Her life would have been a hard act to invent, her personality, an incomparable character dreamt by master novelists.
Romy Schneider began her career in her natal Vienna, playing no other than Empress Elizabeth, dear Sissi, in an insubstantial series of three movies chronicling her life and times. The daughter and grand-daughter of actors, she was the prefect icon for the Germanic postwar film world: wholesome and virtuous, a far cry from the female actresses before and during the Nazi years. The audiences loved it.
A transformation quietly took place when in 1958 she met Alain Delon, the French heartthrob during the filming of “Christine”. They could not take their hands off one another and soon they announced their engagement. Romy moved to Paris. Young and intensely beautiful, their affair was not fated to last. Their physical magnetism was opening inroads for both in the French movie industry. The roles offered to Romy broke her chrysalis, becoming by degrees grittier, more dramatic. She was courted by the likes of Orson Wells and Luchino Visconti. With her career in the ascent, she found stability in Harry Meyen, a German actor, survivor of concentration camps with whom she had a son, David. Her career was at a peak. In 1972 Visconti asked her to replay Empress Elizabeth next to Helmut Berger in “Ludwig”. This time, the romping charm of the early Sissi was replaced by a more reflective and strong temperament. She reveled in the applause, she was admired and fêted, making two films per year, deploying depth and intensity, the stuff of the tragedienne. Then life intruded into her glamorous paradise: in 1981 her son, David, was accidentally killed at 14 when trying to climb over the wrought iron fence of his mother’s property. He fell and impaled himself. Romy had by then already divorced and remarried a photographer, Daniel Biasini, with whom she had a daughter, Sarah. Her former husband had committed suicide two years before their son died.
A year later, she was found dead in her apartment. She had taken to drinking and the press rushed to consider her death a suicide. Yet the medical examiner, after a post-mortem, declared that she had just had a cardiac arrest. She was 43. Sarah Biasini became an actress. In a recent interview with Paris-Match she stated: “ While acting, one gets an adrenaline rush, a leap into the void, which is hard to do without. In real life I also like strong emotions”. The mother lives on in her daughter.