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Suzy Delair, the French chanteuse and actress who found fame in the 1940s and ’50s, has died. She was 102.
Delair died overnight in a Paris retirement home, the French magazine Le Point reported Monday.
Born Suzette Delaire in France on New Year’s Eve in 1917, Delair was a popular national figure in cabaret and music halls. Two of her more notable songs were “Avec Son Tra-la-la” and “C’est si bon,” which she performed at a hotel in Nice in February 1948. Jazz great Louis Armstrong was there and would record his own version of the latter.
Director-screenwriter Henri-George Clouzot discovered Delair during a musical performance, and they would be romantically involved for a decade. They worked together in the crime thrillers The Last One of the Six (1941) and The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (1942) — she portrayed Mila Malou, the girlfriend of Pierre Fresnay’s Inspector Wens, in those — and Quai des Orfèvres (1947), in which she played music-hall singer Jenny Lamour. Delair sings in all three films.
She also teamed with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in Utopia (1950), a France-Italy co-production that saw her portray a nightclub singer shipwrecked with the comedy duo on a deserted island rich in uranium deposits. Production problems, along with the failing health of its American-based stars, contributed to the film’s failure. (It was released as Atoll K in Europe.)
“I was not too thrilled with the planned plot and wondered what I could contribute to a Laurel & Hardy film,” Delair says in Norbert Aping’s 2007 book The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy: A Study of the Chaotic Making and Marketing of Atoll K.
She later accepted the role on the conditions that French designer Jacques Fath created her wardrobe, that she had her own hairstylist and makeup artist and that she could chose her own composer and lyricist for the film’s musical numbers.
Delair also worked with notable directors Robert Siodmak (1934’s The Crisis Is Over), Luchino Visconti (1960’s Rocco and His Brothers), Marcel Carné (1963’s Chicken Feed for Little Birds) and René Clément (1956’s Gervaise and 1966’s Is Paris Burning?).
March 17 Delair sang “C’est si bon” at a hotel in Nice in February 1948 when Armstrong saw her, according to the grandson of the composer of the song. The obituary has been corrected.
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