Bardot was born in Paris, the daughter of Louis Bardot (1896–1975) and Anne-Marie “Toty” Bardot (née Mucel; 1912–1978). Louis had an engineering degree and worked with his father, Charles Bardot, in the family business. Louis and Anne-Marie married in 1933. Bardot grew up in an upper middle-class Roman Catholic observant home When she was seven she was admitted to the Cours Hattemer, a private school. She went to school three days a week, and otherwise studied at home. This gave time for lessons at Madame Bourget’s dance studio three days a week. Brigitte’s mother also enrolled Brigitte’s younger sister, Marie-Jeanne (born 5 May 1938), in dance. Marie-Jeanne eventually gave up dancing lessons and did not tell her mother, whereas Brigitte concentrated on ballet. In 1947, Bardot was accepted to the Conservatoire de Paris. For three years she attended ballet classes by Russian choreographer Boris Knyazev. One of her classmates was Leslie Caron. The other ballerinas nicknamed Bardot “Bichette” (“Little Doe”).
The photos below were taken by the Czech photographer Kary H. Lasch:
Photo: Kary Lasch
Photo: Kary Lasch
At the invitation of an acquaintance of her mother, she modelled in a fashion show in 1949. In the same year, she modelled for a fashion magazine “Jardin des Modes” managed by journalist Hélène Lazareff. Aged 15, she appeared on an 8 March 1950 cover of Elle and was noticed by a young film director, Roger Vadim, while babysitting. He showed an issue of the magazine to director and screenwriter Marc Allégret, who offered Bardot the opportunity to audition for Les lauriers sont coupés. Although Bardot got the role, the film was cancelled but made her consider becoming an actress. Her acquaintance with Vadim, who attended the audition, influenced her further life and career.
On 21 December 1952, aged 18, Bardot married director Roger Vadim, seven years her senior. To receive permission from Bardot’s parents to marry her, Vadim, originally a Russian Orthodox Christian, was urged to convert to Catholicism, although it is not clear if he ever did so. They divorced five years later, but remained friends and collaborated in later work.
Although the European film industry was then in its ascendancy, Bardot was one of the few European actresses to have the mass media’s attention in the United States, an interest which she did not reciprocate. She debuted in a 1952 comedy film, Le Trou Normand(English title: Crazy for Love). From 1952 to 1956, she appeared in seventeen films; in 1953, she played a role in Jean Anouilh’s stageplay L’Invitation au Château (Invitation to the Castle). She received media attention when she attended the Cannes Film Festival in April 1953.
Her films of the early and mid-1950s were generally lightweight romantic dramas, some historical, in which she was cast as ingénue or siren, often appearing nude or nearly so. She played bit parts in three English-language films, the British comedy Doctor at Sea (1955) with Dirk Bogarde, Helen of Troy (1954), in which she was an understudy for the title role but appears only as Helen’s handmaid and Act of Love (1954) with Kirk Douglas. Her French-language films were dubbed for international release.