Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The career of one of Jean Rollin’s most beguiling leading ladies has been an adventurous one that has taken her from being in the center of Swinging London in the mid sixties, to cult status as a model and actress in the seventies, to finally finding solace as a humanitarian dedicated to helping the under-privileged and elderly.
Françoise Pascal was born on the Island of Mauritius in October of 1949. Educated first in Paris and then later in London, Françoise’s striking and distinctive good looks began to get her noticed as a teenager in the mid sixties. She landed a gig dancing on England’s famed Top of the Pops soon after, and became a favorite of the BBC’s and many viewers who tuned in each week to watch the show.
The Top of the Pops gig led to a blossoming modeling career and interest from many film producer’s for the young Pascal and in 1968 she made a brief appearance as herself in Jean-Luc Godard’s ferociously original Rolling Stones feature, One Plus One.
Françoise’s first narrative feature arrived at around the same time Godard’s docu-drama was shocking and alienating audiences in 1968 and it couldn’t have been any different. Pete Walker’s School For Sex gave Françoise a small but memorable role that highlighted both her sex appeal and comedic skills, two gifts she would continue to use to great effect throughout her carrer.
After an appearance in Norman J. Warren’s Loving Feeling in 1969, Françoise had a banner year in 1970 when she appeared in a scene-stealing role in Roy Boulting’s funny There’s a Girl in My Soup opposite Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn. Françoise also turned many a head when she appeared on the cover and as a Pet of the Month in a 1970 issue of Penthouse Magazine, where Amnon Bar-Tur photographed her. The tasteful spread became one of the decade’s most popular for the controversial Bob Guccioni publication, and it solidified Françoise Pascal as one of the most memorable beauties of the early seventies.
After an injury sustained in 1971, Françoise took a break from the big screen and returned to British television throughout the next few years. In 1973 it was rumored that Kirk Douglas personally offered her a part in an upcoming project he was working on, but Françoise turned him down as her interest had turned her to an intriguing film set almost entirely in a cemetery.
Producer Sam Selsky is reportedly the person who introduced Françoise Pascal to Jean Rollin for The Iron Rose, and while Pascal was initially not what Rollin had in mind for the leading role, the collaboration would turn out to be an inspired one. As the nameless girl who becomes lost in and then entranced by the seemingly endless cemetery in one of Rollin’s most peculiar and brilliant films, Françoise Pascal is absolutely inspired and it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Working with a seemingly total abandonment, and with a poetic grace, Françoise would help make The Iron Rose one of the dark horse candidates as Jean Rollin’s best film for not a small number of fans.
Françoise Pascal would all but abandon the big screen after The Iron Rose, with just a few exceptions, and worked almost exclusively in British television before her retirement in the mid eighties. Her most famous role for British audiences is her two-year stint on Mind Your Language, and her memorable work on the cult comedy continues to bring her new fans each year.
Reportedly very happy and currently living back in England, Françoise Pascal has worked within a charity organization for the past decade or so designed to help the elderly and other people in need. While her career in film is behind her, one would hope that if ever approached for a special edition DVD of The Iron Rose, Françoise Pascal might share her memories on what stands as her most mysterious and beguiling performance.