1 Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered: Filmmakers Obsession With Actresses

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered:

Filmmakers Obsession with their Actresses

Passion, Desire and Destruction in Cinema

Professor Emanuel Levy                 

(Copyright: Library of Congress, U.S.)

August 26, 2020


“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is, of course, the legendary popular song from the 1940 musical “Pal Joey,” by Rodgers and Hart, introduced by Vivienne Segal in the Broadway production.

“She is either muse or she is nothing,” wrote Robert Graves.  After the Renaissance, the Greek goddesses of artistic inspiration were replaced by real-life if idealized women.  Case in point: Dante and Beatrice.

Artistic inspirations and intimate collaborations between artists and women are not peculiar or unique to the realm of cinema.  They have always prevailed in literature and the arts, as evident by writer Lewis Carroll’s attachment to Alice Liddell, or philosopher Nietzsche’s intellectual kinship with Lou Andreas-Salome.  In fashion, too, Lee Miller was a Vogue model and photographer who posed for, worked with, and influenced Man Ray.

However, the role of women as inspirational muses might differ from artist to artist.  Looking back, Yoko’s involvement with the late Beatle John Lennon might not have been as fruitful as that of dancer Suzanne Farrell’s with master-choreographer George Balanchine.

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered: Filmmakers Obsession with Actresses examines the careers and lives of twenty-five major directors and the women who have inspired their work, motivating them to create seminal works of world cinema.  Some of history’s most prominent filmmakers, including Josef von Sternberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, and Woody Allen were obsessed and inspired by particular actresses who had served as their artistic muse at the height of their careers.  Yet not much is known about these crucial relationships and collaborations beyond the realm of gossip and tabloid material.

Nearly all of the directors-women relationships at the center of my book were marked by melodramatic endings, and sometimes sheer tragedies, manifest in scandals onscreen and off.  Most of these relationships were romantic-sexual at the times the directors made their greatest films.  Some collaborations involved marriage, though few of those bonds proved to be mutually satisfying and long-lasting.  Other relationships were asexual from the beginning, culminating in repression, frustration, and even revenge on the filmmakers’ parts.  Still others were intentionally platonic and never intended to be carnal, showing that the power of desire and longing may be more forceful and durable than the thrill of possession.

Drawing on individual life-stories, Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered constructs a topology of collaborations, which stresses the generality as well as the singularity of cinematic influences.  Refuting the theory that the role of muse is passive, the book also challenges the notion that cinematic genius is solitary in nature.  Through detailed examination of the lives of male directors and their actresses/wives/lovers/mistresses, the volume provides a more complex and realistic vision of the joys and sorrows, absurdities and contradictions, in creating great film works by casting the same actress over and over in specific screen roles. That some of those roles were erotic, sexual, and even sadistic makes the subject all the more interesting.

The seemingly contradictor desires for feverish devotion on the one hand and artistic independence on the other are explored from both the subjective point of views of both directors and their actresses.

Specific questions to be asked:

How did the relationship and collaboration begin?

In what specific ways did the actress/wife inspire her director/husband/lover?

Which specific screen roles were assigned by the directors to their women?

What was the impact of the relationship on the merits of the jointly-made films?

What was the effect of the collaboration on the careers of the directors and actresses?

How long did the relationship last?

What was the impact of the breakup/divorce on the careers of the directors and the actresses?

Are there any discernible patterns of collaborations?



Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered takes a cross-cultural approach.  About half of the collaborative inspirations are American, that is, they have occurred within mainstream Hollywood cinema, past and present.  The book’s Hollywood angle should serve as its main marketing point and commercial appeal to readers and moviegoers.  The other relationships cover a wide range of national cinemas:

France (Marce Carne, Roger Vadim, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Andre Techine)

Italy (Antonioni; Fellini)

Sweden (Ingmar Bergman)

UK (Tony Richardson, Nicholas Roeg)

Spain (Pedro Almodovar)

China (Zhang Yimou)

Japan (Ozu)


The examination of artistic-personal relationships from both perspectives–the artist/director and the actress/wife/lover–will enrich the book’s scope.  While the book’s intent is serious, the data provide wonderful anecdotes and juicy stories that should attract a more general readership than avid moviegoers (see below sample data).

While most of the filmmakers are heterosexuals, half a dozen of them are homosexuals or bisexuals.  Serving as an added, overlooked variable, the impact of the director’s sexual orientation on his work will provide fresh insights about such directors as George Cukor (Katharine Hepburn appeared in 12 of his pictures), Minnelli (4 films with Judy Garland), Pedro Almodovar (3 films with Carmen Maura), Andre Techine (4 films with Catherine Deneuve).

