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"La vie en rose" - A Look At the Life About Famous French Singer Edith Piaf

Updated on April 1, 2013
Marion Cotillard won the Best Actress Academy Award in 2008 for her portrayal of Édith Piaf in this biographical account of her life.
Marion Cotillard won the Best Actress Academy Award in 2008 for her portrayal of Édith Piaf in this biographical account of her life.

The Movie

La vie en rose, based on the life of Édith Piaf (1915-1963), and released in 2007 is probably one of the most emotionally impactful movies I have seen. The movie was released in Europe in February 2007 and hit the United States in April that year. Marion Cotillard who played the starring role as Édith was so effective that her talent won and earned her awards, including the Best Actress Academy Award in 2008. If you have not seen La vie en rose, I highly recommend it. The tail of the movie is gut wrenching. A very sickly and physically ailing Édith is helped out onto the stage singing her “No regrets” song and it’s very emotionallky powerful.

This movie is biographical in nature of the life of Édith beginning with the effects of an alcoholic mother, Annetta Giovanna Maillard, who sang in the streets and her father, Louis-Alphonse Gassion, who performed circus-like shows. And it doesn’t stop there; her father’s mother—her grandmother—ran a brothel, the women of which helped to look after her as depicted in the movie. As she grows up, she has different living experiences with each of them.

Early Life

Édith was born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Paris, France on December 19, 1915. When she was 17, she was in love with a boy and had a baby named Marcelle who died from meningitis when she was only two years old. When Édith was 20 years old, she, too, was singing in the streets. Her life was surrounded with alcohol and one heart ache after another. After her mother had abandoned her, she would be on the streets with her father singing while he performed his circus act.

Standing less than 4 feet, 9 inches tall, Édith was nicknamed “the little sparrow.”
Standing less than 4 feet, 9 inches tall, Édith was nicknamed “the little sparrow.”

A Career Takes Off

When she met Louis Leplee, a performance organizer, her life began to change because of her singing voice. He changed her name to "La Mome Piaf" which meant "Kid Sparrow.” Soon, her status changed with the recording of albums and she became a singing sensation. Unfortunately, Leplee was murdered and she had to convince others she had nothing to do with it.

One of her most popular songs was Non, je ne regrette rien (1960), which means, No, I have no regrets (listen to the youtube video of an old live performance; even though it is in French, the sense of pain and determination come through her singing). Another signature song was La vie en rose (1945).

Love and Addiction

Édith had an affair with a famous boxer at the time, Marcel Cerdan, who was killed in a plane crash in 1949. After Marcel died, her whole world crashed as did she after a couple of bad car accidents. In 1951, one accident caused a morphine addiction as well as more alcohol. In 1952, she married Jacques Pills and continued to deal with a serious arthritic condition. This marriage would only last four years. Interestingly, her maid of honor at this wedding was Marlene Dietrich.

Édith would have some performances, but her health declined. In 1963, she recorded her last song, L'homme de Berlin, which year she also died from liver cancer. She was only 47. She was very poor when she died which her second husband (married 1962), Theo Sarapo, was left with. Sarapo was 20 years younger and she helped start his career.

End of Life Came Too Soon

Édith died of liver cancer in France on October 10, 1963. Once you study her life and see the movie about her life, all you think about is her music, those she loved and the sadness she experienced. Her funeral was incredibly packed (more than 100,000 mourners and fans) and allegedly it was the only time traffic had been at a standstill since World War II. She wasn’t permitted a mass funeral because her lifestyle was unapproved. Édith’s gravesite is located at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France and she is buried next to her daughter.

Photo of tomb: Wikipedia: GNU Free Documentation License
Photo of tomb: Wikipedia: GNU Free Documentation License


Submit a Comment

  • CatherineGiordano profile image

    Catherine Giordano 

    4 years ago from Orlando Florida

    I loved the La Vie en Rose movie also. I cried through most of it. It made me study her life and write a poem about her. I just featured the poem in a hub and that is how I saw your hub. You did a great job on the bio.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    For some reason, I always thought this quote came from Mark Twain (but I'm unsure now)...Life is 20% of what happens to you and 80% how you choose to respond. Life is always a mountain to climb, but it's worth the climb to get to the next mountain. When you reach the top, you see what's on the other side, and if you're fortunate, you might see a choice of mountains yet to climb. In my early 20s, I was married to someone who was abusive. I changed the situation by leaving it and taking the lessons with me. I have lost both my parents, which was the most challenging emotional experience, but I took many lessons with me. We all have a story to tell and a lot of wisdom is extracted from each story whether you're the story teller or the listener. Because I believe the mind is so very empowering, everything we say and do can employ some thought before we react. My dad used to say, "never give up." Edith Piaf's life was remarkable. The movie was so touching. Despite her afflictions and habits, she rose to the top of her profession and she was driven. She also just wanted to love and be loved. Rent it when you can. It's worth it for the character building in the writing. Yes, strive for joy. I'm grateful for your visit. Have a fabulous weekend!

