Marcheline Bertrand was an American actress and humanitarian worker whose best claim to fame is being the mother of one most celebrated Hollywood luminaries—Angelina Jolie. Marcheline had a very brief stint as an actress, starring in less than 10 movies and appearing in a few television programs and episodes. After she was through with acting, she tried her hand in production that led to her joining hands with her partner and documentary filmmaker, Bill Day to incorporate Woods Road Productions. A documentary on Sioux activist, musician and poet, John Trudell which she produced was selected to be screened at ‘Sundance Film Festival’ and ‘Tribeca Film Festival’. The short film also bagged the Special Jury Prize in the Seattle International Film Festival, for being the ‘Best Documentary’. Marcheline devoted the best years of her life towards humanitarian causes. She teamed up with John Trudell, one of her partners, to lay the foundations for a charity organization titled, ‘All Tribes Foundation’ with the pious objective of supporting Native Americans, economically and culturally. After she was laid low with primary peritoneal cancer (ovarian cancer) when she was 49 years old, she established another charitable institution, ‘Give Love Give Life’ with Trudell for disseminating public awareness on gynecological cancers via music. She passed away at the age of 56, following a protracted struggle with cancer.
Childhood & Early Life
Marcheline Bertrand was born on 9 May 1950 in Blue Island, Illinois, to Rolland F. Bertrand and Lois June. She had a younger sister and brother, named Debbie and Raleigh respectively. She spent part of her childhood in Riverdale, a hamlet in Cook County.
Marcheline’s family relocated to Beverly Hills in California from Chicago in 1965. She went to Beverly Hills High School.
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Marcheline Bertrand took her early training in acting under Lee Strasberg, a renowned film director who is regarded as the pioneer of ‘method acting’ and had trained several Hollywood actors and actresses.
She made her small screen debut in 1971 in the television show ‘Ironside’. She portrayed the character of Connie in the episode "Love, Peace, Brotherhood and Murder" on the fourth season of 'Ironside'.
About 11 years later in 1982, she appeared as a supporting cast in ‘Lookin’ to Get Out’ a comedy film directed by Hal Ashby, and co-written by John Voight, her ex-husband.
In 1983, she appeared in another comedy film, ‘The Man Who Loved Women’ sharing screen space with legendary Hollywood actors, Kim Basinger, Burt Reynolds, and Julie Andrews.
Incidentally, Marcheline’s appearance in the film ‘The Man Who Loved Women’ which was based on a French movie with an identical title was her swansong as an actress.
After she was done with acting, Marcheline Bertrand started taking an interest in film production. She collaborated with documentary filmmaker and long-time partner, Bill Day to lay the foundations for a production company named Woods Road Production in 1983. Their professional and personal partnership lasted for a little more than a decade.
Marcheline worked as an executive producer for creating a documentary on John Trudell, a well-known activist and Native American poet who became her partner after her relationship with Bill Day was over. The documentary which was produced in 2005 revolved around the life and times of John Trudell.
The documentary, ‘Trudell’ was officially selected to be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival that was conceptualized in 2002 chiefly to publicize and promote indie films. The short film was also formally chosen to be shown at the Sundance Film Festival held annually in Park City, Utah.
’Trudell’ won a Special Jury Award for being the ‘Best Documentary’ at the SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival).
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Marcheline Bertrand is also known for her humanitarian efforts that were chiefly directed towards the economic and cultural upliftment of the Native American tribesmen and women. She co-founded the charitable organization, ‘All Tribes Foundation’ with John Trudell mainly for improving the quality of life of the Native American population.
Within a few years of the establishment of All Tribes Foundation, the institution had doled out more than $ 8, 00,000 as donations for an array of reservation-oriented schemes. These reservation-based schemes were launched to improve the living standards of the native tribes as well as to secure their foreseeable future.
Trudell and Marcheline coordinated with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) for staging a concert on International Women’s Day in 2003. The proceeds from the philanthropic concert were handed over to exiled Afghan women, ravaged and devastated by the protracted war in Afghanistan.
A medical checkup that Marcheline went through in 1999 established that she was suffering from ovarian carcinoma. The diagnosis inspired her to set up ‘Give Love Give Life’ along with John Trudell with the benign purpose of increasing awareness about ovarian and gynecological cancers amongst the public through music.
’Give Love Give Life’ endorsed a gig in 2004 that was held in The Roxy Theater, a nightclub situated in the ‘Sunset Strip’ in West Hollywood.
Another benefit concert was organized in the Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles in 2007 and the money collected from the recital were donated to the ‘Women’s Cancer Research Institute’ division of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Marcheline had breathed her last, a month before the concert was held.
Personal Life & Legacy
Marcheline got married to John Voight, a Hollywood actor, on 12 December 1971. The couple had two children, James Haven and Angelina Jolie, born on 11 May 1973 and 4 June 1975 respectively. James became an actor and Angelina Jolie went on to become one of Hollywood’s most illustrious actresses.
Marcheline split-up with Voight in 1976 owing to the latter’s adulterous affairs. Their separation became official in 1980.
After her divorce with John Voight, Marcheline Bertrand was in a relationship with documentary filmmaker Bill Day for and the two lived together for eleven years without getting married. Later on, she was also in a relationship with activist and musician John Trudell.
She married Tom Bessamra in 2002, and the couple remained married for five years, until her death in 2007.
Bertrand spent her last years away from the public life and after fighting ovarian and breast cancer for eight years, she breathed her last on 27 January 2007.
Marcheline Bertrand bequeathed $100, 000 for each of her grandchildren, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, and Zahara Jolie-Pitt at the time of her death. However, the rest of the three grandchildren, Vivienne, Knox, and Pax did not receive a share of her assets.
Bertrand’s sister and mother also died from cancer. She suffered two miscarriages before giving birth to James Haven and Angelina Jolie.