The images, gifs and scans here come from the Tina Aumont Tumblr
Over the course of the past, say, twenty years, I’ve gradually become more and more aware of the late actress Tina Aumont, who died in 2006. She’s one of the great (albeit largely unknown) beauties of the 60s and 70s, and a sort of gorgeous bad girl “Zelig” figure uniting disparate famous people from old school Hollywood types to the Warhol crowd and 60s and 70s European film notables. Truly she was the junkie underground “Kevin Bacon” game connector of the era, if nearly forgotten today.
I first laid eyes on the luminous Aumont in Joseph Losey’s Modesty Blaise, but she was billed there under her married name Tina Maquand. I probably first read her name in Richard Witts’ Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon, his 1995 biography of the Velvet Underground chanteuse. The first time I actually saw Aumont onscreen—and had any context for her—was later that same year when she was an interviewee in the Nico: Icon documentary.
So my entré to Tina Aumont was being a big Nico freak, which invariably led to an interest in the films of Nico’s paramour, bohemian French film director Philippe Garrel. Aumont was in several of Garrel’s underground films and was the one who first introduced Garrel—then seen as a sort of cinematic Rimbaud—to Nico in 1969, suggesting that her new music (The Marble Index) would be perfect for his Le Lit de la Vierge. (She gifted him with a version of “The Falconeer” heard only in that film, which starred Aumont, with Pierre Clémenti as Jesus.)
Aumont was born on Valentine’s Day of 1946 in Hollywood, California and it was at birth that her first Zelig-style cameo took place: Her mother was the ill-fated “Queen of Technicolor” Maria Montez, the exotic star of such films as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Cobra Woman. (Jack Smith’s notoriously perverse Flaming Creatures is an homage to Montez and the word “camp” was practically coined to describe her flamboyant performances. Kenneth Anger has cited Cobra Woman as his favorite film.) Marlene Dietrich is said to have sung baby Tina to sleep and Jean Cocteau wrote a poem for her (“La Fille aux étoiles”) when she was born. An auspicious birth by any definition, but her mother died of a heart attack at the age of 31 when Tina was just five. Her father was the dashing French actor and war hero Jean-Pierre Aumont.
By the time she was 17, with the full approval and encouragement of her father, who thought she was a wild child and wanted to see her settle down, Tina married actor Christian Maquand in 1963. Maquand was a heartthrob actor who was in And God Created Woman playing opposite Brigitte Bardot. He also directed the star-studded adaptation of Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s Candy. He was 19 years her senior and close friends with director Roger Vadim and Marlon Brando. This is where her social circle really starts to expand. Imagine what a documentary might look like about Tina Aumont, containing as it would film footage and photographs of her at that age alongside of people like Brando, Vadim, Jane Fonda, Roman Polanski and Donald Cammell. The great New York acting teacher Stella Adler. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the Stones inner circle: art dealer Robert Fraser, Stash Klossowski and Marianne Faithfull. Bob Dylan. The Who. You get the picture.
In 1966 she shot a western with Dean Martin and Alain Delon called Texas Across The River, but around this time she had a miscarriage that Maquand blamed her for and their three year marriage ended. Within the year she’d moved in with artist Frédéric Pardo in Paris where the friends dropping by their psychedelic apartment included Pierre Clémenti, Zouzou, Anita Pallenberg and Warhol “superstar” Viva. The couple then moved to Rome in 1967 where Aumont hung out with Jimi Hendrix and made films with the likes of Klaus Kinski; appeared in erotic filmmaker Tinto Brass’s oddball underground film The Howl, Philippe Garrel’s poetic Le Lit de la Vierge and played opposite Pierre Clémenti in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Godard-influenced Partner. She also appeared in Playboy magazine, shot by Angelo Frontoni with “Rapunzel” length locks.
Tina Aumont had a reputation as a hard drug user, but for several years she managed to keep her behavior on film sets professional. Frédéric Pardo said of Aumont that her mother had left her “a very peculiar will. She revealed in it that she had spent time with the devil, as a voodoo practitioner. Tina quickly followed her onto the slippery self-destructive slope…” Despite this, she was still cast in films with Liza Minnelli, Ingrid Bergman and Catherine Deneuve. Tinto Brass (who called Aumont the most beautiful woman he’d ever worked with) cast her in his kinky Third Reich tale Salon Kitty. In 1975 she was in Roberto Rossellini’s The Messiah and played opposite Donald Sutherland in Fellini’s Casanova the following year.
But Aumont’s career took a nosedive when she was arrested in Italy in 1978 and convicted with the illegal importation of 400 grams of opium smuggled in tiny Buddhas from Thailand. Aumont was sentenced to three years imprisonment, reduced on appeal to just nine months, but she was deported from Italy and moved back to France. She worked only sporadically after that. Tina Aumont died in her sleep at the age of 60 in late 2006.
Although Tina Aumont made over 50 films, it’s only been in recent years that more than a small handful of them have been available to see. I think she’d be a fascinating subject for a feature-length ARTE documentary.
An extended interview with Tina Aumont
Clips from Frédéric Pardo’s ‘Home Movie’ filmed in Morocco in 1968 on the set of Philippe Garrel’s ‘Le Lit de la Vierge.’ Pardo’s full film was silent but he suggested listening to the Rolling Stones as it unspooled. The song here is a shoegazer number called “Haze Interior” by Tamaryn.
Aumont gets soapy with Pierre Clémenti in Bertolucci’s ‘Partner.’
The trailer for Luigi Bazzoni’s 1968 spaghetti western ‘Man, Pride and Vengeance,’ starring Aumont, Franco Nero and Klaus Kinski.
Above, Tina Aumont in Sergio Martino’s 1972 thriller ‘Torso,’ in its entirety