Capucine on 25 April 1962
Germaine Hélène Irène Lefebvre

(1928-01-06)6 January 1928
Died17 March 1990(1990-03-17) (aged 62)
Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
Occupation(s)Model, actress
Years active1948–1990
(m. 1950; div. 1950)

Capucine (French pronunciation: [kapysin], born Germaine Hélène Irène Lefebvre French: [ʒɛʀmɛnelɛniʀɛnləfɛvʀ], 6 January 1928 – 17 March 1990)[1] was a French fashion model and actress known for her comedic roles in The Pink Panther (1963) and What's New Pussycat? (1965). She appeared in 36 films and 17 television productions between 1948 and 1990.

Early life

Capucine was born Germaine Hélène Irène Lefebvre on 6 January 1928 in Saint-Raphaël, Var, France.[1][2] She often confused the date of her birth by saying that she was born in 1931 or 1933, and most sources indicate those years. She attended school in Saumur, France, and attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in foreign languages.[3]

In 1945, at age 17, while riding in a carriage in Paris, Lefebvre was noticed by a commercial photographer. Adopting the French name of a flower, "Capucine" (nasturtium, Tropaeolum), she became a fashion model, working for the fashion houses Givenchy and Christian Dior.[3]

Capucine met Audrey Hepburn while modeling for Givenchy in Paris. They remained close friends for the rest of Capucine's life.[4]


Early films

Capucine made her film debut in Jean Cocteau's The Eagle with Two Heads (1948), in a small, unbilled role. She also appeared in Jacques Becker's Rendezvous in July (1949) and Robert Dhéry's Crazy Show (1949).

She was in Marc-Gilbert Sauvajon's My Friend Sainfoin (1950) and Dhéry's Bernard and the Lion (1951).

After a break of a few years, Capucine appeared in Mademoiselle from Paris (1955) and Frou-Frou (1955).

Rise to fame

In 1957, film producer Charles K. Feldman spotted Capucine while she was modeling in New York City. Feldman put her under contract at $150 a week. He brought her to Hollywood to learn English and study acting under Gregory Ratoff.[5][6] She took the stage name "Capucine", saying, "Two names are interesting and I hope one is interesting."[7]

She signed a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures in 1958. After unsuccessfully auditioning for the role of Feathers in Rio Bravo (1959), she landed her first English-speaking role in the film Song Without End (1960), a biopic of Franz Liszt, where Capucine played Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. Producer William Goetz said, "You can teach a girl to act, but nobody can teach her how to look like a princess. You've got to start with a girl who looks like a princess."[8][9]

"Every time I get in front of the camera, I think of it as an attractive man I am meeting for the first time," she said in 1960. "I find him demanding and aloof, so I must do all I can to interest him."[7] "I got much better as we went on," she said. "As the scenes warmed up, so did I."[10]

In 1960, she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.[11][12]

Capucine followed this with North to Alaska (1960), a comedy that had been set up with her in mind by Feldman at 20th Century Fox. She played a French prostitute who becomes the love interest of John Wayne. Directed by Henry Hathaway, it was successful at the box office.

Capucine returned to Europe to co-star in Le triomphe de Michel Strogoff (1961) with Curd Jürgens, a sequel to Michel Strogoff (1956).

Back in Hollywood, she had second billing in Walk on the Wild Side (1962), produced by Feldman, in which she portrayed a redeemed hooker. Co-star Laurence Harvey complained that Feldman cut his part to expand Capucine's role.[13]

She was then William Holden's love interest in The Lion (1962). During filming, Capucine began a romance with Holden, which led to the end of her romantic relationship with Feldman; however, the producer remained loyal professionally.[14]

Feldman announced he would put Capucine in Mary Magdalene[15] and Waltz of the Toreadors,[16] but neither happened.

She moved to Switzerland in 1962.[17]

Capucine in The Pink Panther (1963)

Blake Edwards cast Capucine in The Pink Panther, playing Inspector Clouseau's wife, who is having an affair with a jewel thief, played by David Niven. It was a huge hit, and led to a number of sequels. In 1964, Capucine said the directors she had learned most from were Edwards and Henry Hathaway.[18]

Capucine was reunited with Holden in The 7th Dawn (1964), produced by Feldman; it was a box office disappointment. Another film she did for Feldman, the comedy What's New Pussycat? (1965), which co-starred Sellers and Peter O'Toole, was far more successful; it was filmed entirely in France.[2]

Capucine was one of several European stars in Sex Quartet (1966) for Columbia (originally The Queens),[19] then Feldman put her in The Honey Pot (1967), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. She was announced for Feldman's Casino Royale, but did not appear in the film.[18][20]

Feldman died in May 1968, and Capucine's career never regained its former momentum.[21] She inherited the rights to the book Zandy from his estate and sold them to the makers of Zandy's Bride.[22]

