La Morte Amoreuse
“Montez liked to take very hot baths and it was during one of these she suffered a heart attack at home in Suresnes, near Paris. She was aged 34. She was buried in a Catholic ceremony four days after her death.”
~ from Fade to Black, A Book of Movie Obituaries. For once, author Paul Donnelley fails to provide the morbid details we crave. Maria Montez, former Queen of Technicolor, had been suffering from depression and weight problems, and the cocktail of medication she was on may have helped hasten her demise. She was found in the tub by her husband, actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, who reported that she had sunk into the water until just the top of her head from her eyes up was visible — like Martin Sheen in APOCALYPSE NOW, or Venus rising from the waters of Venice in FELLINI CASANOVA.
This is a picture I took in Cannes after Fellini’s death — the giant head of Venus, normally on display at Cinecitta studios, had been shipped over to stand outside the Italian Pavilion, marking the solemn occasion.
Somebody once told me that Fellini’s fatal heart attack was triggered by his choking on a piece of cheese that he’d had smuggled into hospital against doctor’s orders, but I have no confirmation of this.
Talking of death:
Maria Montez nearly played Death. Cocteau was trying to raise a big budget for ORPHEE, to star Aumont and Montez, but sufficient funds were not forthcoming, so he slashed the budget and made the film with his friends Jean Marais and Maria Casares (no doubt his preferred choice anyway). Montez was very disappointed, and Aumont tried to cheer her up: “You’ll have other roles, more beautiful and charming ones to suit your personality.”
“But darling,” Montez protested, “Death should be beautiful and charming.”