Beauty is only skin deep, but French New Wave actress Brigitte Bardot had a lot of beauty. In fact, her good looks made her one of the most famous actresses of her generation. And these 40 little-seen photographs not only capture her astonishing sex appeal, but they also prove what there’s no denying: the camera just couldn’t get enough of her.
40. In the film Doctor at Sea
Just before Bardot really hit the big time, she filmed the movie Doctor at Sea in England. In her first English-speaking picture, the star played the character Helene Colbert opposite Dirk Bogarde’s dishy Dr. Simon Sparrow. And the film was a big success, going on to be put forward for the Best Screenplay BAFTA award in 1956.
39. Giving off Cinderella vibes
We know what you’re thinking: Bardot looks an awful lot like the fairytale princess Cinderella in this photo. And while the young actress may not have been a servant girl under the thumb of her evil stepmother and ugly stepsisters, it appears that she did have strict rules to follow. Her parents disapproved of her acting ambitions, you see, and apparently forbade her from picking her own pals.
38. Posing in a wedding veil
This picture isn’t from Bardot’s actual wedding – just a 1956 photoshoot – but she would already have been married to a man named Roger Vadim at this point. He was six years older than her, and they tied the knot in 1952 when she was just 18. The star wouldn’t have been wearing this dress, though, as it would have been considered a little too risqué at the time.
37. Condemning a seal hunt
Bardot was – and is to this day – a huge animal activist, with a particular passion for protecting seals. Here she is at the European Council in Strasbourg, France in 1978 condemning seal hunting, which happened a lot back then. Arguably, though, the real MVP of this photograph is the cute fluffy seal toy in the foreground. Don’t you agree?
36. Frolicking in Cannes
Here’s Bardot running on the beach at Cannes – the French town that has played host to an internationally renowned annual film festival since 1946. This shot was taken in 1956, and the young actress looks like she’s having the time of her life. She’s also wearing a lovely dress to boot.
35. Meeting Picasso
During the ’50s, Bardot met the legendary painter Pablo Picasso at his studio – and he measured her head. But even though the artist has a reputation for being a notorious womanizer, it seems that he didn’t succumb to Bardot’s considerable charms. He never actually painted her, either.
34. Bathing in a lake
Here, Bardot can be seen wearing a bikini – that would probably be considered a little skimpy even by today’s standards – and checking her reflection in a mirror. Well, there was plenty to look at, after all. And she’s standing in Lac Léman, which is the French name for the body of water we know as Lake Geneva.
33. Arriving at an airport
This 1966 photograph gives a sense of just how immensely popular Bardot was at the peak of her career. She’s just touched down in London to film the movie Two Weeks in September, and as you can see, the star has quite the following. At this point, the public were already aware of Bardot’s intention to stop acting, but it was a decision that didn’t stick.
32. In the film Les Pétroleuses
In 1971 Bardot appeared in the stylish spaghetti western flick Les Pétroleuses, which was renamed The Legend of Frenchie King for English-speaking countries. The star played a sexy outlaw alongside fellow bombshell Claudia Cardinale, and she got to show off some truly impressive and very form-hugging clothes – including a particularly flattering white corset.
31. Sat in an empty movie theater
If this picture hadn’t been snapped at a photoshoot, you can bet that crowds would have been all around Bardot. Yep, the French beauty was growing ever more famous throughout the ’50s. And that was thanks in no small part to her husband Roger Vadim, who carefully cultivated her image.
30. Looking at the camera
Bardot has lovely eyes, often highlighted by the makeup that she so carefully applied. But did you know that she actually suffered from amblyopia or “lazy eye” when she was a child? Not only did this impair her vision, but it also lowered her self-esteem. In fact, she didn’t think she was attractive at all – though this would obviously change as she matured.
29. Embracing Isabelle Corey
In this photograph taken at Cannes in 1956, Bardot poses with And God Created Woman co-star Isabelle Corey. Interestingly, Corey started out in a similar position to Bardot – modeling in France, then acting. But, sadly, she never achieved the same level of stardom before she passed away in 2011.
28. With her newborn son
After divorcing Roger Vadim, Bardot got together with co-star Jacques Charrier. She fell pregnant, too, and decided to both marry Charrier and keep the baby. Unfortunately, though, the actress had very few maternal instincts, and so the child, Nicholas, ended up living with his father. In her 1995 book, Initiales B.B., she revealed that she had also tried to abort the pregnancy.