Later career

Capucine had a supporting role in Fräulein Doktor (1968) and the lead in the Spanish thriller The Exquisite Cadaver (1969). She was in the supporting cast of Fellini Satyricon (1969). Fellini said, "She had a face to launch a thousand ships...but she was born too late."[8]

In 1968, she told an Italian magazine she wished she did not always have to be elegant, that she longed to play a "disheveled woman," but "since the directors know I was a model, it is obvious that they can't see me as anything else."[8]

Dirk Bogarde suggested her for the role of Tadzio's mother in Death in Venice (1971), but Luchino Visconti turned her down, saying, "She has a horrible voice and too many teeth. She looks like a horse, a beautiful horse, I know that, I was a trainer. I know all about horses, but I don't want a horse."[8]

Capucine had a supporting role in the Western Red Sun (1971)[23] and guest-starred on Search (1972), her first TV series.[24]

She supported Jean-Paul Belmondo in Incorrigible (1975) and Richard Burton in Jackpot, which was ultimately abandoned.

She appeared on television in Cinéma 16 and La pêche miraculeuse (1976), and had roles in The Con Artists (1976), Per amore (1976), Ecco noi per esempio (1977), Nest of Vipers (1978), From Hell to Victory (1979), Atrocious Tales of Love and Death (1979), Neapolitan Mystery (1979), Arabian Adventure (1979), Jaguar Lives! (1979), and Martin Eden (1979).


Capucine appeared in episodes of Orient Express (1980); Hart to Hart (1982); and Murder, She Wrote (1985), as well as the 1986 miniseries Sins.

She went to Europe[clarification needed] to make Les invités (1982), Aphrodite (1982), Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).[25]

Capucine appears in episodes of Série noire; Voglia di cantare; Murder, She Wrote; Honor Thy Father; Sins; Delirium (1987); My First Forty Years (1987); Gila and Rik (1987); Una verità come un'altra (1989); Quartier nègre (1989); Blaues Blut (1990); and Il giudice istruttore.[26]

Personal life

Capucine met Pierre Trabaud on the set of Rendez-vous (1949) and they married the next year. The marriage lasted only eight months, and she never married again.[27]

She had a relationship[citation needed] with Charles K. Feldman, who produced her films What's New Pussycat?, The 7th Dawn, and The Honey Pot. This affair ended when Capucine met William Holden, but she and Feldman remained friends until his death in 1968. He left her $75,000 (equivalent to $657,000 in 2023).[14]

Capucine met actor William Holden in the early 1960s. They starred in the films The Lion (1962) and The 7th Dawn (1964). Holden was married to Brenda Marshall, but the two began a two-year affair, which ended in part due to Holden's increasing alcoholism.[28] After the affair ended, she and Holden remained friends until his death in 1981.[29] In his will, he left her $50,000 (equivalent to $168,000 in 2023).[10]


On 17 March 1990, at age 62, Capucine jumped to her death from her eighth-floor apartment in Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland, where she had lived for 28 years, having reportedly suffered from illness and depression for some time.[1][30] The police said an investigation left no doubt that she died by suicide. Neighbours said she had led a reclusive life with her three cats, hardly ever leaving her apartment and spending most of her time reading.[31]

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1948 The Eagle with Two Heads Lady at the buffet Uncredited
1949 Rendez-vous de juillet One of Pierre's friends Uncredited
Branquignol A cowgirl Uncredited
1950 My Friend Sainfoin
1951 Bernard and the Lion The baroness
Four Red Roses Colette Credited as Valerie Darc
1955 Mademoiselle from Paris Herself Alternative title: Mademoiselle de Paris
Frou-Frou One of Arthus the painter's friends Uncredited
1960 Song Without End Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein
North to Alaska Michelle 'Angel' Bonet
1961 The Triumph of Michael Strogoff Tatoa, a Volskaya
1962 Walk on the Wild Side Hallie Gerard
The Lion Christine
1963 The Pink Panther Simone Clouseau
1964 The 7th Dawn Dhana Mercier
1965 What's New Pussycat? Renée Lefebvre
1966 Le fate Marta (segment "Fata Marta")
1967 The Honey Pot Princess Dominique
1969 Fräulein Doktor Dr. Saforet
The Exquisite Cadaver Lucia Fonte
Fellini Satyricon Trifena
1971 Red Sun Pepita
1972 Search Silvana Tristano Episode: "The Murrow Disappearance"
1975 Incorrigible Hélène
1975 Jackpot
1976 The Con Artists Belle Duke Alternative titles: Bluff, The Con Man
Per amore [it] Marina Reggiani, Alberto's wife
1977 Ecco noi per esempio Moglie di Click
1978 Portrait of a Bourgeoise in Black Amalia Mazzarini
1979 From Hell to Victory Nicole Levine
Neapolitan Mystery Sister Angela
Arabian Adventure Vahishta
Jaguar Lives! Zina Vanacore
1982 Hart to Hart Lily Von Borg Episode: "Hart of Diamonds"
Aphrodite Lady Suzanne Stanford
Trail of the Pink Panther Lady Simone Litton
1983 Balles perdues [fr] Madam Teufminn
Curse of the Pink Panther Lady Simone Litton
1985 Murder, She Wrote Belle Chaney Episode: "Paint Me a Murder"
1986 Sins Odile Miniseries
1987 Delirium: Photo of Gioia Flora
My First Forty Years Princess Caracciolo
1990 Blaues Blut [fr] Countess von Altenberg

