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Sylvia Kristel Dies -- Actress Starred in Landmark Erotic Film Series The Guardian

Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel, who played a major role in bringing erotic film into the mainstream with her performances in the “Emmanuelle” series of movies starting in 1974, has died, the U.K.’s The Guardian reports.

Kristel, 60, died after a battle with cancer and after suffering a serious stroke in June of this year, the story reports. Her agent said she died in her sleep during the night.

“Having initially worked as a model, Kristel rose to stardom in ‘Emmanuelle,’ the 1974 tale of a bored, beautiful housewife who embarks on a journey of sexual discovery,” the story reports. “Directed by Just Jaeckin, the softcore drama sent Kristel's character through an endless whirl of skinny dipping, masturbation and the leg-over antics of the Mile High Club. But Emmanuelle's hedonistic worldview struck a chord with mainstream 70s audiences. It went on to become one of the most successful French productions ever, earning upwards of $300m at the box office and famously playing at a cinema near the Arc de Triomphe for 11 years straight.”

The actress later revisited the character for “Emmanuelle 2” and “Goodbye Emmanuelle” and then moved to Hollywood to take roles in mainstream films including “The Concorde ... Airport 79.”

“Kristel would later admit that her U.S. career was blighted by heavy drinking, cocaine use and a nagging inability to shake off her most famous creation,” the report notes. “Back in France in the 1990s, she earned a living in a number of low-rent softcore spinoffs, including ‘Emmanuelle's Love,’ ‘Emmanuelle's Perfume’ and ‘Emmanuelle's Revenge.’”

She later said of her role as a pioneer of the free love era: "Emmanuelle was made in 1973. It was a golden time for people to experiment without risk of AIDS. Now one has to be so much more careful. I don't think a character like that could exist today."

sylvia-kristel.jpgSylvia Kristel in “Emmanuelle”