Denise Pelletier

Denise Pelletier, actor (b at Saint-Jovite, Qc 22 May 1923; d at Montréal 24 May 1976). This intense, passionate, and spirited actress and key figure in Québec theatre with the crystal-clear laugh and slender appearance, stood out on stages here and elsewhere in English and in French, as well as on radio and television. Denise Pelletier was a marvelous performer of rare temperament. Her self imposed high standards, exacting professionalism and extreme generosity made her an unrivalled role model acclaimed by several generations.

Denise Pelletier was born into a happy, educated, but small family in the Laurentians. Her father Albert Pelletier a notary, publisher, and literary critic, and her mother Marie-Reine Vaugeois a cultured and very independent woman, encouraged her love of theatre as they did with her brother, the well known actor, Gilles. After studying at the Congrégation Notre-Dame, Denise Pelletier enrolled in acting classes in the French-speaking section of the Montreal Repertory Theatre in the early 1940s. There, she played her first role, and then completely devoted herself to her profession, studying with Sita Riddez, working at the Arcade, the Comédie de Montréal, and appearing in stock pieces and radio soaps.

As of 1942, Denise Pelletier was the radio voice of Annie Greenwood in Un homme et son péché, took part in filming the series Vie de famille portraying numerous characters, then played in one of the first Québécois films, À la croisée des chemins (1943). She joined l'Équipe, the company founded by Pierre Dagenais, playing several major roles and establishing herself with authority in Salacrou's Les Fiancés du Havre (1946), Cocteau's Les Parents terribles (1947), and in productions by Jean Desprez (La Cathédrale, 1948) and Lomer Gouin (Polichinelle, 1950). She appeared with the Compagnons de Saint Laurent in Anouilh's Léocadia, as Agrippina in Shakespeare's Britannicus, and as Toinette in Molière's Le Malade imaginaire.

In 1951 she had an eventful meeting with Jean GASCON: Denise Pelletier played opposite him in Molière's L'Avare in the first performance of the THÉÂTRE DU NOUVEAU MONDE. She joined the company and took part in several performances, notably the European tours of 1958 and 1971. She worked at the THÉÂTRE DU RIDEAU VERT and the Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale, increasing her major roles: Bernarda in Lorca's La Maison de Bernarda; Clytemnestre in Racine's Iphigénie; Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet, Isabelle in Henry V; Hécube in Euripides' Les Troyennes/The Trojan Women; and Marguerite in Ionesco 's Le roi se meurt. She tread the boards in Strindberg's La Danse de mort, Brecht 's Mother Courage, Beckett's Happy Days (Oh! les beaux jours), and also performed Québécois works by Marcel DUBÉ (Le Temps des lilas, 1958 and Les Beaux Dimanches, 1965) and Michel Tremblay (Bonjour, là, bonjour in 1974).

With the advent of television in 1952, Denise Pelletier had tremendous exposure on the small screen as Cécile, the eldest of Roger Lemelin's Les Plouffes, a role she would hold for six years. Elected Miss Radio Télévision in 1955, she gave priority to the stage, but was seen in some television serials: Lemelin's En haut de la pente douce, and La côte de sable; and Dubé's De neuf à cinq, in which she created the television soap character of Virginie, playing opposite Jean Duceppe in 1968. In the 1970s, she was in Réginald Boisvert's TV serial Mont-Joye, and then in Michel TREMBLAY's production of Trois petits tours produced by Paul Blouin.

Denise Pelletier was acclaimed many times at the STRATFORD FESTIVAL, where she did her last performance, The Divine Sarah, in English in 1975. Just when she was to perform it in Montréal, she died from a heart operation two days after her birthday. A few weeks earlier, the Canada Council had awarded her the Prix Molson for lifetime achievement. The NCT's new hall, inaugurated in 1977, would be named the THÉÂTRE DENISE-PELLETIER, and the Québec government created the Prix Denise-Pelletier for performing arts in her honour.