Brigitte Bardot and her costar Christian Marquand painstakingly get out of the water and fall exhausted on the sand of the seemingly deserted beach. When she gets up, Bardot’s wet shirtdress is half-open, and after a few teasing invitations from her side, an erotic scene soon unfolds by a pine tree a little higher up the shore. The year is 1956 and the movie being shot is And God Created Woman (Et Dieu… créa la femme). Next to the film crew, led by the French director Roger Vadim, a bunch of curious locals are privileged enough to watch. Eight-year-old Patrice de Colmont is one of them. The vast Pampelonne beach in Ramatuelle, just south of Saint-Tropez, is his home and playground.
It was his father, the aristocratic ethnologist and explorer Bernard de Colmont, who fell in love with the place in the late 1940s when the beach was completely undeveloped. “We started spending the summers there and in 1954 my father bought a piece of land by the beach after inheriting some money. When my mother heard that, she first got angry. She thought we could have used them to buy pullovers or something else useful,” Patrice laughs. His father however felt that he had found “their promised land.”
Bernard was not wrong. He built three small wooden huts where the family moved in full time. There they would live like Robinson Crusoe, his father joked. However, they were not completely isolated; during the summer, fishermen from Saint-Tropez also inhabited the beach, and the de Colmont family lived spartanly, as did their neighbors. ”The summers were characterized by fragrances of fresh fish and ripe figs, Patrice recalls. “We would buy the cheapest fish and then grill them over an open fire. There was no electricity. Today you think that it is something you can not do without, but then I never felt that there was any need for it; you ate when it was still light, went to bed early and got up with the sun.”
Every day there were a few people who would pass their huts to access the beach for a swim or some sunbathing. They sometimes sat down with the de Colmont family to eat the food they’d brought with them. Soon Geneviève came up with the idea that she could buy food for everyone and cook it, in exchange for a small sum. Bernard in turn built some picnic tables with benches in the style of those he had seen during his travels to national parks in the United States. They placed the tables on the beach in front of the huts. Then one early summer day in 1956, the film crew showed up.
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