Each essay is devoted to a particular collaboration/relationship between a director and an actress, following their lives from their first encounter to the demise of the relationship.  In some cases, a director’s work is marked by his obsession/infatuation with two different actresses.  A good example for this pattern is offered by Woody Allen, who was in love with two of his leading ladies: Diane Keaton (most of the 1970s and early 1980s) and Mia Farrow (most of the 1980s and early 1990s).

Similarly, Hitchcock was infatuated with Ingrid Bergman in the 1940s, then obsessed (though not in love) with Grace Kelly in the 1950s.  In the 1960s, he discovered Tippi Hedren (The Birds) and made a pass on her.  Reportedly, when Hedren rejected him, he treated her cruelly on the set.

Frenchman Roger Vadim worked with and was married to three of the most beautiful actresses in the world: Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, and Jane Fonda.


Personal Relationships-Professional Collaborations (alphabetically)

Fanny ArdantFrancois Truffaut fell in love with Fanny Ardant in 1979, on TV, when he saw her miniseries Les Dames de la Cote.  Truffaut’s love was real: He said he liked “her large mouth, her deep voice and its unusual intonations, her big black eyes and her triangular face.” Ardant became not just the muse of Truffaut’s final years, but his lover and companion and the mother of his daughter.  Ardant’s first film for Truffaut, The Woman Next Door, was made in 1981 and co-starred Gerard Depardieu.  She then played the secretary in Truffaut’s last film, the noirish Confidentially Yours (1983).


Stephane Audran made 21 films with Claude Chabrol, lending undeniable charm to his films.  It may be characteristic of Chabrol’s enigmatic, smooth films that one might not deduce from them that Audran was also his wife.  At first, Audran’s parts were small, but after a brief appearance in Les Cousins (1959), she was in Les Bonnes Femmes (1959) and Les Godelureux (1961).  L’Oeil du Matin (1962) was Audran’s first starring role, and she won the Best Actress prize at the Berlin Film Festival for Les Biches (1968), one of Chabrol’s masterpieces.  It was Chabrol who revealed her radiant beauty and helped establish her screen image, which suggested emotional upheaval and unsuspected strength beneath a deceiving facade of cool and detached sophistication.


Brigitte Bardot was made into an international sex symbol by Roger Vadim in the scandalous and controversial 1956 film, And God Created Woman.  After this film, which became an international success and one of the most photographed women and sex icons in the world.  Bardot left Vadim for another man, but reappeared late in his life in his bizarre picture, If Don Juan Were a Woman.  She gave her best and most sensual performance, however, in Godard’s Contempt (1963), which showed the directors’ taste for the erotic and the cryptic–the Bardot character is named Camille Javal (Bardot’s real name).


Ingrid Bergman‘s screen image, bolstered by studio publicity, of a wholesome, almost saintly woman, boomeranged in 1949, when she deserted her husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom (a dentist she had married in 1937), and her daughter Pia (later a TV critic), for Roberto Rossellini.  They married in 1950 amid the clamor of public indignation.  Their union, which produced a son and twin girls (one of whom is actress Isabella Rossellini) amounted to a near disaster professionally.  The films Rossellini directed with her, even the much-heralded Stromboli, were neither critical nor commercial successes.  Attacks by religious groups, women’s clubs, and even politicians–on the floor of the Senate she was called “Hollywood’s apostle of degradation,” and “a free-love cultist”–barred her from American films for seven years.

Bergman’s seemed well on her way to oblivion when, in 1956, her career was suddenly resurrected, first in Paris, where she appeared in Renoir’s Elena et les Hommes, then in London, where she starred in the American production of Anastasia. The Academy Award for the latter film signified more than anything else Hollywood’s forgiveness of her “sins.”  Her marriage to Rossellini was annulled in 1958.


Their film collaborations were dismissed at the time, but recently they have been favorably reevaluated.  As for Rossellini, his affair with Bergman had terminated his relationship with Anna Magnani, a collaboration that led to a highlight of the Italian Neo-realist movement, Roma, Open City, though the devastated Magnani never forgave Rossellini for deserting her


Mia FarrowWoody Allen assigned Farrow the widest range of roles she had ever played (Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Broadway Danny Rose), elevating her stature and legitimizing her fledgling screen career.  Then, in 1991, Allen took photos of her adopted daughter in nudity and created the biggest showbiz scandal of the past decade, one that no doubt has damaged his career.


