Saint Jean

On 30 August 1979, just eleven days after Mary’s death, another celebrated blonde icon also died in tragic circumstances. The beautiful, boyish Jean Seberg was an American actress most famous for her film debut as Joan of Arc in Otto Preminger’s 1957 movie Saint Joan, released when she was just 19 years old. Seberg won the part in a $150,000 talent competition, but the film proved to be a commercial disaster. She had better luck co-starring with Peter Sellers in the 1959 comedy The Mouse that Roared and the French language Breathless, directed by Jean-Luc Godard in 1960. Thereafter, Seberg based herself in France but continued to appear in supporting roles in American films such as Paint Your Wagon (1969) and the disaster flick Airport (1970).

Whilst working in the US, the actress gave financial support to several civil rights organisations, including the revolutionary socialist Black Panthers, and as a result was investigated by the FBI. Such was her perceived ‘anti-Americanism’ that even President Nixon was kept up-to-date with her movements. Seberg was put under constant surveillance by the police and her phone was tapped at her French home. Virtually overnight she was also blacklisted by Hollywood, causing her to complain bitterly that the only roles she was ever offered “bordered on the pornographic”.

Jean Seberg

Feeling hounded, Seberg went missing on the evening of 30 August 1979 in her adopted home city of Paris. Her then-boyfriend told detectives that she had been threatening to kill herself for a long time, and ten days’ after her disappearance, on 9 September, Seberg’s decomposing body was found wrapped in a blanket in the back seat of her car, parked in walking distance from her apartment. She was just 40 years of age. Police found an empty bottle of anti-depressants beside her and a note, which said, “Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves.” 

Her death was ruled as suicide, although investigators presumed that she may not have been alone at the time of her death. As with Mary’s death less than two weeks’ earlier, Seberg’s passing was devoured by the tabloids and conspiracy theories regarding her untimely end endure to this day. A fascinating new documentary abut her life entitled Movie Star: The Secret Lives of Jean Seberg opens in November this year, featuring interviews with her friends and family. You can watch the trailer here:

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