German postcard by ISV, no. M 7. Photo: Les Films Morceau/Europa-Film.
French starlet Dany Carrel (1932) with her bob haircut of dark reddish hair, a pair of incredible oriental eyes, and friendly manners, was a welcome breath of sexy exoticism in the French cinema of the 1950s and 1960s. Dany played good-willed flirtatious girls in many melodramas and comedies, alongside top directors and stars.
Dany Carrel was born as Yvonne Suzanne Chazelles du Chaxel in Tourane, French Indochina (now Da Nang, Vietnam). She was the child of French customs agent Aimé and native Kam. Only many years later she would learn of this heritage. Aimé had a legitimate wife back in Europe and still produced two children with Kam (Yvonne and her sister Alice). He died soon after, as Yvonne was shipped to France to meet a godmother that placed her in a religious institution. After some acting classes Dany got an entry in the cinema. She made her film debut in Dortoir des grandes/Inside a Girls' Dormitory (1953, Henri Decoin), starring Jean Marais, Françoise Arnoul, Jeanne Moreau and Louis de Funès. Decoin proposed to change her name, suggesting Carrel as a medical book written by a doctor named Alexis Carrel was lying on his desk. Yvonne, tired of being nicknamed Vovonne ou Vonette, chose herself the Dany part, a diminutive that couldn’t be played with or distorted. For the next few years, Dany Carrel could be seen in minor melodramas and light comedies, often playing saucy girls from the working-class neighborhood, but never with a really mean streak. Quickly, she got main female starring roles in lower-budgeted pictures, and she also co-starred with such acting giants as Gérard Philippe in Les grandes manoeuvres/The Grand Maneuver (1955, René Clair) and Pot-Bouille/Lovers of Paris (1957, Julien Duvivier), or Jean Gabin in Des gens sans importance/People of No Importance (1956, Henri Verneuil). Dany was a big revelation to the public in Portes des Lilas/Gate of Lilacs (1957, René Clair), opposite Pierre Brasseur. Sometimes tricked by wanna-be bad boys, Dany retained her intelligence and never played dumb.
Then Dany Carrel began a phase of international projects, such as the German-French co- production Die Gans von Sedan/Without Trumpet or Drum (1959, Helmut Käutner) with Hardy Krüger, and the Hollywood production The Enemy General (1960, George Sherman) starring Van Johnson. In 1960 she appeared also in two interesting horror films, Il mulino delle donne di pietra/Mill of the Stone Women (1960, Giorgio Ferroni) and The Hands of Orlac (1960, Edmond T. Gréville). The Franco-Italian co-production, Il mulino delle donne di pietra, starring Pierre Brice, has effective macabre touches. Dany makes for a very believable damsel in distress, and also gets to reveal a bit more of herself when she’s tied down on a table and menaced by a mad doctor. A couple of times Dany appeared ‘nude’ on screen, but in the early 1960’s nude usually meant a sideway glimpse at a naked breast. In The Hands of Orlac, which was simultaneously filmed in a French version, Les main d’Orlac, she starred with Mel Ferrer and Christopher Lee. For the first half of the 1960’s, she was seen in several gangster pictures, with serious or comedic plots. She co-starred with some of the great comedians of that era, including Louis de Funès in Une souris chez les hommes/A Mouse with the Men (1964, Jacques Poitrenaud), and Jean Lefebvre in Un idiot à Paris/Idiot in Paris (1967, Serge Korber). She got a good supporting part in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s La prisonnière/Woman in Chains (1968), playing a nude model sweating it out when only wearing a see-through raincoat under harsh lights for a fetish photo session. Then she began to slow down on film roles. After the heist film Trois milliards sans ascenseur/3000 Million Without an Elevator (1972, Roger Pigaut) she mainly appeared in tv roles. In the early 1980’s she returned to the screen in comedies like Faut s'les faire!... Ces légionnaires (1981, Alain Nauroy) with Henri Garcin. In 1991 she published her book L’annamite/The Vietnamese, recalling her youth. She supervised the tv adaptation L’annamite (1995, Thierry Chabert), in which actress Gaëlle Le Fur played the Yvonne/Dany role, and Dany Carrel herself appeared as the adult Dany. That same year, she could also be seen in the play Laisse parler ta mère/Let Your Mother Talk.
Sources: Cult Sirens, and IMDb.