27. In the film Contempt
In 1993 Bardot starred in the Jean-Luc Godard movie Contempt. It seems, too, that the producers were determined to get Bardot appearing nude in at least one scene, and that ended up being the film’s opening. During the sequence, Michel Piccoli’s character stares admiringly at the naked Bardot, complimenting every piece of her body that she finds difficult to like.
26. At the Gala De L’Union
Here, Bardot attends the 1970 Gala De L’Union in Paris, wearing an incredibly stylish white suit and matching top hat. It’s certainly easy to see how she became such a fashion icon. Next to her is Patrick Gilles, a man with whom she reportedly had an affair while still married to German multi-millionaire Gunter Sachs.
25. Strolling in Capri
Effortlessly beautiful Bardot walks through the streets of Capri. And everyone is gawking at her – something she doesn’t seem too happy about. Yes, despite all the photographs, it’s reported that the star once said, “Now, if there was one woman in the world who didn’t need publicity, who always had too much publicity, it was me.”
24. Walking with Gunter Sachs
Bardot had four marriages in all, with her third being to German millionaire Gunter Sachs. The pair married in 1966, and this photo was taken the following year. Again, if Bardot doesn’t look happy, it may have been because she wasn’t. The marriage lasted just three years overall. Eventually, Bardot would take extreme right-wing political adviser Bernard d’Ormale as her fourth husband.
23. Pictured as a brunette
Most people remember Bardot as a blonde bombshell, but brown was actually her natural hair color. The actress was asked to change it for the movie Mio figlio Nerone, and it seems it stuck.
22. Filming A Very Private Affair
In 1962 Bardot appeared in the movie A Very Private Affair – the storyline of which bore a resemblance to her own life. But the critics weren’t impressed. The New York Times went as far as to say that the actress “slops through the film in slacks and scanties, with her hair looking like a sheepdog’s head and an expression of petulance (or boredom) on what you can see of her puffy little face.” Ouch.
21. On the cover of Picture Post magazine
This posed 1955 shot of Bardot featured on the front cover of Picture Post magazine. It wasn’t the first publication in which she’d appeared – she was an Elle cover star when she was just a teenager – and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. That’s right: the actress’ good looks and sense of fashion meant everybody wanted her.
20. Gazing out from a Scottish beach
This picturesque shot is from 1966 – a year when Bardot went to Scotland to film the movie Two Weeks in September. Luckily, she does appear to have picked a rather sensible outfit for a cold day on a blustery Scottish beach. Well, the boots and jacket, anyway! But even though the star looked ravishing in the film, the drama itself wasn’t particularly well-liked by critics.
19. Posed atop a piano
Here, Bardot appears to be showing off the ballet training she had in her youth – albeit on top of a piano. Interestingly, the star actually won an award for her dancing abilities back in 1948. But all the modeling, acting and courting seemed to pull her away from the studio.
18. Posing seductively
It seems that no-one was immune to Bardot’s charm as she grew more and more famous. And this is especially true for the people who put together this 1958 photoshoot. The official caption for the photo reads, “Brigitte owns the most celebrated and most exposed curves in the world… She is shown here posing seductively.”
17. Sunbathing in St Tropez
Bardot was always very fond of St Tropez, which is a beautiful town on the French Riviera. The star lived there for a long time and even helped to make the place famous. Though her bikinis probably helped in that regard, too! In 2017 a statue was erected there in her honor, but the actress didn’t turn up to see the cover being pulled off.
16. Filming Two Weeks in September
While filming the movie Two Weeks in September in 1966, Bardot traveled to London to shoot scenes on the River Thames. This photo was taken at that time, and you’ll notice how the person on the right seems to be looking at her very intently. He certainly wouldn’t have been the only one, either.
15. In the movie Rum Runners
Bardot starred in the Robert Enrico-directed Rum Runners in 1971. The movie is set during the Prohibition era, and Bardot appears on screen as a silent film actress. This wouldn’t have stopped the star from captivating audiences, though, as she wore some quite astounding outfits. Take this ensemble, for instance, which probably would have been quite NSFW back in the ’70s.
