❉ A tribute to an icon, and star of Mind Your Language, by Foster Hitchman.
Actress, singer, dancer, fashion model, producer, radio personality, and humanitarian, Françoise Pascal is one of the most magnificent and iconic talents of her time. With her winning combination of Mauritian/French beauty, dazzling on screen charisma, and intuitive acting talent, she was the woman that every man dreamed of, and the woman that every girl dreamed to be. If there ever was a woman who could be the living breathing example of that classic song, I’m Every Woman… it’s Françoise Pascal!
In the late 1960s, while various English music artists were “invading” American pop culture, Françoise Pascal was turning heads in Great Britain. Taking the swinging sixties head on, and setting the British on fire, she became popular with her French/Mauritian beauty, the trendy Vidal Sassoon pixie cut, and a flawless figure that could rival even Bettie Page, she became the Brigitte Bardot of England. Being able to integrate into various dimensions of Carnaby Street fashion, from mod, preppy, and bombshell, she proved her versatility.
Pascal broke down the walls of the British ’60s scene and put Mauritius on the map across Europe and the USA. With her beautiful olive skin complexion and dark raven hair, she was one of the new exotic beauties who proved that blonde hair and blue eyes was not the only standard of beauty. Even more impressively, she was established as a sex symbol when she appeared on the cover of Penthouse magazine as Penthouse Pet of the Month for August 1970. She also appeared on the first cover of Club International magazine in July 1972. But Pascal would soon show that she was more than just a pretty face, and that her talents were not limited as an exotic stunner.
In 1968, Françoise’s career saw two major inaugural milestones. The first was her acting debut in the British independent film Loving Feeling directed by Norman J. Warren. The other was the release of her first double A-side single, which consisted of two honeyed soul pop ballad jams When It Comes To Love and Got It Badly. With her career showing no signs of slowing down, and the new 70s decade approaching, she put music on hold to pursue acting full time, and modelling on a part time basis.
Her breakout role came in the British romantic comedy film There’s A Girl In My Soup (1970). Starring alongside English comedy icon, Peter Sellers, and America’s sweetheart, Goldie Hawn, Pascal plays a coy French au-pair, Paola. On screen with her edgy dark Twiggy pixie cut grown out to long and flowing ombre locks just past her shoulders, and dressed in virginal white, there are depths of unlimited potential and promise radiating in her performance. While her character was only on screen for a few minutes, she steals virtually every moment of the film that she is in. Even standing next to Peter Sellers, you cannot keep your eyes off her. It is hard to believe that this was one of her first films, because she is everything a seasoned actor should be.
Following some bit parts in film and television productions, she got her first starring role in the horror/comedy film Burke & Hare (1972). Sought out by British-Italian film producer, Guido Coen, she played the role of Marie, an elegant 19th century courtesan. Styled with some hair extensions and dressed in exquisite Victorian inspired costumes, Pascal was the film’s showpiece.
Unfortunately, despite the distinguished cast, brilliant film score soundtrack, and divine costumes, critics were not welcoming of this film. One review in the Daily Telegraph even said that “as a corpse, Françoise has never looked in better shape”, a review that Pascal would humorously take in stride. Despite the critical and commercial failure of her first starring film, she was not done yet.
Pascal’s next film project was the headlining role in the French gothic horror drama film La Rose de Fer (1973), aka The Iron Rose, directed by Jean Rollin. To do this film, she had to turn down a supporting role in Scalawag (1973) with Kirk Douglas. The Iron Rose gave Pascal the chance to break free of playing a sexy French girl and showcase more dimensions of her talents.
Playing the role of “la jeune fille”, every inch of the film is bejewelled with her powerful and beguiling presence. She gives a near flawless depiction of the fragile and immortal human mind undulating into a state of sheer and pathos insanity.
Normally known for her cheerful, vivacious, and outgoing personality, Pascal was able to reach far down within the depths of her psyche, and pull out morbid, grim, and cryptic emotions that enabled her to play this role so well. The nature of her characters descent into madness is so well executed that it might turn the audience against her character. If her performance were in a higher budgeted or more mainstream film, it might have likely merited her an Oscar nomination.
While the script had quality material and good production value, La Rose de Fer was a difficult film to make. Plagued with a late night shooting schedule (often starting at 6 p.m. at night and going till 6 a.m. in the morning), filming onsite in a real cemetery (Cimetière de La Madeleine d’Amiens in Amiens, France), a co-star who was difficult to work with (and who clashed with the director), the use of real human bones for props (like the use of real corpses in The Poltergeist (1982) directed by Steven Spielberg), and a handful of unsettling nude scenes (something that Pascal was never comfortable doing). Thankfully, Pascal felt at ease working with Jean Rollin, and he made the arduous experience worth it. The result was an immaculate work of cinematic art. Although the film came and went with fair reception, it went on to become a popular cult horror film and establish Pascal as an iconic scream queen.
Over the next several years, Pascal kept busy and was in high demand as an actress for film and television productions. While she was often type cast as a sexy French girl, she played variations of that prototype in virtually every genre from sex comedies (Keep It Up Downstairs (1976) directed by Robert Young) to period epics (1974 mini
Her greatest commercial and critical success was as Danielle Favre on the British ITV comedy series Mind Your Language (1977-79). The series follows an English teacher, Professor Jeremy Brown (played by the boyish Barry Evans), who struggles to teach foreign students English at an adult education facility.
The show became a national phenomenon and brought in as many as 18 million viewers, rave reviews, and lots of laughs. Prescribing to the prototype that Pascal was most famous for, her character was a sexy and flirtatious French Catholic au pair. Dressed in stylish outfits and fashioned with the coolest haircuts of the day, Pascal commanded the attention of viewers.
