Giselle Pascal

Actress lover of Prince Rainier

Thursday 08 February 2007 01:00 GMT

Giselle Marie Madeleine Tallone (Giselle Pascal), actress: born Cannes, France 17 September 1921; married 1955 Raymond Pellegrin (one daughter); died Nîmes, France 2 February 2007.

Before he married the glamorous American film star Grace Kelly in what was described as "The Wedding of the Century" in 1956, Prince Rainier of Monaco had a well-documented 10-year liaison with the equally attractive French actress Giselle Pascal. She was a beauty who had made the transition from ingénue roles opposite the popular comedian Raimu (L'Arlésienne, 1942) to lead parts in melodramas like Tombé du ciel (Dropped From Heaven, 1946) and comedies such as Mademoiselle s'amuse (Mademoiselle has Fun, 1948) and La Petite chocolatière (The Little Chocolate Girl, 1949).

Pascal had caught the eye of Rainier when he was a student at Montpellier University during the Second World War and she was treading the boards in boulevard plays. For a time, the couple openly shared a villa in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera when she wasn't away in Paris filming. There was even talk of marriage but, when Rainier ascended to the throne of the tiny principality in 1949 after the death of his father, Prince Louis II, his relationship with Pascal came under increasing pressure and eventually floundered.

Rainier was expected to continue the family line but his elder sister, the notoriously meddlesome Princess Antoinette, Baroness of Massy, was eyeing the succession for her own son and spreading rumours that Pascal couldn't have children. A doctor apparently performed an examination and declared this to be the case, although Pascal went on to marry the actor Raymond Pellegrin and bear him a daughter, Pascale, who followed her parents into acting. Snobbery certainly also played a part in Rainier's wavering and eventual decision, since Pascal came from humble Italian stock and had worked in her parents' grocery as a child.

After her break-up with Rainier, Pascal was linked with Gary Cooper in 1953, the year she portrayed the French pilot Hélène Boucher - who held seven world records and died in a plane crash in 1934 - in Horizons sans fin (Endless Horizons), arguably her best film.

She was born Giselle Marie Madeleine Tallone in 1921, studied shorthand and typing and intended to become a secretary, but she also attended dance classes, which came in handy when she later starred in the musical comedies Amour, Délices et orgues (also known as Collège Swing, 1947), Véronique (1949) and Boum sur Paris (1954). She was spotted by the film director Marc Allégret, who recommended her to both Claude Dauphin, with whom she made her stage début, and cast her in L'Arlésienne with Raimu, who loved her Provençal accent.

Pascal soon showed she could also play Paris posh and portrayed a coquette philosophy teacher in Les J3 (The J3, 1946), and a succession of young women in love in films like Madame et son flirt ("Madame and Her Flirt", 1946) and La Femme nue ("The Naked Woman", 1949), but she hankered for meatier parts and took flying lessons to add credibility to her performance as Boucher.

She met Cooper when promoting Endless Horizons at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953. The couple became the talk of the festival but the affair ended when the actor's wife and daughter joined him in Paris a few weeks later.

Pascal was subsequently cast in two "social realism" dramas - Le Feu dans la peau (Fire Under the Skin, 1953) and Marchandes d'illusions (Women Without Shame, 1954) - which also starred Pellegrin, a leading man she had previously had a crush on when they had both appeared in the same play. He was now separated from the German-born actress Dora Doll and his friendship with Pascal blossomed into a relationship. When his divorce came through in 1955, the couple married. Pascal also appeared in Si Versailles m'était conté (Fabulous Versailles, 1954) and Si Paris nous était conté (If Paris Were Told to Us, 1956), two huge "crash-course in French history" productions directed by Sacha Guitry, and opposite Jean Marais in Le Masque de fer (The Iron Mask, 1962).

After taking a break from radio, theatre and film work in the Seventies, she played character parts in En haut des marches (At the Top of the Stairs, 1983), La Femme publique (The Public Woman, 1983), Les Compères (1983) and Juillet en septembre ("July in September", 1988) and acted in several television series in France and Germany.

Pierre Perrone

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