Quote of the Day: The Girl With the Black Tongue

More from Paul Donnelley’s compellingly horrible Fade to Black, I’m afraid. The entry on Jean Seberg is MASSIVE, since her eventual suicide took at least ten years to actually come to its ghastly and tragic fruition. Skip this entry if you’re feeling a bit fragile. Go watch some Preston Sturges instead.

Ah, Jean!

“She was paid $100,000 to appear as Confederate colonel’s widow Alexandra Mountford in MACHO CALLAHAN (1970). On set she contracted a disease that caused her tongue to turn jet black. She would wander the location jokingly asking if ‘anybody want[ed] to kiss the lady with the black tongue.’.”


“The following month on a flight to America, Jean drank heavily, disappeared to the toilet and came out completely naked and screaming that hijackers were attempting to take over the plane. Her bodyguard managed to make her return to her seat where she gobbled tranquillisers. By the time the flight landed in Chicago, Jean was out of it, barely able to stand. Her bodyguard put her into a luggage trolley and began wheeling her through the airport. Then she spotted a black policeman and began screaming at him that he was a traitor to his race, making a grab for his gun.”

And: “On September 8, 1979, her decaying body was discovered by police. Jean’s car had been parked around the corner from her home for ten days. One of the first journalists to arrive at the scene noted: ‘It wasn’t a pretty sight. The car doors were the sort that close hermetically, so the body had literally baked in the sun for ten days. The odour was unimaginably foul. It just seemed to hang in the warm summer air for hours.'”

It isn’t always possible to help people who are dedicated to self-destruction. Seberg was obviously surrounded by people who wanted to use her (by definition, anybody making a film with her is in this category, however nice they might be), but also with quite a few people who loved her or wanted to help her. It’s the kind of story that’s heartbreaking, magnetically lurid, and ultimately depressing.

I hope no one films it.

10 Responses to “Quote of the Day: The Girl With the Black Tongue”

  1. Philippe Garrel already has. Les Hautes Solitudes is black and white, silent and outside of one shot of Nico consiists entirely of close-ups of Jean Seberg.

  2. Brandon Says:

    Haven’t seen it, but heard about this Mark Rappaport doc as well:

  3. Sounds fascinating… also somehow scary. What’s weird is how little of Seberg’s difficulties usually photographs — she has a kind of serenity onscreen.

  4. Not in the Garrel. He shows her freaking out on her bed, then pulling herself back together.

    Nico used to complain that Jean Seberg stole her drugs.

  5. I bet she stole everybody’s drugs.

  6. You should also be sure to see THIS.

  7. Yes, that looks fascinating too. Techincally Brandon mentioned it first, but his comment didn’t appear until I approved it. For some reason WordPress has him down as spam.

    He’s not spam!

  8. Brandon Says:

    Speaking of my spam, how are you with email attachments? I think the two messages I sent you with attachments are the two you never responded to. Screenshots from low-grade copies of rare movies, I believe…

  9. Sounds like Seberg had in air freak outs down to a T, leaving Naomi Campbell trailing in her wake!

    Speaking about heartbreaking, magnetically lurid and ultimately depressing true stories made into films, I just had the opportunity to see Star 80. Does the book feature Dorothy Stratten at all?

  10. Yes, she’s mentioned, although the account in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is even more graphic and unpleasant. It’s hard to believe, but the movie is actually very restrained in its dealings with the murder. I started to feel quite ill when I read that book, and thought it was sympathetic pain, before realising I had appendicitis.

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