Darling Légitimus (Marie Berthilde Paruta)
Actress (Le Carbet, Martinique, 11.21.1907 – Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France, 12.7.1999)
Born on 21 November 1907 at Le Carbet in Martinique as Mathilda (Marie Berthilde) Paruta, she spent her early years in Caracas, Venezuela. Mathilda Paruta arrived in Paris, France, at age of 16, wanting to become a dancer. She met Victor-Etienne Légitimus, son of the government deputy, Hegesippe Jean Légitimus, and went on to become his lifelong companion and bear him five children, initiating a family of artists devoted to film, TV and music: among them the artist and TV producer Gésip, the actor Théo, the actor Pascal, the director and actor Pascal and the singer David.
Known for a long time as Miss Darling, she later chose to go by the name of Darling Legitimus. She performed as a dancer in La Revue Nègre (1925) with Josephine Baker, and posed for Picasso as well as for sculptor Paul Belmondo, father of Jean-Paul Belmondo, the actor.
During the 1930s, Darling wrote, composed and sang numerous Caribbean songs such as Biguine and Mazurka. She often performed alongside known musicians of the era, including “Pe En Kin Sosso” and his band. Starting early 1930s, she began to appear in some 35 French and international movies and TV series, directed by Sacha Guitry and Christian-Jaque (Les Perles de la Couronne aka The Pearls of the Crown, 1937), Louis Malle (Le Feu follet aka The Fire Within, 1963) and Patrice Leconte (Les Vécés étaient fermés de l’intérieur, 1976).
Since mid 1950s, she had roles also in theatrical productions of plays by Arthur Miller (The Crucible), Jean Genet (The Blacks), Melvin Van Peebles (Fête à Harlem), Aime Césaire (La Tragédie du roi Christophe) and Édouard Glissant (Toussaint Louverture), among others. La Tragédie du roi Christophe was premiered on 4 August 1964 at Salzbourg Festival and then had a happy world tour, being staged again also at Venise Biennale and at Piccolo Teatro, Milan. Also her Une saison au Congo, a play by Césaire staged by Jean-Marie Serreau, was presented at Venise Biennale in 1967.
She had minor roles also in three films related to Italian film industry, that is French-Italian co-production Vite vendute (in France Le Salaire de la peur, in US known as The Wages of Fear) by Henri-Georges Clouzot, that won the Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival in 1953 and Grand Prize at Cannes, being credited as Miss Darling. In 1954, she played again in French-Italian co-production Il grande giuoco (aka as Le Grand Jeu, and Flesh and the Woman) by Robert Siodmak, also starred by Leila Farida. Lastly, she played the role of the concierge of the Paris building in which Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider meet in Ultimo tango a Parigi (Last Tango in Paris). It was also in Italy that Darling saw finally acknowledged her role in international art scene at the age of 76, when in 1983 she won the Volpi Cup at Venice Film Festival for the best female interpretation of Rue Cases-Nègres (Sugar Cane Alley), directed by her compatriot Euzhan Palcy: the president of the jury in that year was Bernardo Bertolucci.
Darling died on 7 December 1999 at Kremlin-Bicetre in the Val de Marne near Paris, in France, without any more acting roles after Rue Cases-Négres. The writer Calixthe Beyala and Caribbean actor Luc Saint-Eloy, representatives of “Liberté” collective came up on stage at the César ceremony in 2000, to claim one of the largest presence on French television screens and to pay her a public tribute, since the organizers had “forgotten” to name Darling as one of the previous year’s great losses.
Vite vendute (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953, ff, act), Il grande giuoco (Robert Siodmak, 1954, ff, act), Ultimo tango a Parigi (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972, ff, act)
Frame taken from:
Ultimo tango a Parigi. Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci. P.E.A. – Produzioni Europee Associate di Grimaldi Maria Rosa, Productions Artistes Associés, Paris, 1972.
Contributors: Leonardo De Franceschi
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