Jean Marais

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Jean Marais
Flickr - ...trialsanderrors - Jean Marais by Carl Van Vechten, 1949.jpg
photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1947
Jean-Alfred Villain-Marais

(1913-12-11)11 December 1913
Cherbourg, France
Died8 November 1998(1998-11-08) (aged 84)
Cannes, France
  • Actor
  • film director
  • theatre director
  • painter
  • sculptor
  • visual artist
  • writer
  • photographer
Years active1933–1996
ChildrenSerge Villain-Marais (adoptive)

Jean-Alfred Villain-Marais (11 December 1913 – 8 November 1998), known professionally as Jean Marais (French:  [ʒɑ̃ maʁɛ] ), was a French actor, film director, theatre director, painter, sculptor, visual artist, writer and photographer. He performed in over 100 films and was the muse and lover of acclaimed director Jean Cocteau. [1] In 1996, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his contributions to French Cinema. [2] [3]


Early life

A native of Cherbourg, France, Marais was a son of Alfred Emmanuel Victor Paul Villain-Marais and his wife, the former Aline Marie Louise Vassord. [4]


Early films

Marais' first role was an uncredited bit in Song of the Streets (1933) and he was in Etienne (1933). Filmmaker Marcel L'Herbier put him in The Sparrowhawk (1933) with Charles Boyer; The Scandal (1934), with Gaby Morlay; Happiness (1934) again with Boyer, The Venturer (1934) with Victor Francen; The New Men (1934) with Harry Baur; and Nights of Fire (1937) with Morlay and Francen.

Marcel Carné gave Marais a small role in Bizarre, Bizarre (1937) and the actor was in Abused Confidence (1937) by Henri Decoin; The Patriot (1938), a biopic of Paul I of Russia with Baur, directed by Maurice Tourneur; and Remontons les Champs-Élysées (1938) directed by Sacha Guitry.

Jean Cocteau

These were small roles. Marais also appeared on stage. He was in a 1937 stage production of Oedipe directed by Charles Dullin, where he was seen by Jean Cocteau. Marais impressed Cocteau, who cast the actor in his play Les Chevaliers de la table ronde . [5]

Marais appeared in Cocteau's play Les Parents terribles (1938), supposedly based on Marais' home life, which was a great success. [5]

Marais had bigger film parts in The Pavilion Burns (1941) directed by Jacques de Baroncelli, and The Four Poster (1942) directed by Roland Tual.

On stage he appeared in La Machine à ecrire (1941) by Cocteau and he directed and designed Racine's Britannicus (1941). He performed briefly with the Comédie-Française, then left acting for a time for fight in Alsace with the Free French Forces, winning the Croix de Guerre. [5]


Marais' first film as leading man was L'Éternel retour (1943), a re-telling of Tristan and Isolde set in 1940s France, written by Jean Cocteau. It was directed by Jean Delannoy and co-starred Madeleine Sologne. It was popular and made him a star. [5]

Marais was the male lead in Voyage Without Hope (1943) with Simone Renant directed by Christian-Jaque.

Christian-Jaque also directed Marais in Carmen (1944) with Viviane Romance. This was one of the most popular films in France when it was released. [6] [7]

Beauty and the Beast and Jean Cocteau

Marais became a star in Beauty and the Beast (1946), written and directed by Cocteau. [8]

He performed in a popular revival of Cocteau's 1938 play Les Parents terribles on stage.

Marais' next films were The Royalists (1947), a historical adventure film directed by Henri Calef from a novel by Balzac; and Ruy Blas (1948) with Danielle Darrieux, from a play by Victor Hugo and script by Cocteau, directed by Pierre Billon.

Marais' second film with Cocteau as director was The Eagle with Two Heads (1948) with Edwige Feuillère. He did To the Eyes of Memory (1948) with Michele Morgan for director Jean Delannoy, a big commercial success, then Les Parents Terribles (1949) for Cocteau again. [7] [9]

Marais was reunited with Delannoy for The Secret of Mayerling (1949), about the Mayerling incident. He did Orpheus (1950) with Cocteau, which was soon regarded as a classic.

Post-Cocteau stardom

Marais and Morgan were in The Glass Castle (1950) directed by René Clément. Marais did two films for Yves Allegret: Miracles Only Happen Once (1951) with Alida Valli and Leathernose (1952).

Marais was in L'appel du destin (1953) for Georges Lacombe; The Lovers of Midnight (1953) for Roger Richebé; Voice of Silence (1953), an Italian film from G. W. Pabst; Inside a Girls' Dormitory (1953); Julietta (1953) for Marc Allegret with Dany Robin and Jeanne Moreau; the all-star Boum sur Paris (1953); and The Faith Healer (1954).

