Michele Morgan's love story: When the dream of love became a nightmare...

Publié le par Times of Oman

Michele Morgan's love story: When the dream of love became a nightmare...

Rome basked in the late summer sun, and seethed with rumour and surmise. It was September 1949 and Michele Morgan, the French cinema's most charismatic star, was in Italy to make Fabiola, the story of a Christian girl devoured by lions. But it was not the subject of the movie which brought the world's gossip columnists to Rome, but the possibility that Michele would fall in love with a man she had never met.


Michele Morgan's love story: When the dream of love became a nightmare...

He was her co-star in Fabiola - 30-year-old Henri Vidal. Already Michele had been warned by friends: Look out - he's a playboy... all women fall into his arms! When they did meet, Henri Vidal did all the things Michele's friends had predicted: He kissed her hand, toasted her in champagne and told her: To be in a movie with you has been the dream of my life.

Michele Morgan was flattered but not over-impressed. Happily married to American actor Bill Marshall and mother of a young son, she was not interested in having an affair. But as the weeks passed she warmed towards Henri Vidal. Although a year older than her, he seemed so young. We laughed a lot, she was to remember. It made me realise that Bill and I didn't laugh much anymore.

In the evening after filming, actors and crew would eat out in restaurants at long tables in vine-hung courtyards. And always Henri and Michele would find themselves next to each other.

I didn't see the danger that was coming. Between Henri and me everything was so natural, so simple. Nothing seemed important. One flirted a bit but only for the duration of the film. Soon it would all be over - or so I thought. But it wasn't. One night Henri invited Michele for dinner at a little trattoria he had discovered. Afterwards the rain pelted down and they ran towards Henri's little Lancia car.

Michele remembered: Inside it was warm and isolated. We stayed close to each other in silence. Time had ceased to exist and suddenly we were together. I knew that after this nothing would be the same again.

That night she couldn't sleep. Should she call Bill to come to the rescue and make her come to her senses? 

I knew that reasonable argument was useless. There was nothing Bill could do: I was madly in love with another man. She broke the news to Bill Marshall by telephone the next day but he did not take it with the calmness she had hoped. When he finally arrived at the door of his wife's hotel room it was in blazing anger with a loaded revolver in his hand. He was looking for Henri Vidal.

Michele recalled: We talked all night and by the morning he had agreed to give me a divorce. It was finalised in May 1949 and eight months later Michele and Henri were married in Paris just before her 30th birthday. It seemed that her dream of love had come true. In fact an 11-year nightmare was just about to begin.

Within months Michele began to realise that something was seriously wrong: I had married a man overflowing with love and vitality and now I lived with a listless character without any passion or drive. 

In the following weeks, Henri Vidal's condition dramatically worsened. He told his wife it was nothing serious: he was simply overworked and was in need of a holiday.

But Michele wasn't convinced, and her suspicions were finally confirmed when she heard a rumour that her husband was in the grip of drug addiction. The shock was brutal but I was determined to talk to Henri that evening.

I merely said to him: 'I know' and he just sat down and wept. He told me about the horror of being without drugs, of the terrible withdrawal symptoms during the cure and I was overcome with a great wave of pity. I was determined that this calamity would not destroy our marriage.

It was the start of years of hope and despair. Henri Vidal took nearly 100 unsuccessful cures and in 1960, after suffering a series of strokes, received his final medical warning: if he didn't kick heroin for good he would be dead within months.

He decided on one more cure and was admitted to a clinic in Auvergne. His parting words were: You'll see, my darling, this time I'll get free of it. But despite his reassurance, Michele could not allow herself to hope. That night, alone in her Paris home, Michele awoke from a horrifying dream. She was at a funeral and all her husband's friends were standing around a coffin. She knew that the funeral was Henri's.

Early in the morning she was woken by the telephone. It was the clinic doctor reporting with great regret that Henri had died of a heart attack.

Two days later I was in Auvergne in the cemetery of my dream. The funeral was exactly as I had dreamed it. I had hoped we could have fought his addiction together but I failed him. 

I gave him all my love but it was not enough. But I like to think we were together at the end ... if only in a fleeting dream.  

Publié dans Articles de Presse

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