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PARIS, Jan 22 — The French actress Nathalie Delon — once regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world — died of cancer yesterday, her son told AFP.
“My mother died this morning at 11am in Paris, surrounded by her family and friends,” actor Anthony Delon said.
“She died from a very fast cancer,” he told AFP. She was 79.
Delon shot to international fame in 1967 in the hitman flick Le Samourai — now hailed as a classic — opposite her then husband, screen legend Alain Delon.
But the actress — who was born Francine Canovas to a Spanish family in Morocco — was already a star of the gossip columns as the woman who lured Delon away from his longtime lover, film star Romy Schneider.
Nathalie Delon would later have affairs with Hollywood actor Richard Burton and American singer Eddie Fisher — the father of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher — both of whom had been married to Elizabeth Taylor.
She met Delon in a Paris nightclub when she was 21 and he was with Schneider, the Austrian-born star of Sissi and What’s New Pussycat?
Delon kept their affair from Schneider before marrying Nathalie in secret in August 1964 and taking off to Los Angeles with her, where she gave birth a month later to their son Anthony.
‘I was very naive’
Although Nathalie Delon was the only woman the notorious womaniser ever married, she later admitted that Schneider haunted their relationship.
“Alain never talked about her, but I would see from time to time a shadow of sadness cross his face,” she said later.
Schneider died in 1982, less than a year after her 14-year-old son died after impaling himself accidently on a railing.
Nathalie Delon said she quickly tired of her life with the philandering actor in the Hollywood hills. “I was very naive. He was unfaithful but I wasn’t.
“When I left him I left everything behind me. I took my son and the nanny, and that was all.”
Her career never got beyond bit parts in the US, although she continued to live there, returning to France for roles in movies by the auteur Jean-Pierre Melville and Roger Vadim, the man who discovered and then married Brigitte Bardot.
She directed two films in the 1980s, Sweet Lies and They Call It An Accident, in which she also starred.
Despite their failed marriage, she and Delon stayed friends.
“I’m very sad. It always hurts when those I have loved pass away,” Alain Delon told AFP yesterday.
“We remained in touch constantly. We saw each other often. I was part of her life and she was a part of mine. We were together again at Christmas, we took photos together, the last ones,” he said.
Delon, now 85, has also been unwell of late, suffering a stroke last year. — AFP