Site hosted by Build your free website today!

The Making of a White Liberal: Part Five

In 1972 Jean Seberg met Dennis Berry, the son of director John Berry. Director John Berry was the son of Jewish immigrants to America, and his birth name was Jak Szold. He would later flee the United States due to his identification as a Communist during the McCarthy investigations and settled in France. His son Dennis spoke "fractured English with a Brooklyn accent." Less than three weeks after they met, Jean and Dennis flew to Las Vegas and married. Dennis was seven years younger than Jean and was practically broke. Few approved of the marriage.123

Dennis made a poor impression on the Seberg family when he and Jean visited Marshalltown for Christmas. "He was very outspoken," Velma Odegaard said. "He took my brother's car and wanted to drive around town. He came back and was so unhappy - sort of grumbling. He said 'I have found out there are absolutely no poor people in this town! No poor people!'4

By 1977 their marriage was becoming unbearable. They began to argue frequently and this resulted in physical fights.5 A co-star in one of Jean's films said "He loved her money more than he loved her." Even his father made a habit of making expensive long-distance telephone calls whenever he was at Jean's apartment. Dennis began arguing that Jean should move with him to the United States, and in 1977 she finally threw him out.6 They never officially divorced, and Jean remained married to Dennis until her death a few years later.

It was during her marriage to Dennis and their subsequent separation that Jean's mental problems began to develop into a serious handicap. She was taken into multiple clinics, sometimes those which kept the insane homeless who had nowhere else to go. She had also begun consuming near-lethal quantities of liquor.7

Jean met Ahmed Hasni, a nineteen year-old Algerian, in 1979. Hasni attempted to get her away from alcohol and cigarettes, and had helped her prepare for a film role. But his influence was also domineering and abusive. Hasni took control of what little money Jean had left and began beating her.8 He would be the last person who saw Jean alive.

The official story of her death is that she left her apartment early on August 30, 1979 wearing nothing but a sheet, parked her car, then climbed in the back seat and swallowed a lethal overdose of pills. Her autopsy revealed that she had enough alcohol in her body to induce a coma in even the hardest of drinkers. Strangely, there were no liquor bottles in her car. Also, Jean had left her eyeglasses in her apartment, and her friends stated that she could not have driven without them.9 Nonetheless, the death was officially ruled a suicide, and Jean was buried in France.

Jean's second husband Romain strongly discouraged Jean's parents from attending her funeral. The family accepted his demands rather than cause a scene by appearing. Jean and Romain's son Diego never forgave his grandparents and he would refuse to communicate with them for years at a time. Many years later Diego admitted, "My father had influenced me against them. I broke off with them because they didn't come to the funeral." Diego never knew, nor did he think to ask, why they never came.10

Continue to Conclusions...

1. John Berry's obituary
2. John Berry at S.F. film festival
3. McGee, p.229
4. Ibid., p.233
5. Ibid., p.262
6. Ibid., p.264
7. Richards, p.334
8. McGee, p.275
9. Ibid., p.299
10. Ibid., p.292