14. Posing in a bathtub
Bardot’s legs were arguably among her best features, and here she is showing one of them off in the movie Une Parisienne. Sure, she’s holding a sponge, but somehow you get the feeling that having a wash wasn’t her intention here. This is backed up by the tagline of the movie: “A daring documentary on the natural beauties of Brigitte Bardot.”
13. Posing for photographers
This photo neatly sums up what life was like for Bardot in the ’50s: she lay on the grass and adoring men took her picture. Photographers still follow Bardot, of course, but they’re not quite so in awe anymore.
12. Filming Babette Goes to War
Here’s Bardot on the set of Babette Goes to War. The original caption for the photo notes, “Even clad like a paratrooper, buxom Brigitte would be a fine inducement to join up.” And it was on that set where Bardot met her second husband, Jacques Charrier.
11. On the set of Les Femmes
Bardot played a woman named Clara in the 1969 French film Les Femmes. This was a sex comedy, meaning audiences unsurprisingly got to see a lot of the star. And in some people’s opinion, it was all rather too much. For the film to be released in Italy, scenes of Bardot’s nudity had to be cut out completely.
10. Posing with Sean Connery
These two giants of the silver screen appeared together in the 1968 movie Shalako. Bardot acted opposite James Bond himself – or Sean Connery in real life. In 2013 photographer Terry O’Neill reminisced to The Times, “They hit it off instantly. I had two of the best-looking people in the world at my disposal.”
9. Leaning on set
A contemplative Bardot appears to be showing off her legs on the set of the movie A Very Private Affair. But it turns out that she may have had a lot on her mind. You see, in 1962 – the same year this photograph was taken – Bardot divorced Jacques Charrier and gave him full custody of their son.
8. Arm in arm with Christian Kalt
Everyone swooned over Bardot, so it probably comes as no surprise that she had a lot of boyfriends. After divorcing Gunter Sachs, her third husband, she was linked to a string of attractive young men. They reportedly included Laurent Vergez, Warren Beatty and ski instructor Christian Kalt. And Kalt was seen with Bardot in 1971 while she was filming The Legend of Frenchie King – with his shirt off, of course.
7. Visiting Scotland
Bardot wrapped herself up in sweaters and blankets during her visit to Scotland in 1966. But if one story is to be believed, some of the locals were apparently less than happy with her conduct in the country. Allegedly, Bardot refused to pay her hotel manager, telling him that he’d already been paid via the publicity she’d brought to his establishment. Then after she finally handed over the money, she stormed out.
6. Filming the movie Viva Maria
Here, Bardot wears an extravagant costume in the film Viva Maria. The movie shoot was extremely chaotic – and not just because the cameras were following Bardot wherever she went. Rumors spread that Bardot didn’t get along with her co-star Jeanne Moreau, and the gossip provoked genuine tension between the two women in turn.
5. Pictured alongside her new husband
Sachs and Bardot’s relationship started off pretty well. They met in St Tropez, and Sachs employed grand gestures in order to woo the woman who would eventually become his wife. He showered roses over the star’s house using a helicopter, for one, and took her to a huge fireworks display. And the actress grew to like Sachs, but it wasn’t to last. Following a three-year marriage, the pair legally ended their union in 1969.
4. On the set of Come Dance With Me
A pouty Bardot poses for a photograph in the 1960 detective movie Voulez Vous Danser Avec Moi?, or Come Dance With Me? But she didn’t win over The New York Times, which called the flick “a shoddy piece of mystery writing that calls for its shapely star to be more seductive than deductive – and, believe us, that isn’t much.”
3. Hugging her sister
Brigitte Bardot had one sister, Marie-Jeanne or “Mijanou.” And the two girls grew up together in what seems to have been a rather difficult home environment. Mijanou briefly tried to embark on a film career, too, but it didn’t work out. Still, at least she had her sister to help her out with money.
2. Filming The Bear and the Doll
In 1969 Bardot appeared in Michel Deville’s drama-comedy The Bear and the Doll opposite Jean- Pierre Cassel. And while Bardot’s hair is hidden underneath a cap here, her natural beauty still radiates. Later on, the actress would name the film as one of her favorites – and Deville as one of the best directors, too.
1. Fainting after a scene
This striking image from 1971 shows Bardot being carried away after fainting during filming. At this point in her career, the actress was exhausted by fame and had actually attempted suicide 11 years previously. Her film appearances became more and more sporadic until she finally retired in 1973, at the age of 39.