She became the definition of seductive beauty when the Western world was still struggling to come to terms with our inherent sensuality. Et Dieu… créa la femme (1956) sent shock waves through Hollywood, and made Mrs Brigitte Bardot an overnight sensation and sex symbol.
The voiceover in the American trailer catches the essence of the movie’s plot in one graceful sentence: ‘Set in the pagan paradise of the French Riviera, swirls the fast-moving, fascinating story of a demon-driven temptress who thought the future was invented only to spoil the present.’ Here was a 22-year-old French femme fatale in various stages of undress, seemingly unconcerned about the opinions of others. Living in the moment. Celebrating her body by allowing her bare skin to feel the air passing over it, her feet to enjoy the earth upon which they stand, and her many lovers to revel in her youthful beauty.
In the United States, Mrs Bardot was introduced as ‘a sizzling new personality in a role that will make you gasp and never forget’. They couldn’t have been more right. B.B., as the French actress soon came to be called, had a major impact on pop culture in the late fifties and sixties. After her breakthrough role in Et Dieu… créa la femme (And God Created Woman), she became the symbol of a new hedonistic lifestyle that encouraged sexiness and sex. Photographers, journalists, novelists: everyone wanted to get close to her, to understand the phenomenon. Women imitated her clothes and hair, making Mrs Bardot France’s first mass-media celebrity.
Seeing the movie now, 62 years later, it still hits a nerve. There’s nothing wrong with a little silliness every now and again. ‘Perhaps I have to live as if every day were my last one’, B.B. sighs. ‘There’s something powerful in me that makes me behave foolishly.’ It’s exactly that mysterious power within her that would intrigue and inspire worldwide audiences for decades to come, making Mrs Bardot an international icon, that perfected the art of seduction. Ask her admirers, ask her many boyfriends, ask her four husbands.