Marais starred in a version of The Count of Monte Cristo (1954) that was hugely popular. [7] He then made some all-star Guitry films, Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954), Napoleon (1955) (playing Charles Tristan, marquis de Montholon) and If Paris Were Told to Us (1956); School for Love (1955) for Allegret, with a young Brigitte Bardot, a box office flop; Kiss of Fire (1956) for Robert Darène; and The Whole Town Accuses (1956).

Marais did Elena and Her Men (1956) with Ingrid Bergman and Mel Ferrer for Jean Renoir. He followed it with Typhoon Over Nagasaki (1957) with Darrieux; S.O.S. Noronha (1957); White Nights (1957) for Luchino Visconti, with Maria Schell and Marcello Mastroianni; Girl in His Pocket (1958); King on Horseback (1958); Every Day Has Its Secret (1958); and the all-star Life Together (1958).

Swashbuckler star

Marais starred in the swashbuckler Le Bossu (1959), appearing alongside Bourvil and directed by André Hunebelle which was a mammoth hit launched a new stage of his career. He was reunited with Cocteau for Testament of Orpheus (1960). He played Lazare Carnot in the all-star The Battle of Austerlitz (1960), then was reunited with Bourvil and Hunebelle in another swashbuckler, Captain Blood (1960). [10]

He did Princess of Cleves (1961) for Delannoy with Marina Vlady based on a script by Cocteau. It was back to swashbuckling with Captain Fracasse (1961) for director Pierre Gaspard-Huit, and Blood on His Sword (1961) for Hunebelle.

Marais had a supporting role in Napoléon II, l'aiglon (1962) then did some films in Italy: Romulus and the Sabines (1962) with Roger Moore, and Pontius Pilate (1962), where Marais played the title role alongside Jeanne Crain and Basil Rathbone.

He was reunited with Hunebelle for The Mysteries of Paris (1962), then did The Iron Mask (1962) for Decoin.

Spy films and Fantomas

The success of the James Bond films saw Marais cast in an espionage movie, The Reluctant Spy (1963) for director Jean-Charles Dudrumet. He did a comedy, Friend of the Family (1964), then had a huge box office success with Fantomas (1964), playing the villain and hero, under the direction of Hunebelle. [7]

In 1963, he was a member of the jury at the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival. [11]

Marais did Ivory Coast Adventure (1965) directed by Christian-Jaque; Killer Spy (1965), directed by Georges Lampin; a sequel to The Reluctant Spy; and Operation Double Cross (1965), a spy film; then a Fantomas sequel, Fantomas Unleashed (1965).

He played Simon Templar in The Saint Lies in Wait (1966) for Christian-Jaque, and a French general in Seven Guys and a Gal (1967), directed by Bernard Borderie. Fantomas vs. Scotland Yard (1967) was the third and final Fantomas, with Hunebelle.

Marais went on to appear in Le Paria (1969); Renaud et Armide (1969), based on a play by Cocteau; and Le jouet criminel (1969), a short.


After 1970, Marais preferred concentrating on his stage work, and his movie performances became fewer.

His film credits included La provocation (1970); Donkey Skin (1970) with Catherine Deneuve, directed by Jacques Demy; and Robert Macaire (1971) for French TV.

He was in the miniseries Karatekas and co (1973) and Joseph Balsamo (1973), and did the TV movies Vaincre à Olympie (1977) and Les Parents terribles (1980), based on the play by Cocteau.

He directed stage productions of Le bel indifférent (1975) and Les Parents terribles. He took the latter to London in 1978. [12]

Later career

His later work included Emmenez-moi au théâtre ; Parking (1985) directed by Demy; Lien de parenté (1986); Les enfants du naufrageur (1992); Dis Papa, raconte-moi là-bas (1993); Les Misérables (1995 film), directed by Claude Lelouch; and Stealing Beauty (1996), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. [10]

He performed on stage until his 80s, also working as a sculptor. His sculpture Le passe muraille (The Walker Through Walls) can be seen in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris. [13]

In 1985, he was the head of the jury at the 35th Berlin International Film Festival. He was featured in the 1995 documentary Screening at the Majestic, which is included on the 2003 DVD release of the restored print of Beauty and the Beast. [14] Marais appears on the cover sleeve of The Smiths single "This Charming Man". [15]

Personal life

Marais was Jean Cocteau's lover from 1937 to 1947, his muse and longtime friend. [16] After Cocteau's death, Marais wrote a memoir of Cocteau, L'Inconcevable Jean Cocteau, attributing authorship to "Cocteau-Marais". He also wrote an autobiography, Histoires de ma vie, published in 1975. From 1948 until 1959, his companion was the American dancer George Reich. [4] He is rumored to have been among the lovers of Umberto II of Italy. [17]

In spite of being mainly homosexual, in 1942 Marais met and had a two-year liaison with actress Mila Parély, with whom he later performed in Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. [18] [19] They remained lifelong friends, and since 1976 Parély managed Marais' pottery shop in Paris.

