On May 2, 1949, Elle, France’s most popular women’s magazine, featured a cover photo of a fifteen year old model identified only as “BB.” Among the thousands of people who saw the photo of Brigitte Bardot was aspiring film director Roger Vadim, b. Roger Vladimir Plemiannikov (1928 – 2000.)
In a trance, Vadim gazed at the cover of Elle magazine. The model looked schoolgirlish and chaste but Vadim detected something more; he saw a smoldering girl-woman whose face and body was created for the movies.
At the time, Vadim was working as an assistant to the respected director Marc Allégret. Vadim showed Allégret the photo and urged his boss to set up a screen test for the unknown model. Allégret, known as a spotter of new talent–he discovered Jean-Paul Belmando–gave his young protege the go-ahead.
Vadim tracked down Bardot. At first, her parents rejected Vadim’s proposal. Their daughter was studying ballet, a serious art. Movies were, well, not quite respectable. Vadim persisted and finally Bardot’s parents submitted to their daughter’s tearful fits and Vadim’s respectful if relentless offensive.
The screen test was a disaster. Under the hot lights Bardot’s chronic eczema flared. She was stiff, awkward, lacking in all charisma. But Vadim was not dissuaded. He believed in Brigitte, even if she had no idea what he saw in her. At the same time, Brigitte’s parents sensed, quite correctly, that Vadim was interested in more than their daughter’s career. They considered Vadim a disreputable bohemian and forbade Brigitte from seeing Vadim until she was of age, eighteen years old.
Brigitte, a typical, hormone-driven teenager, had a full-scale melt down. There were tears and hysterical fits. Her father threatened to send her to boarding school in–horror of horrors–England.
In a desperate move, Brigitte’s parents arranged a date for their rebellious daughter with a local young man from a good Catholic family. Surely, Brigitte would give up bad boy Vadim for a more proper match.
Curfew, her father sternly cautioned, was midnight. On the date, Brigitte was bored out of her mind. No wonder, for the past few months Brigitte was cutting school and meeting with Vadim in his little apartment where they made love and dreamed of a future together.
Brigitte came home from her date ten minutes past midnight.
Papa Bardot was livid. He took Brigitte over his knee, hiked up her skirt and spanked her bottom. And this was the very first night that his daughter was wearing adult stockings and garter belt. Adding to the humiliation was that her date–he must have been shocked out of his little mind–was standing right there to witness the punishment.
Needless to say, Brigitte continued meeting with Vadim in secret. And three years later, when she turned 18, Brigitte and Vadim were married. Mrs. Vadim was on her way to becoming BB, the modern eras most potent movie sex symbol.