She is the most beautiful woman in the world.” The attraction was instant, reciprocal. It was also learned that she couldn’t stop laughing while she was with him. Her laughter echoed everywhere they went.
In his biography A Thousand Lives Better Than One, Bebel told how in the middle of a sexual act with the blonde bombshell, he abandoned her between the sheets to go see a fight. When she returned after drinks, she found the door closed and unable to open it, she decided to climb and enter through the bedroom window. She believed she was cheating on him. Without hesitation, the actress pushed him and Belmondo ended up on his back on the grass. The relationship lasted a little longer and ended in 1972.
In this June 16, 1974, file photo, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and Italian actress Laura Antonelli arrive at the Festival House for the screening of the film “Stavisky,” on June 16, 1974. (AP Photo/Levy , File)
After Úrsula, the cutest ugly was in a relationship with another beautiful woman, the Italian Laura Antonelli with whom he had an 8-year relationship. Many of them from a distance, because he preferred to live in Paris and she in Rome. When the Italian separated, she had addiction problems, to which mental illness was added and she died in 2015.
Barely separated from Antonelli, he had an affair with a statuesque Brazilian singer, María Carlos Sotto Mayor. This love at first sight occurred during a party in the early eighties. Belmondo was 47, she was 19. “Petite” as he called her, she moved into her Parisian apartment and they had a relationship that the actor called “spicy and festive.” The relationship ended in 1987.
Two years after separating from the Brazilian, Bebel once again surrendered to the charms of another young woman, 28 years younger. This is Natty Tardivel, a Belgian dancer. In 2002 when they passed by the civilian, the actor dealt some punches to paparazzi who were guarding the door. The actor said that they wanted to have an intimate ceremony, but the truth is that they had also sold the exclusive to a magazine and they did not want to ruin the business.
He had a daughter with Natty in 2003, Stella, whom the actor called “My sun.” The legend of French cinema was already 70 years old when she was born. In a note that father and daughter gave in 2019 to Paris Match magazine she said: “Her acrobatics fascinate me. They have always seemed great to me. Among all her films, my favorite is The Magnificent, because there I find all the madness and humor in her. I love risk. The adrenaline. I have to inherit that from him,” she expressed. And she added: “He is so young in mind. He is always willing to play the clown to make me laugh.”
Stella Belmondo, daughter of Jean-Paul Belmondo, and her mother Natty Tardivel arriving at Jean-Paul Belmondo’s funeral ceremony at the Saint-Germain-des-Pres church. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
His wife Natty cared for him when he suffered a stroke in 2001 while in Corsica. However, stability lasted only a few years. A former Playboy bunny Barbara Gandolfi stood in his way. His obsession with her led him to end his relationship with her wife in 2008. This time it cost him dearly. Gandolfi turned out to be a scammer. She kept about 200 thousand euros from her account, for which she was sentenced to a fine and also went to prison.
When on September 6, 2021, when the news of the death of Belmondo, one of her great loves, became known, Úrsula Andress dedicated some words to him that knew how to define him and gave an account of a love that remained alive: “Jean-Paul, you were an extraordinary person, a man full of passion and vitality, with an enormous sense of humor. We will all miss you sadly. Goodbye, you, the man I loved. You will always be in my heart,” said the blonde who celebrated her 87th this year.