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Simone Signoret Dead at 64


Simone Signoret, one of the greatest actresses of post-war cinema and a dedicated fighter for human rights, was buried here this afternoon at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Signoret, who died yesterday at the age of 64, was born of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother.

Although according to Jewish law she was not considered to be Jewish and there was no religious ceremony at her graveside, Signoret always spoke of herself as Jewish and fought in all the battles of the Jewish people, from equal rights for Soviet Jews to Israel’s right to survive.

Signoret died at her country home near Paris. Her daughter by a first marriage, Catherine Allegret, said “she died bravely as she has always lived.” Her husband, actor Yves Montand, was in the south of France filming at the time of her death and returned to their home in the evening.


Signoret has had cancer for the last four years but has not stopped working. Earlier this year she published her first novel “AdieuVolodia,” in which she narrates the fight for survival of the Jewish immigrants who reached France from Eastern Europe in the 1920’s. Although she herself was the daughter of a highly assimilated French Jew and had been brought up in a typical middle class milieu, her book has been acclaimed as one of the best and most moving portrayals of the period.

The actress is best known in the United States for her role in the British film, “Room at the Top,” for which she won an Academy Award. Jewish audiences best remember her for her role “Madame Rosa” in the film by Moshe Mizrahi and for her roles in such politically inspired films as Costa Gavras’ “L’Aveu” which denounces Stalinism and Communist state repression.

Signoret and Montand entered politics in the early 1950’s as liberal pro-Communists. In 1956 during the Soviet invasion of Budapest they switched sides and energetically fought for human rights and especially on behalf of Soviet Jewry. They both played a leading role in mobilizing French and West European public opinion on this subject.

Signoret was born in March 25, 1921 in Wiesbaden where her father was serving as an officer with the French occupation army in Germany. During the Nazi occupation, she took her mother’s name, Signoret, to escape identification and possible deportation. Her father had fled to London where he joined the Free French.


She started acting towards the end of the war and rapidly became one of the stars of the French screen. She visited Israel on several occasions, took an active part on Israel’s behalf on the eve of the Six-Day War.

Earlier this year, Signoret narrated a television documentary, “The Manuchian Affair,” which accused the French Communist Party of having “sold out” Jewish resistance fighters to the Germans during the Nazi occupation of France. She was close to many Israeli leaders. Premier Shimon Peres chose to spend a private evening at her home during his three-day official visit to France last December.

President Francois Mitterrand cabled Montand, stating that “for more than 40 years she spoke to the hearts of the French people.” Culture Minister Jack Lang said “the departure of Madame Rosa is a black Monday for French cinema.”


A report to the September 30 Bulletin misstated the 1982 dollar equivalent of the 10 million Shekels Ariel Sharon is demanding from Time magazine. It is $250,000, not $250 million.

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