Deneuve's father accused of collaborating with Nazis

The father of the iconic French film star Catherine Deneuve was a low-level Nazi collaborator during the Second World War, according to an unauthorised biography published yesterday.

Mme Deneuve, who is 64 on Tuesday, emerges from the biography, which she tried to block, as a calculating and unhappy person, driven by money and an obsessive need for privacy and independence.

The actress, who has been described on numerous occasions as the most beautiful woman in the world, is usually presented in France as a warm and rather scatty person, beneath an icy, controlled exterior.

But the author, Bernard Violet, a respected investigative biographer, claims that this image is a "legend" constructed by Deneuve herself.

Recent revelations that Deneuve had made public appearances for cash for a dubious Algerian businessman were not an isolated case, according to the book, Deneuve, L'Affranchie (Deneuve, the free woman).

However, the book's main revelation is on Deneuve's father, Maurice Dorléac, who was also an actor.

During the war, according to records discovered by Violet, Dorléac made 72 appearances in radio plays for the pro-Nazi and virulently anti-Semitic radio station Radio-Paris.

He also appeared in several propaganda films, including one which sang the praises of the Milice, the political police of the collaborationist Vichy regime.

Dorléac was found guilty after the war of "giving aid to Germany... and damaging the unity of the French nation". He was banned from working as an actor for six months.

The revelation is embarrassing to Deneuve, who has supported many left-wing and humanitarian causes. Violet says that this skeleton in the family cupboard may explain the "tangle of anguish" at the heart of Deneuve's secretive personality.

The book reviews her many love affairs and her only formal marriage – to the celebrated British photographer David Bailey in the 1960s. After a whirlwind romance, the book says, the couple found little to say to each other because Bailey never learnt French and Deneuve was usually "too tired" to speak English.

The book suggests that Deneuve is not the scatty, impractical, money-detesting person sometimes presented in the French media. In 2005, she was forced to admit – after initial denials – that she had received large cash payments to attend private parties, and a football match, with Rafik Khalifa, an Algerian businessman who had a meteoric rise before being prosecuted for fraud.

Violet says that this was part of a wider pattern of paid-for public appearances by Deneuve. She also runs her own company, Deneuve SA, which makes chaotic attempts to cash in on her image.

Violet said yesterday: "She has made some great films, Repulsion, Belle de Jour, Indochine, during a largely inconsistent career. Catherine Deneuve, the woman, I find very disappointing. She is not an especially happy person, rather a sad one.

"She has spent her whole life insisting on her independence and her freedom and she has paid the price for it. I think that she is more respected than she is liked."

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