  • savvydating profile image


    5 years ago

    Thanks for the reminder! I've always wanted to see this movie, but missed it at the box office, and then could not find a rental... and then forgot about it. You've written a very informative piece. It seems that joy constantly escapes some people.

    By the way, I enjoy your positive thinking writings, yet I wonder... is that not a terribly steep hill for some to climb, given the things they've experienced, such as abuse, abandonment, deaths within the family, or illness? On the other hand, many holocaust survivor's have found meaning in life despite their sorrow.

    At any rate, we must always strive for joy and inner contentment, which is best found through faith, and it is this which I take away from your hub so... I thank you.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Carozy, thanks very much for the read and kind comment. Have a great week.

  • carozy profile image


    6 years ago from San Francisco

    I loved the movie. What a beautiful, interesting hub and woman.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Claudia, thanks for your comment. The movie was incredible and so mesmerizing because as a viewer, you knew it was based on Edith's life story. I loved how driven and determined she was and how gifted; however, she had demons to deal with because of the effects of her childhood. I agree with you that it is both an excellent movie as well as sad and bittersweet. Have a good weekend.

  • Claudia Tello profile image

    Claudia Tello 

    6 years ago from Mexico

    I saw the movie and I found it absolutely incredible. I agree with drbj, Marion Cotillard did an amazing performance. Even though "La vie en rose" is an excellent movie, it is also very, very, very sad one. Edith Piaf was an amazing woman who followed her dreams but still went through huge sorrow....

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Didn't she just have such an incredible sounding voice? Indeed, it is very sad how her life ended. Thanks very much for your comment.

  • alocsin profile image


    6 years ago from Orange County, CA

    One of my favorite singers -- and her tragic life gave her wonderfully expressive singing. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

  • TToombs08 profile image

    Terrye Toombs 

    6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

    What a tragic story. Very well written. Thank you for sharing, I would never have heard of her or her beautiful music. Voting up.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Tallulah and Jools99, thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. I agree, there is no way you can hear her songs and just not be affected emotionally. Thanks for your read and time. Have a great weekend.

  • Talullah profile image


    6 years ago from SW France

    Such a sad story, but what a voice. Your hub is a great tribute to her.

  • Jools99 profile image

    Jools Hogg 

    6 years ago from North-East UK

    Very interesting hub. My favourite singer is Elizabeth Fraser, former vocalist of Cocteau Twins who always said Piaf was one of her biggest influences. In one of their songs, Loves Easy Tears Elizabeth reminds me of Piaf a lot.

    You can't listen to Piaf and not be moved by her voice, the emotion is so raw and real.

    Voted up etc,etc. and shared.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Rosemay and ishwary, thanks much for stopping by and your kind comments. Piaf absolutely poured her sorrows into her songs and perhaps that's what it takes to make a great song even greater.

  • ishwaryaa22 profile image

    Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

    6 years ago from Chennai, India

    An engaging hub! I have heard of this film but have not seen it. After reading this hub, I decided to see this film. The story of this late singer is unfortunately tragic! Nicely-written hub!

    Thanks for SHARING. Interesting. Voted up.

  • Rosemay50 profile image

    Rosemary Sadler 

    6 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

    An excellent review. She had sp much tragedy in her life and the emotions poured into her singing.

    A fabulous hub

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    drbj and europewalker, thanks very much for stopping by. Glad you saw the movie! Glad she is still memorialized. Have a good week.

  • europewalker profile image


    6 years ago

    I saw the movie and enjoyed it very much. Edith had such talent but a sad life. Great read.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    6 years ago from south Florida

    I had the good fortune to see that film and Marion Cotillard was unbelievable as Edith Piaf - it was a performance that made her a movie star. This is an excellent review, ytsenoh, and it makes me want to see the movie again.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Very interesting. Thanks very much. I like it.

  • mio cid profile image

    mio cid 

    6 years ago from Uruguay

    I think you may like this, I apologize if you don't, for posting.


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