Dangerous Triangle: Yves, Simone and Marilyn

Marilyn and Yves Montand in Let’s Make Love (1960)

Silvia Casanova’s article about the Monroe-Montand affair, first seen in Gente magazine, has been republished on Elle‘s Italian website. 2021 marks the centenary of Montand’s wife, the great French actress Simone Signoret, and her grandson, Benjamin Castaldi – also Yves’ nephew – has written a book, Je Vous Ai Tant Aimés (I Loved You So Much) about the ups and downs of Simone and Yves’ marriage, including his infamous dalliance with Marilyn during filming of Let’s Make Love.

“‘I never talked about this story with my grandmother,’ Castaldi comments. ‘But with Montand, as his close relatives called him, yes. He told me that Marilyn was just a passing fantasy.’

A fantasy that all men of the time would have liked to have. The fact was that the couple did not say goodbye and overcame the crisis, even if Simone, used to her husband’s escapades, felt the pinch this time and suffered greatly. The great love that united them, which blossomed at the end of the 1940s, was not in question. Yet something broke inside her. She consoled himself with alcohol and food, swelled and aged quickly, faster than her peers.

‘There was a before and after for her with respect to that betrayal,’ explained the nephew. ‘Before she was a woman in love, radiant, beautiful. Then time accelerated suddenly and she, physically, began to look more than her age, accepting the passing years. My grandmother was a free woman. And supreme freedom is being able to control everything, even your body, by choosing to let yourself go.’

Simone and Yves met in August 1949 in a guesthouse in Saint-Paul de Vence, in Provence, where they are both staying … She had a bright and intense beauty, a well-established acting career and a husband, film director Yves Allégret … The actress was on vacation in Provence with her three-year-old daughter Catherine [Castaldi’s future mother] at the Colombe d’Or, a quiet place that Yves Montand had also frequented … He was a tall, thin man with a light-hearted smile, a great seducer. He had also stolen the heart of Edith Piaf, who launched him in Parisian theatres and the world of cinema.

Two years later Yves and Simone got married in Saint-Paul de Vence. Their love was solid, intense, despite his infidelities: ‘I love you. It may seem stupid or monstrous,’ reads a note from the actress to her husband. ‘I think of you, my little angel and it is wonderful,’ Montand wrote to her.

In 1960, Simone won an Oscar for Room at the Top, and the two left for Los Angeles. Here Montand accepted George Cukor’s proposal to star in Let’s Make Love. The French couple stayed in a bungalow adjacent to that of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. The four often met at dinner and Simone did not sense the danger until it was too late.

Passion overwhelmed the two lovers before her eyes. ‘It was her feminine vulnerability that struck me the most, when I forgot I was next to the star Monroe,’ the actor would say, adding: ‘Not for a second did I think about breaking up with my wife, but if she slammed the door, probably I would have rebuilt my life with Marilyn.’

Simone didn’t slam the door. She just returned to Paris, humiliated, waiting for everything to end. As always. And so it happened, despite Marilyn’s attempts to keep Montand with her.

Montand commented gratefully: ‘The beauty of Simone is that she never stopped me from having a good half-litre when I was thirsty. In 1960 she quickly realised that a man of 39 years old and in the full strength of age could not be left behind. for three months in Hollywood with a woman like Marilyn in his arms.’ Years later, in her memoirs, the actress wrote generously of her rival: ‘I never hated her’.

When Simone Signoret died of a tumour in 1985, Yves was by her side. ‘They never stopped loving each other,’ Castaldi says.”