Nicole Courcel was born Nicole Marie-Anne Andrieux, the daughter of a journalist, in the Parisian suburb of Saint Cloud. Some of her early childhood was spent in Catholic boarding schools (an unhappy experience) and with her grandmother (much happier) in the small township of Martel (renowned for its truffles). While in her mid-teens she began acting in amateur theatre, eventually completing her dramatic training at the venerable acting school René Simon in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Courcel entered films as a small part actress in 1947 and adopted the stage name Courcel two years later from a character in Jacques Becker’s romantic youth comedy Rendez-vous de juillet (1949). This was her first leading role. An actress of considerable poise, beauty and sensitivity, Courcel reached the peak of her popularity just prior to the beginning of the New Wave movement. Many of her films were commercially successful and directed by leading auteurs of the period, including Marcel Carné (in La Marie du port (1950), co-starring opposite Jean Gabin), Jean Cocteau (in Testament of Orpheus (1960)) and Serge Bourguignon (in Sundays and Cybèle (1962)). The latter role — as nurse to an emotionally crippled war veteran — was arguably her most famous and complex, contrasting tender care with obsessive jealousy. Rare international appearances saw her as a French piano teacher and romantic interest in a typical Heinz Rühmann comedy, Ein Mann geht durch die Wand (1959); as a nurse in a minor cold war drama, Stop Train 349 (1963) (starring Sean Flynn, son of the famous Errol); and a small part, as Raymonde, in the excellent wartime thriller The Night of the Generals (1967), directed by Anatole Litvak. As movie roles began to diminish in the early 70’s, Courcel confined her acting to the small screen — often in period drama — notably in the title role as Madame Bovary (1974) and as the heroine’s grandmother, Jeanne De Breuil, in an adaptation of Milady (2004). Courcel was the mother of French television personality and food critic Julie Andrieu.
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