A few people were startled when a relatively unknown French actress named Marion Cotillard won an Oscar for her lead performance in the 2007 film, La Vie en Rose. But there’s little doubt that she nailed the role of Édith Piaf, the legendary singer whose life story was certainly worthy of a movie. Still beloved in France a half-century after her death, the entertainer known as the Little Sparrow packed a lot of living into her 47 years of life.
Born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Paris during World War I, her early life remains a mystery in many ways. It’s said that her father was a circus performer (and the son of a madam) and her mother sang on street corners when she could stay sober. Not surprisingly, Édith grew up on the streets herself, uneducated and often singing to survive. But she somehow persevered and eventually managed to find work as a cabaret singer.
Tiny in size, with a dramatic singing style and a voice that featured a very distinctive vibrato, she began to attract a lot of fans in the 1930s, but trouble was never far away. Her name change occurred as an attempt to rebuild her career after she avoided implication in the gang-related murder of her lover, and she would later suffer the death of her only child.
As the years passed her fame grew, as did the long list of lovers (and occasional husbands) in her high-profile romantic life. She sold millions of records, made numerous well-received appearances all over Europe, and — even though it took the American public a while to warm to her — appeared on Ed Sullivan’s TV show eight times. By the time she died of cancer in 1963 she’d attained international fame and had established herself as an icon in France.
Édith Piaf – “Sous Le Ciel De Paris”