Vadim, Roger: Director of Lavish (and Kitsch) Erotic Tales (“And God Created Woman,” Starring Brigitte Bardot)

Roger Vadim Plemiannikov (French: January 26, 1928–February 11, 2000) was a French screenwriter, director and producer, as well as an author, artist and occasional actor.

His best-known works are lavishly erotic films, such as And God Created Woman (1956), Barbarella (1968), and Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971).

Vadim was born Roger Vadim Plemiannikov (or Plemiannikoff) in Paris. His father, Igor Nikolaevich Plemiannikov, a White Russian military officer and pianist, had emigrated from imperial Russia and became a naturalized French citizen. He was a vice consul of France to Egypt, stationed in Alexandria. He later on moved to Mersin, Turkey as a consul. His mother, Marie-Antoinette (née Ardilouze), was a French actress.

Although Vadim lived as a diplomat’s child in Northern Africa and the Middle East in his early youth, the death of his father when Vadim was 9 caused the family to return to France, where his mother ran a hostel in the French Alps, which was functioning as a way-station for Jews and other fugitives fleeing Nazism.

Vadim studied journalism and writing at the University of Paris, without graduating.

At age 19, he became assistant to director Marc Allégret, whom he met while working at the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt, and for whom he worked on several screenplays. He was an assistant director on Allegret’s Blanche Fury (1948), a melodrama which Allegret made for a British company in English.

Vadim was one of several writers on Allegret’s French-British The Naked Heart (1950), aka Maria Chapdelaine, starring Michèle Morgan, as well as serving as assistant director. It was shot in French and English versions.

Blackmailed (1951) was another film Allegret directed in England, starring Mai Zetterling and Dirk Bogarde; Vadim was credited as one of the writers.

He was also one of several writers on Allegret’s, La demoiselle et son revenant (1952).

Vadim did the screenplay and commentary for a documentary, Le gouffre de la Pierre Saint-Marti (1953) and was assistant director on Allegret’s Julietta (1953), a popular romance with Jean Marais, Dany Robin and Jeanne Moreau.

Vadim wrote Allegret’s Loves of Three Queens (1954), with Hedy Lamarr.

Vadim had begun a relationship with model-actress Brigitte Bardot, who played in the drama directed by Allegret, School for Love (1953), aka Futures Vendettes, starring Jean Marais; Vadim wrote the script with Allegret. The film was a commercial disappointment.

However the next collaboration between Allegret, Bardot and Vadim, Plucking the Daisy (1956), aka Mam’selle Striptease, was a huge success at the French box office. So too was Naughty Girl (1956), with Bardot.

Vadim’s first film as director was based on his original, And God Created Woman (1956). Starring Bardot, Curt Jurgens and Christian Marquand and produced by Raoul Levy it was a major success in France around the world, and established Bardot as a global sex icon.

Vadim followed it with No Sun in Venice (1957) starring Françoise Arnoul and Marquand, produced by Levy, which was less popular than And God Created Woman. Levy, Vadim and Bardot were to make Paris by Night with Frank Sinatra but Bardot refused to spend months in the US and Sinatra felt likewise about filming in France.

Vadim made The Night Heaven Fell (1958), starring Bardot and Stephen Boyd.

He was one of several writers on Allegret’s popular comedy, Be Beautiful But Shut Up (1958), starring Mylène Demongeot.

Vadims’s next film was an adaptation of the book Les liaisons dangereuses (1959), which he wrote and directed. It starred Moreau, Gérard Philipe (in his final film) and Annette Stroyberg, a Danish model who became Vadim’s second wife. The film became a huge hit in France.

Stroyberg was also in the vampire film Blood and Roses (1960); they divorced shortly afterwards.

Vadim was reunited with Bardot for Please, Not Now! (1961), a popular comedy.

He was one of several directors of the anthology film, The Seven Deadly Sins (1962).

Vadim began a relationship with Catherine Deneuve, who starred in a segment of the anthology film Tales of Paris (1962), written by Vadim and directed by Allegret.

Deneuve also starred in a film Vadim helped write and produce, And Satan Calls the Turns (1962), and in was also Vice and Virtue (1963), which Vadim directed.

Vadim had another success writing and directing for Bardot, Love on a Pillow (1962), but found less favor with Nutty, Naughty Chateau (1963) starring Monica Vitti.

Vadim adaptation of a classic erotic text, La Ronde (1964). He said at the time, “When I make a picture about relations between people, something erotic comes through; I can’t help it! But sex has been an inspiration, the greatest inspiration, since art exists.” One of the film’s stars was American actress Jane Fonda who began romantic relationship with Vadim.

Vadim devised a vehicle for Fonda, The Game Is Over (1966), based on a book by Émile Zola. Shot in French and English versions, it was popular in France, though less so in the US.