See also


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  2. ^ a b Marshall, Bill; Johnston, Cristina (2005). France and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History : A Multidisciplinary Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. ABC-CLIO. pp. 211–212. ISBN 1-85109-411-3.
  3. ^ a b Segrave, Kerry; Martin, Linda (1990). The Continental Actress: European Film Stars Of the Postwar Era--Biographies, Criticism, Filmographies, Bibliographies. McFarland. p. 155. ISBN 0-899-50510-4.
  4. ^ Paris, Barry (2002). Audrey Hepburn. Berkley Pub Group. p. 319. ISBN 0-425-18212-6.
  5. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 109. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
  6. ^ Hyams, J. (Jun 2, 1959). "French star Capucine in first interview". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 167442212.
  7. ^ a b "A different kind of French girl Hyams, Joe". Los Angeles Times. Mar 13, 1960. p. A11.
  8. ^ a b c d Iona McLaren (Jan 6, 2018). "'Men look at me like I'm a suspicious trunk'". The Daily Telegraph. p. 8.
  9. ^ "Serene Capucine: Photog's Delight". Los Angeles Times. 30 July 1961. p. O10.
  10. ^ a b "Capucine, 57, Dies; French-Born Actress in Films of the 60's". New York Times. 21 Mar 1990. p. D.27.
  11. ^ Scheuer, P. K. (May 8, 1960). "CREATURE OF BEAUTY". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 167591678.
  12. ^ Hyams, J. (Mar 13, 1960). "A different kind of french girl". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 167574016.
  13. ^ Haber, J. (Oct 14, 1973). "Larry harvey, hollywood's favorite 'outrage'". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 157309209.
  14. ^ a b Biskind, Peter (Apr 2003). "The man who minted style". Vanity Fair. No. 512. New York. p. 210.
  15. ^ A.H. WEILER. (Feb 4, 1962). "BY WAY OF REPORT". New York Times. ProQuest 115808108.
  16. ^ Hopper, H. (Jun 3, 1957). "Looking at hollywood". Chicago Daily Tribune. ProQuest 180217116.
  17. ^ "Capucine Biography". Entertainment for All.
  18. ^ a b Scheuer, Philip K. (Apr 23, 1964). "'Panther' Capucine Not Cold Any More: French Star Corrects Image, Discusses Holden, Marriage". Los Angeles Times. p. C9.
  19. ^ Martin, B. (Jul 28, 1966). "Capucine signs for 'queens'". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 155493571.
  20. ^ Martin, Betty. (May 15, 1965). "Capucine Cast in 'Tale of the Fox'". Los Angeles Times. p. 23.
  21. ^ "Charles K. feldman shows independence as producer". Los Angeles Times. Jul 20, 1967. ProQuest 155747813.
  22. ^ Haber, J. (Apr 30, 1973). "O'Neal's hideaway framed in irony". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 157113222.
  23. ^ Freudenheim, M. (Aug 10, 1971). "Mason snipes at hollywood". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 156815880.
  24. ^ "Capucine debut set". Los Angeles Times. Jun 5, 1972. ProQuest 156937456.
  25. ^ Gross, L. (Aug 13, 1983). "'PINK PANTHER' NO CURSE FOR TED WASS". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 153564032.
  26. ^ "OBITUARY Capucine French actress starred in motion pictures of 1960s". The Globe and Mail. 21 Mar 1990. p. A.18.
  27. ^ Capua, Michelangelo (2010). William Holden: A Biography. McFarland. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-786-44440-3.
  28. ^ Osborne, Robert (host). "The Lion", Turner Classic Movies, November 4, 2012.
  29. ^ Strodder, Chris (2000). Swingin' Chicks of the Sixties. Cedco Pub. p. 112. ISBN 0-7683-2232-4.
  30. ^ "French Actress, Capucine, Leaps To Her Death". Deseret News. Salt Lake City. March 20, 1990. ISSN 0745-4724. Archived from the original on 2019-10-31.
  31. ^ "Capucine, 57, 'Pink Panther' Film Actress". Sun Sentinel. Mar 21, 1990. p. 7B.