Judy Garland always credited Vincente Minnelli for being the first director to make her look beautiful onscreen, in Meet Me in St. Louis and The Clock.  Garland sang her most popular songs in one of Minnelli’s best films, Meet Me in St. Louis, then married him despite rumors of his homosexuality.  Garland’ neurotic behavior and their personal incompatibilities ended in a suicide attempt and a much-publicized divorce (in 1951).  For the last years of their tumultuous marriage, Minnelli was nearly paralyzed artistically.


Lillian Gish–The actress who’s recognized as “The First Lady of the Silent Screen”–took her first steps onstage when she was five in In Convict Stripes.  She and her younger sister Dorothy became popular child actresses.  Through a chance meeting with Mary Pickford, the Gish sisters were introduced to director D. W. Griffith.  That same day both sisters acted in their first film, Griffith’s An Unseen Enemy; their mother was also in the cast.

Lillian was a perfect Griffith heroine.  Her deceptive fragility, masking a great spiritual vibrancy that could surge forth unexpectedly as physical strength, was suited to his melodramas’ Victorian sentiments.  Gish was deeply devoted to Griffith and admired him greatly.  Under Griffith’s guidance, she developed into the most prominent actress of the silent screen, an extraordinarily creative and dedicated performer whose work uplifted even commonplace vehicles.  She remained with Griffith for close to a decade, during which he directed most of her films,  Broken Blossoms, True Heart Susie, Way Down East, and Orphans of the Storm.


Gish left Griffith in 1921 over monetary and personal disputes–he had an affair with sister Dorothy.  Nonetheless, she supported Griffith financially when his career hit skid row.  In a noble, selfless act, Gish’s will left money to New York’s Museum of Modern Art for the protection of Griffith’s work. Gish had never married and, except for a courtship by George Jean Nathan, kept her private life shielded from publicity.  In 1970, she was awarded a Special Oscar for her cumulative work. In 1978 she returned to the screen after long absence in Robert Altman’s A Wedding, her 106th film.  In 1984, she received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award.



Rita HayworthOrson Welles made his noir masterpiece, The Lady from Shanghai, when he and Rita Hayworth were already separated.  The personal confession at the end of the film is mordant and harsh.  However, this semi-autobiographical work compresses the entire saga of a man (Welles) meeting an enchanting femme fatale (Hayworth), falling for her only to be deserted and betrayed by her.  Hayworth’s loyal fans never forgave Welles for the ruthless malignity he displays toward Hayworth onscreen.


Anna Karina–A former model, she appeared in several Danish advertising films and arrived in Cannes as the star of a short film that won a prize.  Her career in French films was launched by Jean-Luc Godard, who married her in 1961 and was inspired by her to make some of his best (and more commercial) films.  Karina’s impulsive personality was highlighted in A Woman Is a Woman, My Life to Live (in which she plays a prostitute), Band of Outsiders, Alphaville, Pierrot le Fou.  Karina divorced Godard in 1964, which some consider a turning point in Godard’s career.   


Hanna Schygulla met Fassbinder in the 1960s at the Munich avant-garde Action Theatre, where he became her mentor and lover.  She figured prominently in half of Fassbinder’s prolific oeuvre, portraying a diverse range of fascinating characters in such provocative movies as The Marriage of Maria Brown, Lili Marlen, and the TV series, Berlin Alexanderplatz.  Schygullah’s work with Fassbinder made her one of Europe’s most sought-after leading ladies thanks to the intriguing personality and expressive sensuality he revealed in his pictures.  After intense relationship came a much-publicized falling out.


Jean Seberg–Director Otto Preminger cast Seberg for the role of Joan of Arc in Saint Joan after an exhaustive, highly publicized national search that recalled the casting frenzy of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.  Preminger took Seberg to Cannes, where he introduced her to the world as his personal discovery.  The film was a touching fusion of provincial America, rural France, and Bernard Shaw’s wit.  Seberg brought her endearing small-town quality and deliberate naturalism to her work, but was treated contemptuously by the critics.  Preminger persisted, despite the critics, and coaxed a marvelous performance from Seberg as the spoilt adolescent in Bonjour Tristesse. It was apparent by now that, unlike most discoveries, Seberg was self-possessed and mature–and had what it takes to become a star.  Her physical beauty was restricted by Preminger in his films; the cropped hair, the tomboyish look.  Godard, too, was impressed, and cast Seberg as the American girl in Paris–Belmondo’s romantic interest–in his stunning debut, Breathless.


Cut to September 8, 1979, when French policemen found a white Renault that had been parked for ten days on a quiet Parisian street.  They found the decomposing body of Seberg with a bottle of barbituaries.  Apparently she had been involved with the Black Panthers and the FBI had been hounding and harassing her.


