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French cinema star and Oscar nominee Anouk Aimee dies at 92

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The French cinema star Anouk Aimee was considered one of the most alluring women on film. She was in more than 70 films before her retirement and was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her performance in the 1966 movie "A Man And A Woman." She died at the age of 92 yesterday. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: When it comes to iconic French screen stars, Anouk Aimee was more reserved than, say, Brigitte Bardot, says Laure Astourian, an assistant professor at Bentley University and author of a new book about French film.

LAURE ASTOURIAN: Where Bardot was all sunshine, bikinis, and that kind of film, Anouk Aimee was known for her mysterious aura, her dark hair and eyes. There's a lot of emotion, but it's contained.

BLAIR: Even when Aimee starred as a playful, seductive cabaret singer in a seaside town, she's got a kind of sophistication. The film was "Lola" by French New Wave director Jacques Demy.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOLA")

ANOUK AIMEE: (As Lola, speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, speaking French).

AIMEE: (As Lola, speaking French).

BLAIR: Anouk Aimee was born Nicole Francoise Florence Dreyfus in Paris in 1932. Her family was Jewish. When German troops occupied the city, her family sent her to the countryside to keep her safe. She also changed her name. When she was a teenager, she took Anouk from one of the first movie characters she played. Astourian says it was screenwriter and poet Jacques Prevert who gave her the name Aimee.

ASTOURIAN: He's the one who told her that, you know, Anouk isn't enough. When you're 40, you can't just say, my name is Anouk. You need a surname. And he gave her Aimee, which means loved. He said it was because everyone loved her.

BLAIR: Anouk Aimee says she learned the most about acting from Federico Fellini. She starred in his movies "La Dolce Vita" and "8 1/2." She said he taught her not to take herself too seriously and to listen.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.