In the swinging Sixties every male on the planet knew that the initials BB referred to the Var’s most famous resident (pictured, 1963 in St-Tropez). Bardot, a national icon whose last name alone, like Montand or Trenet evokes a legend.
Simone de Beauvoir described Brigitte as a “locomotive of women’s history”. After appearing in 16 films (of the 47 she made in all), Bardot became world famous when her then-husband Roger Vadim cast her in the leading role for "And God Created Woman". A fashion fad, the Bardot neckline (a wide open neck exposing both shoulders), was named after her and at the time it was claimed that she did more for the country’s trade surplus than the entire French automobile industry.
Along with another alliterative name holder, Marilyn Monroe, BB became a benchmark for female beauty and sex appeal. Like Marilyn, she had a troubled personal life. Unlike Monroe she’s still very much with us and she makes a point of making sure we don’t forget it.
In 1973, at the age of 39, Bardot stepped back from the limelight and settled into La Madrague near St Tropez, a property she had owned since 1958. Since then she has had two interests – animal welfare and defending France from what she feels is a rise in the influence of Muslim integration, which she claims in her book Un Cri dans le Silence, “resists adjusting to our laws and customs but which will, as the years pass, attempt to impose its own”.
These two crusades converge when it comes to the ritual slaughter of sheep for halal meat by slitting their throats without anesthetising them. Over the years her stances on these issues have seen her fined several times for racist emarks. That doesn’t seem to bother BB and she’s even launched her own suits against former Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire for not cracking down severely enough on animal cruelty.
Bardot’s latest crusades are as colourful as ever. One is against film director Kyle Newman’s project for a biopic on her. “Wait until I’m dead before you make a movie about my life!” She has also filed a case for death threats over an internet video, which depicts her face, merged onto a cow with the words “this animal will have its throat slit in a ritual slaughter”.
St Trop’ may seem sleepy in the wintertime but you can still count La Brigitte Nationale to liven things up a little.