best film:  Simone Signoret has three films at the top that any actor would be proud of. She is in Max Ophüls’ La Ronde (1950), Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique (1955), and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows (1969). In the end, Melville’s spy film triumphs in this category. This is a masterfully told espionage/war film – full of intelligence and a distinct narrative and visual tone. Melville’s style is fully developed and mature by the late 1960s and Army of Shadows is draped in a jaw-droppingly beautiful and consistent mise-en-scene of muted blues, grays and midnight indigo day for night shots.



25+ years after her debut and 10 years removed from her Oscar win, Signoret delivers a sublime supporting turn as Mathilde in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows (1969)



best performance:  All four of her best performances below deserve some reason to pause and consider here. Ultimately, it is her work in Diabolique that gets the nod. A Room at the Top just has too many wasted opportunities (not Signoret’s fault at all) to warrant serious consideration. Signoret is incredibly sexy  in Jack Clayton’s (his debut) film, but she is far more than just a beautiful woman – she has a pain in her eyes – again – an amazing performance from her – both strong and tender and vulnerable but only under the surface. Clayton should had spent more time on Signoret and less on Laurence Harvey – the film drags a little without her and he is not a great actor – though, like in The Manchurian Candidate – he is pretty well cast (playing a character who is cold and unsympathetic). Signoret’s work in Army of Shadows and La Ronde should be revered – but if were one to assign credit shares for any great film, Signoret simply carries more of Diabolique on her back (she is not in the first hour of Army of Shadows). Signoret (and Véra Clouzot next to her) does some heavy lifting in the 1955 thriller.



Signoret in her prime here in 1955’s Diabolique opposite Véra Clouzot



stylistic innovations/traits:  Simone Signoret (though born in Germany) was one of the main faces of post-World War II French cinema.  She always looked like she had a secret or a dark past (lost loved one, a woman of the streets with a heart of gold, a victim of an abusive man). Her filmography is not deep compared to some of her peers – but that top three below (and throw in an Oscar-winning performance in the late 1950s as a solid fourth) is impossible to argue against.



far from her debut, La Ronde (1950) from Ophüls is still undoubtedly Signoret’s breakout role and film




directors worked with:  Max Ophüls (1), Henri-Georges Clouzot (1), Jack Clayton (1) and Jean-Pierre Melville (1). A remarkable career for a French actor who flourished in the era between Jean Renoir’s 1930s and the French New Wave of the 1960s (and without any of those directors).



top five performances:

  1. Diabolique
  2. Army of Shadows
  3. La Ronde
  4. A Room at the Top
  5. Ship of Fools



archiveable films

1950- La Ronde
1955- Diabolique
1959- A Room at the Top
1965- Ship of Fools
1969- Army of Shadows
1970- The Confession