The storyline of the series often featured Pascal’s character, Danielle, as the object of desire by all the men in the class, with Giovanni (played by George Camiller) and Maximillian (played by Kevork Malikyan) being the most persistent. A running gag of the show is Danielle using her feminine wiles to reject their advances, which then follows with a comical moment or a funny soundbite. In episode 6 of season 1, Come Back All Is Forgiven, the men in the class neglect their lessons in favour of playing card games, drinking, and smoking. Danielle tells them they should be “improving their minds” by doing the lessons, to which Giovanni responds to Danielle saying, “you can improve my mind any time”. He then suggests they go out for a romantic dinner, and then back to his place for a romantic romp. Danielle then shuts him down with her riposte “that is not improving the mind.”
In episode 9 of season 1, Kill Or Cure, the professor is at home with a cold, and his students ditch class and go to his flat in an effort to rid him of his illness. While in converse, Danielle offers to give the professor “the kiss of life”, to which he humorously rejects. Maximillian and Giovanni jump in to tell Danielle that she can give them “the kiss” instead. Danielle takes advantage of the opportunity and says she will give both men the most beautiful “French kiss” ever. Instead, she tricks the two unsuspecting chaps to close their eyes, and then she has them lip lock each other instead of her. After discovering they kissed each other instead of Danielle, the two men grimace, giving her another victory over them.
Another element in the plotline is Danielle being in love with the instructor, Mr. Brown. She often acts kittenish with him, occasionally steals a kiss, and every now and then is found in seemingly compromising positions with him (although it is usually inadvertent and sometimes innocent). In season 2, another sexy girl, a Swedish au-pair named Ingrid Svenson (played by Anna Bergman), is enrolled in the class. The two beauties become rivals, and Danielle finds herself competing for Brown’s attention with her. Danielle even uses Maximillian and Giovanni’s infatuation with her to make Mr. Brown jealous.
Anna Bergman’s character does not stick around for long, and in the beginning of season 3 Danielle is back to being the only sexy girl in the class. Unfortunately, we never know what happens between Danielle and Professor Brown at the conclusion of the series, and there are no hints that their relationship progressed beyond flirting.
In between Mind Your Language, Pascal also performed in the theatre productions of Aladdin, Happy Birthday, and Gillian Holroyd in Bell Book and Candle. Riding in the success of a hit TV series and her theatre credits, Pascal returned to the music scene with the release of her sophomore single Woman Is Free (along with the kiss-off funk tune titled Symphony Just For Me on the B-side of the single) in 1979. Released under the UK label RCA Victor, the disco-flavoured feminist bop anthem became a decent hit in European countries and disco clubs. The popularity of the song was prolonged when British singer, Grace Kennedy, covered it on her album Desires in 1980.
Pascal followed-up with another single release with a synth-pop jazz inspired song titled I Can’t Get Enough (along with the smoky dance ballad Make Love To Me on the B-side of the single) in 1981. Unfortunately, this was Pascal’s last music release, and she departed from RCA without releasing a full-length studio album. Although music tycoons were not knocking at Françoise Pascal’s door to make music, Hollywood was looking to make her into a crossover actress.
In the early 1980s, Pascal packed her bags and left England for Hollywood. A trip that was originally just for a two-year contract, ended up offering her scores of career opportunities that would extend her time in Hollywood to seven years.
Her first project in Hollywood was a reoccurring role on the hit CBS soap opera, The Young and the Restless. On the show she played the French secretary of Mme Mergeron and Jack. One of the best parts of this role for Pascal was that her character (possibly named Madeleine), was a stark contrast to any of the roles she had previously played. Instead of being sexy and salacious, her character was refined, intelligent, fast thinking, and often ahead of her boss.
After her two-year run on and off The Young and the Restless, she appeared on an episode of Gavilan with Robert Urich in 1982. She also starred alongside cinematic icon and star of the Andy Hardy films, Mickey Rooney, and English starlet/scream queen icon, Susan George, in Lightning, the White Stallion (1986). While balancing a successful career in films and television, Pascal was also breaking ground in Hollywood theater. Some of her theater credits included Rosalind in As You Like It, Octavia in Anthony and Cleopatra (though she was probably better suited to play Cleopatra), and Olivia in Twelfth Night (for which she won the LA Critics Award in 1985). In 1987, after a near brush with death due to a drug addiction, Pascal’s priorities changed. She left Hollywood and returned home to England where she shifted her focus on raising her son and pursuing career paths in humanitarian work.
Even though Pascal had dropped out of the public eye, her twenty years of film and television work stayed in circulation. This helped her acquire more fans and admirers, who helped turn her into a pop culture icon. She came out of retirement in the 2010s with multiple appearances at events and conventions signing autographs and meeting scores of fans.
In 2013, she made her first film debut in over twenty years with a role in the short film Symbols and Signs. Since then, Pascal has kept busy with her humanitarian work, occasional appearances in films, becoming a first-time grandmother, and dabbling in production work. She is currently producing her first film titled Cold Sun, starring Patrick Bergin, Ian Ogilvy and many more, set to be released at the end of 2021.
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❉ With credits including journalism writing, radio personality, lyric video producing, social media publishing, and graphic design, in 2019 Foster Hitchman released two independent film projects. The first was Lynne: The English Rose, which told the story and paid tribute to British actress, Lynne Frederick. The second was a three-part mini web series, Foster’s Features Interview with Julie Dawn Cole: All About Julie, where he interviewed British actress and star of the original Willy Wonka film, Julie Dawn Cole.