The epitome of the roles was Caroline Chérie (50, Richard Pottier) and its sequels, but she was also proudly exposed by her then husband Christian-Jaque in a series of undress costume films: Adorables Créatures (52), Lucrezia Borgia (52), and Nana (55).
It was with his characteristic irony and tenderness that Max Ophuls made her famous forever by casting her as Lola Montés (55), that archetvpe of the woman driven to offer herself as substance for men’s dreams. Carol was no actress, but she was suitably picturesque and she seemed genuinely stirred by some of the implications in Ophuls’s film. Lola Montés is a masterpiece and proof that a commonplace actress can be made resplendent by the greatest directors. Carol’s career began in the war years and included a brief, unhappy excursion to America in the late 1950s.
Significantly, and despite their love for Ophuls, she was ignored by the New Wave directors. Among her films were Les Inconnus dans la Maison (42, Henri Decoin); Voyage Surprise (46. Pierre Prévert); Les Amants de Vérone (48, André Cayatte); Night Beauties (52, René Clair); La Spiaggia (53, Alberto Lat- tuada); Les Carnets de Major Thompson (57, Preston Sturges); Action of the Tiger (57, Terence Young); La Prima Notte (58, Alberto Cavalcanti); Ten Seconds to Hell (59, Robert Aldrich); Natalie, Agent Secret (59, Decoin); Le Cave se Rebiffe (61, Gilíes Grangier); good again in Vanina Vanini (61, Roberto Rossellini); and Hell Is Empty (66, John Ainsworth and Bernard Knowles).
In the still, if not turgid, waters of French cinema in the early 1950s, Martine Carol was the foremost ladylike voluptuary: a blonde, red-lipped courtesan, forever in and out of baths and peignoirs, seen to best effect with contented smile on crushed pillows.
Her personality was at the same time florid and genteel and, despite their gloss of daringness, her films reaffirmed very old-fashioned attitudes to sex.