Leonard Maltin's bio lists Simone Simon as born
April 23, 1910, the J.D. Chandler bio lists her
as born April 23, 1911 in Béthune, Pas-de-Calais,
Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. I have seen the 1911
date used elsewhere for her birth, too.
[Below] From Leading Ladies by Don Macpherson and Louise Brody. Published by St. Martin's Press, 1986
In her French movies, Simone Simon's petite face and feline expression were used as symbols of natural beauty, whether with young lover Jean-Pierre Aumont in Le Lac aux dames, 1934, or later in Jean Renoir's La Bete humaine, 1938. But in America she became famous for the opposite. Those same features were used as material for dreams and horror; although she still looked pretty, innocent and very French, the interpretation of her beauty was wildly different.
Simon had two attempts at making a successful Hollywood career. In 1936 she had gone there to work for 20th Century Fox, but dissatisfaction with her employers brought her back to France within two years. La Bete humaine prompted an invitation to return and it was during this second spell - which lasted until the end of World War Two - that she made that classic of horror movies, Cat People, 1942.
In that film Simon plays the central role, caught in the web of a plot which is as effective as it is unlikely. She is a young girl haunted by sexual fears, who comes to believe she is descended from an ancient race of catworshippers. In director Jacques Tourneur's treatment her inner psychological torment is conveyed with a dreamlike play of light and darkness on her face in a gripping series of set-pieces; shadowy figures of giant cats suggest a secret, hidden and unnatural life. She projects a curious mix of contrasting emotions which Simon's character both fears and pities; she is not a straightforward femme fatale, for she is herself a victim of the unconscious fears that engulf her. Simon's appearance is pure, unsullied and vulnerable; forty years later when Nastassja Kinski played the same part in a remake, the character became both corrupt and corrupting.
[Below] Publicity portrait for Cat People, 1942.
Photographer Ernest A. Bachrach