One of the most recognizable faces of the French cinema, and also one of its most celebrated, Jeanne Moreau is a legend in her own right. Combining off-kilter beauty with strong character, Moreau came to embody forthright, devil-may-care sensuality in such films as Jules and Jim and The Bride Wore Black. Comparing her to some of her best-known colleagues, Ginette Vincendeau noted, "Where Brigitte Bardot was sex and Catherine Deneuve elegance, Moreau incarnated intellectual femininity."
Born in Paris on January 23, 1928, Moreau was the daughter of an English dancer and a French barman who divorced when she was eleven. Growing up in Nazi-occupied Paris, she began to discover her love of literature and the theatre, and, opposing her father's wishes, she decided to become an actress. While still a student at the Paris Conservatoire, Moreau made her stage debut at the 1947 Avignon Theatre Festival. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to join the prestigious Comédie-Française, becoming on her twentieth birthday the youngest full-time member in the company's history. She stayed with the company for four years, appearing in almost all of their productions during that time. She left in 1951, finding it too restrictive and authoritarian, and joined the more experimental Théâtre Nationale Populaire.