Colette Marchand, French Actress, Ballerina, Passes Away At 90

Colette Marchand, legendary French ballerina and actress, perhaps best known for her supporting role in 1952’s Moulin Rouge, has passed away at age 90, the New York Times is reporting.

Marchand died at her home in France on June 5, but her nephew, Laurent Bazire, only made her death public this week.

Colette Marchand first made a name for herself in Roland Petit’s absurdist ballet “L’Oeuf à la Coque” (“The Boiled Egg”), where her character, dressed as a chicken in black tights and black feathers, emerges from an egg. Critics were taken by her exceptionally long legs, earning her the nickname “Les Legs,” according to MSN.

From there, Marchand embarked on a career, touring the world appearing in Petit’s ballets. In “Les Demoiselles de la Nuit” (“The Young Girls of the Night”), Marchand’s character was a cat who becomes a woman at night and falls in love with a human.

So suited was Marchand for roles in Petit’s ballets that, eventually, Petit began composing ballets specifically for her. For “Ciné Bijou,” a love story about a secretary and a movie lover, Petit choreographed the dance parts specifically around Marchand’s character.

By the early 1950s, Marchand (and her legs) had caught the attention of the movie industry. Famed director Orson Welles scripted a handful of ballet scenes with her in mind for the Petit ballet “The Lady in the Ice.”

Although Colette Marchand only had a small handful of roles on the silver screen, she didn’t fail to make a splash. In John Huston’s 1952 masterpiece Moulin Rouge, Marchand played the role of prostitute Marie Charlet — a real-life character — who torments painter Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, who is in love with her. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role — an award which went to Gloria Grahame instead.

Colette Marchand was born in Paris on April 29, 1925. She studied at the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet school, and then took a job with the group after graduating. She went on to tour with various ballet companies throughout her career. She married Les Ballets de Paris conductor Jacques Brazire while on tour with the company. She had no children, and is survived by a sister, Yvonne Le Bras.

As of this post, it is not clear when Colette Marchand’s funeral took place, or if it has taken place.

[Image courtesy of: Getty Images / Ron Burton]