Archival photos of Piaf illustrate her life of lucky breaks and tragedy. Some of the film’s best moments are of Bitton and Piaf’s friends, lovers, composers happily discussing Piaf over food and wine at a Paris bistro. Featuring 16 songs performed with a full orchestra, including La Vie En Rose, No Regrets, Hymn To Love.
Edith Piaf (A biography) Written by Raquel Bitton
December19, 1916 – October 11, 1963: Throughout her tempestuous life and explosive career, EDITH PIAF cast a spell over all who came in contact with her. This tiny person, the little “Sparrow” as she was called, stood four feet ten, who performed in a simple black dress, was a volcano, a force of nature.
Her meteoric ascension left an indelible mark not only on her native France, but throughout the world. After Piaf, popular singing would never be the same.
She was born Edith Giovanna Gassion. Her mother, a street singer and drug addict, gave birth to her in the doorway of an apartment building and soon abandoned her. She spent her first years in the streets with her father who was a street artist, acrobat and contortionist. After a while he left her in the care of his mother, who kept a bordello in Normandy.
As a child, she suffered from Keratitis, a temporary blindness. Edith attributed the recovery of her sight to Saint Therese de Lisieux, and the prayers of the ladies of the night she lived with in her grandmother’s bordello. At age seven Edith’s father claimed her back. She then led a vagabond life for the next nine years in the slums of Menilmontant, first being a part of her father’s act and then out on her own, singing in the streets and sleeping in doorways. At age 15 Edith had a child out of wedlock, a little girl named Marcelle, who died at the age of two from meningitis. Edith never fully recovered from that loss.
In 1937 Louis Leplee, owner of a swank cabaret, discovered Edith singing across the street from his establishment. He hired her on the spot to sing in his club on the next evening. That night Maurice Chevalier was in the audience. It was obvious to the entire audience that a star was born. Louis Leplee gave her the name of “Piaf” which in French means “Sparrow” or street bird.
Shortly after her beginning rise to fame, Louis Leplee was found dead in his apartment, Edith Piaf was last to see him and became a murder suspect. Although she was cleared, rumor had it that her hoodlum friends were responsible for Leplee’s murder.
Though she had many lovers, Piaf married twice, once early in her career, and again late in her career to a man 27 years younger than herself. Piaf survived four major operations, two automobile accidents, morphine addiction and acute alcoholism however, she become the highest paid singer in the world. Edith Piaf died in 1963 at the age of 47. Her Friend and long time admirer Jean Cocteau died the same day.