Dino de Laurentiis wanted Fonda to star in a sci-fi sex comedy, Barbarella (1968), with Vadim as director.  He then directed Fonda in a segment of the omnibus horror film Spirits of the Dead (1968) along with her brother Peter Fonda.

In the U.S., Vadim directed Pretty Maids All in a Row  in 1971 for MGM, starring Rock Hudson and Angie Dickinson. It was a commercial disappointment.

Vadim returned to France, where he wrote and directed Hellé (1972), starring Gwen Welles, which was a flop.

He was reunited with Bardot for Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman (1973), which was Bardot’s penultimate movie and a commercial disappointment.

He helmed Charlotte (1974), and Game of Seduction (1976) with Sylvia Kristel and Nathalie Delon.

He directed a TV movie Bonheur, impair et passe (1977), starring Danielle Darrieux.

In the 1980s, Vadim moved to the US, where he directed Night Games (1980), in effort to make a star of Cindy Pickett, with whom he became involved. He directed a caper film in Canada, The Hot Touch (1981), starring Marie-France Pisier. Back in France he wrote and directed Surprise Party (1983).

He also directed episodes of Faerie Tale Theatre (1984) and Deadly Nightmares (1986).

Vadim attempted to recapture his former success with a new version of And God Created Woman (1988), with Rebecca de Mornay, but the movie failed critically and commercially.

In his last years he worked in TV, directing Safari (1991), and writing and directing Amour fou (1993), starring Marie-Christine Barrault, who became his final wife. She was also in La Nouvelle tribu (1996) and its sequel Un coup de baguette magique (1997), which Vadim wrote and directed.

Vadim was famous for his romances and marriages to beautiful actresses. In his mid-30s, he lived with the teenaged Catherine Deneuve, by whom he had a child, Christian Vadim, prior to his marriage to Fonda. He was also involved with American actress Cindy Pickett. Later, he cohabited with screenwriter Ann Biderman, announcing their engagement in 1984, but the couple never wed.

Marriages
Brigitte Bardot, December 20, 1952–December 6, 1957 (divorced)
Annette Stroyberg, June 17 1958 – March 14, 1961 (divorced); 1 daughter (Nathalie)
Jane Fonda, August 14, 1965–January 16, 1973 (divorced); 1 daughter (Vanessa)
Catherine Schneider, December 13, 1975–June 10, 1977 (divorced); 1 son (Vania)
Ann Biderman, Partner (engaged but never wed), California
Marie-Christine Barrault, 21 December 1990 – 11 February 2000 (his death)

He also had two stepsons from his marriage to Schneider (heiress to the Schneider-Creusot steel and armaments firm) and adult stepchildren from Barrault’s first marriage to Daniel Toscan du Plantier.

Vadim also wrote “Memoires du Diable,” “Le Gout du Bonheur: Souvenirs 1940–1958” and an autobiography, D’une étoile à l’autre (From One Star to the Next), and a tell-all about his famous exes, Bardot, Deneuve & Fonda: My Life with the Three Most Beautiful Women in the World, published in 1986.

“My attitude is that if this book makes me a little money it will be a tiny compensation for all the money I helped those actresses make,” Vadim said.

He also wrote several plays and books of fiction, including L’Ange Affame.

Vadim died of cancer at age 72 on February 11, 2000.

Filmography

The Naked Heart (1950)
Blackmailed (1951)
En Effeuillant la Marguerite/Mademoiselle Striptease (1956)
And God Created Woman (1956) (directing debut)
Sait-on jamais? (1957)
Sois belle et tais-toi/Be Beautiful but Shut up (1957)
Les Bijoutiers du Clair de Lune/The Night Heaven Fell (1958)
Les liaisons dangereuses/Dangerous Liaisons (1959)
Blood and Roses (1960)
La Bride sur le cou/Please Not Now! (1961)
Les Sept péchés capitaux/Seven Capital Sins (1962)
Les Parisiennes/Beds and Broads (1962)
Love on a Pillow (1962)
Un château en Suède/Castle in Sweden (1963)
Le vice et la vertu/Vice and Virtue (1963)
La Ronde/Circle of Love (1964)
La Curée/The Game is Over (1966)
Spirits of the Dead (1968)
Barbarella (1968)
Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)
Hellé (1972)
Don Juan ou Si Don Juan était une femme (1973)
La jeune fille Assassinée/The Murdered Young Girl (1974)
Une femme fidèle (1976)
Bonheur, impair et passe (1977)
Jeux de Nuit/Night Games (1980)
The Hot Touch (1981)
Surprise Party (1983)
Faerie Tale Theatre (1984 TV, segment “Beauty and the Beast”)
The Hitchhiker (1986 TV, segment “Dead Man’s Curve”)
And God Created Woman (1988)
Safari (1991, TV movie)
Amour fou (1993, TV movie)
La Nouvelle tribu (1996, TV mini-series)
Mon père avait raison (1996, TV movie)
Un coup de baguette magique (1997, TV movie)