Rant of the Week

The FBI Kills an Actress.

When I was quite young, I saw an entertaining little satire called "The Mouse That Roared" which starred Peter Sellers as Tully Bascombe, a bumbling but good-hearted soldier who was placed in charge of the army of the ridiculously tiny Grand Duchy of Fenwick when the conniving prime-minister realized that every country ever defeated by the United States became the recipient of scads of  foreign aid. 

The Grand Duchy of Fenwick thereby declared war on the United States-- hoping and expecting to lose. 

Tully led his troupes over to America-- by commercial liner-- dressed in chain mail and armed with long bows, where they inadvertently captured the eccentric scientist in charge of developing a new type of atomic bomb, and his lovely daughter, and working prototype of the bomb.  (The scientist figured he was safer working inconspicuously than in a secure compound guarded by conspicuous soldiers.) 

There was a funny scene when he returned to Fenwick to announce that he had won, arousing the fury of the Prime Minister.

There was also a scene with the daughter, Helen.  For the sake of the safety of the world, her father urged her to try to seduce Tully.  Tully was unmoved, mainly because he was quite seasick at the moment.  In the end, though, Tully got the girl, and the new bomb went into a dungeon on a bed of straw, for safe-keeping.

The girl was Jean Seberg.   Jean Seberg was seventeen and wholly unprepared for Hollywood when she was chosen from among 3,000 girls to play Joan of Arc for Otto Preminger.  The movie was a failure and Seberg's performance was panned, but she went on to star in "Breathless", one of the most influential films of the 1960's.  She became a kind of icon of the 1960's, as unlike Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Doris Day as Bob Dylan was unlike Dean Martin.  She was the real thing, one of the first post-modern celebrities.  She was her own girl.  She held strong political views which led her to support the Black Panthers.  The FBI took note and spied on her and decided to plant a story about her in the press. They persuaded the L.A. Times and Newsweek to publish the rumour that she was pregnant with the child of an un-named member of the  Black Panther party.  Seberg, devastated, took an overdose of sleeping pills and lost the baby.  She showed the stillborn body to the press, to prove that it was not mixed race. 

Every year thereafter, on the anniversary of the baby's stillbirth, she tried to commit suicide, and finally succeeded in September, 1979, with barbiturates and alcohol. 

She married and divorced, married and divorced. One of her husbands sold her Paris apartment out from under her and took the money to Spain to open a restaurant.  Romain Gary insulted her and told the press he was going to teach this ignorant American girl all about real culture.  Almost made me want to shred my "Brothers Karamazov".  You look at this guy's washed out, oily face and you look at Seberg's mesmerizing eyes and you think of Bob Dylan's cryptic "The Man in the Long Black Coat":


There are no mistakes in life some people say
It is true sometimes you can see it that way
But people don't live or die people just float
She went with the man in the long black coat.

or "What's a Sweetheart Like You Doing in a Dump Like This".

In order to deal in this game,
got to make the queen disappear,
It's done with a flick of the wrist.
What's a sweetheart like you
doin' in a dump like this?

Her body was found in the back seat of her car where it had rested for 11 days.  Apparently, nobody had missed her.  That seems inconceivable, but I read it somewhere: her absence had not been noted. 

Her husband, Romain Gary, whom she was divorcing at the time of the rumour of her inter-racial baby, committed suicide himself a year later.

Was he haunted?


All contents copyright © 2007 Bill Van Dyk All rights reserved.