Emmanuelle Seigner was only 21 when Roman Polanski cast her in Frantic (1988), a moderately successful American-sponsored thriller.  In 1989, Polanski married Seigner amid continuous scandals and inability to work in the America due to a charge of a rape of a minor.  Seigner was 22, and Polanski 56.  Seigner was then cast by Polanski in the erotic-voyeuristic Bitter Moon (1991), in which she plays a sexually explicit role that many considered degrading and humiliating.


                               Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

                         Filmmakers Obsession with Their Actresses



Chapter 1: D.W. Griffith–Lillian Gish

Chapter 2: Josef von Sternberg–Marlene Dietrich

Chapter 3: Alfred Hitchcock–Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren

Chapter 4: George Cukor–Katharine Hepburn

Chapter 5: Roberto Rossellini–Ingrid Bergman

Chapter 6: Vincente Minnelli–Judy Garland

Chapter 7: Orson Welles–Rita Hayworth

Chapter 8: Nicholas Ray–Gloria Grahame

Chapter 9: Otto Preminger–Jean Seberg

Chapter 10: Ingmar Bergman–Liv Ullmann

Chapter 11: Ozu–Setsuko Hara

Chapter 12: Tony Richardson–Vanessa Redgrave

Chapter 13: John Cassavetes–Gena Rowlands

Chapter 14: Roger Vadim–Brigitte Bardot, Deneuve, Jane Fonda

Chapter 15: Truffaut–Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant

Chapter 16: Jean-Luc Godard–Anna Karina

Chapter 17: Fassbinder–Hannah Schygulla

Chapter 18: Roman Polanski–Emmanuelle Seigner

Chapter 19: Woody Allen–Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow

Chapter 20: Warren Beatty–Julie Christie

Chapter 21: Brian De Palma–Nancy Allen

Chapter 22: Andre Techine–Catherine Deneuve

Chapter 23: Nicolas Roeg–Theresa Russell

Chapter 24: Zhang Yimou–Gong Li

Chapter 25: Pedro Almodovar–Carmen Maura, Penelope Cruz


Filmography of Director-Actress Collaborations




Director (alphabetically):

Allen, Woody–Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow

Antonioni–Monica Vitti

L’Avventura; La Notte; L’Eclipse; The Red Desert; The Oberwald Mystery (1980, adaptation of Cocteau play)

Beatty, Warren–Julie Christie

Bergman, Ingmar-Liv Ullmann

Borzage–Janet Gaynor; Margaret Sullavan

3 films with Gaynor; 3 with Sullavan

Brown, Clarence–Garbo

7 films

Carne, Marcel–Arletty

Le Jou  se leve; Children of Paradise; Le fleur de l’age (notcompleted)

Cassavetes, John–Gena Rowlands

Chabrol, Claude–Stephane Audran

21 films

Clouzot, Henri Georges–Vera Clouzot

Cukor, George–Katharine Hepburn

De Palma, Brian–Nancy Allen

Fellini–Giulietta Massina

4 films: La Strada; Nights of Cabiria; Juliette of the Spirits; Fred and Ginger

Godard, Jean-Luc–Anna Karina

Griffith, D.W.–Lillian Gish

Hitchcock, Alfred–Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren

Lynch, David–Isabella Rossellini

Minnelli, Vincente-Judy Garland

Ozu–Setsuko Hara

Grabo of Japan; 6 films, 1949-1961

Preminger, Otto–Jean Seberg

2 films

Polanski, Roman–Emanuelle Seigner

Ray, Nicholas–Gloria Grahame

Richardson, Tony–Vanessa Redgrave

Roeg, Nicolas–Theresa Russell

Rossellini, Robert–Ingrid Bergman

Techine, Andre–Catherine Deneuve

Truffaut, Francois–Deneuve, Ardant

Vadim, Roger–Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve

von Sternberg, Josef–Marlene Dietrich

Yimou, Zhang–Gong Li



Table of Contents by Actress/Wife/Companion (alphabetically):

Allen, Nancy

Andersson, Bibi

Ardant, Fanny


Audran, Stephane

Bardot, Brigitte

Bergman, Ingrid Bergman

Christie, Julie

Deneuve, Catherine

Dietrich, Marlene

Farrow, Mia

Fonda, Jane

Garland, Judy

Gish, Lillian

Grahame, Gloria

Hara, Setsuko

Hayworth, Rita

Hepburn, Katharine

Hedren, Tippi

Karina, Anna

Keaton, Diane

Kelly, Grace

Li, Gong

Maura, Carmen

Redgrave, Vanessa

Rowlands, Gena

Russell, Theresa

Schygulla, Hannah

Seberg, Jean

Seigner, Emmanuelle

Ullmann, Liv