In the early 1960s, Marais adopted a young man, Serge Ayala, who eventually took the name Serge Villain-Marais. This adopted son, who became a singer and an actor, committed suicide in 2012 at age 69 after an inheritance litigation and bouts of loneliness and depression. [20] [21]


Marais died from cardiovascular disease in Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes in 1998. He is interred in the Village cemetery at Vallauris, near Antibes. [22]

The character Tragicomix, in the comic book Asterix the Legionary of 1967, has his characteristics based on Jean Marais.

His life story became the inspiration for the 1980 François Truffaut film The Last Metro . [23]

In 1983, a still shot of him from Jean Cocteau's 1950 film Orphée was featured on the cover of The Smiths' This Charming Man .


1933 On the Streets Victor TrivasUncredited
L'Épervier Marcel L'Herbier
Étienne Jean Tarride
1934 The Scandal the liftboy Marcel L'Herbier
Le Bonheur Un journalisteUncredited
L'Aventurier the young workerUncredited
1936 The New Men the office clerk
1937 Nuits de feu Uncredited
Bizarre, Bizarre Marcel Carné Uncredited
Abus de confiance Marais Henri Decoin
1938 The Patriot Maurice Tourneur
Remontons les Champs-ÉlyséesL'abbé-précepteurSacha Guitry
1941 The Pavilion Burns Daniel Jacques de Baroncelli
1942 Le Lit à colonnes Rémi Bonvent Roland Tual
Carmen Christian-Jaque
1943 The Eternal Return Patrice Jean Delannoy
Voyage Without Hope Alain Ginestier Christian-Jaque
1944 Carmen Don José
1946 Beauty and the Beast The Beast / The Prince / Avenant Jean Cocteau
1947 The Royalists the Marquis de Montauran Henri Calef
1948 Ruy Blas Ruy BlasPierre Billon
L'Aigle à deux têtes StanislasJean Cocteau
To the Eyes of Memory Jacques ForesterJean Delannoy
Les Parents terribles MichelJean Cocteau
1949 The Secret of Mayerling Archduke RodolpheJean Delannoy
1950 Orphée OrphéeJean Cocteau
The Glass Castle Rémy Marsay René Clément
CoriolanJean Cocteau
1951 Les Miracles n'ont lieu qu'une fois Jérôme Yves Allégret
1952 Leathernose Roger de Tainchebraye
1952 L'Amour, Madame Himself Gilles Grangier cameo appearance, Uncredited
1953 The Call of Destiny Lorenzo LombardiGeorges Lacombe
The Lovers of Midnight Marcel DulacRoger Richebé
Voice of Silence the former maquis Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Dortoir des grandes Désiré Marco Henri Decoin
Julietta André Landrecourt Marc Allégret
Boum sur Paris HimselfMaurice de Canonge
Le Guérisseur Pierre Lachaux-Laurent Yves Ciampi
1954 The Count of Monte Cristo Edmond Dantès / Comte de Monte-CristoRobert Vernay
Royal Affairs in Versailles Louis XV of France Sacha Guitry
1955 Napoléon Montholon Sacha Guitry
Futures vedettes Éric WalterMarc Allégret
1956 Si Paris nous était conté Francis I of France Sacha Guitry
Goubbiah, mon amour GoubbiahRobert Darène
The Whole Town Accuses François NéracClaude Boissol
Elena et les hommes Général François RollanJean Renoir
1957 Typhoon Over Nagasaki Pierre MarsacYves Ciampi
S.O.S. Noronha Frédéric CoulibaudGeorges Rouquier
Le Notti bianche the tenant Luchino Visconti
Amour de poche Jérôme Nordman Pierre Kast
1958 La Tour, prends garde ! Henri La TourGeorges Lampin
Chaque jour a son secret Xavier LezcanoClaude Boissol
Life Together Teddy Brooks Clément Duhour
1959 Le Bossu Henri de Lagardère André Hunebelle
1960 Le Testament d'Orphée OedipeJean CocteauUncredited
Austerlitz Lazare Carnot Abel Gance
Le Capitan François de CapestanAndré Hunebelle
1961 La Princesse de Clèves Le Prince de ClèvesJean Delannoy
Captain Fracasse Capitaine Fracasse Pierre Gaspard-Huit
Le Miracle des loups Robert de NeuvilleAndré Hunebelle
Napoléon II l'Aiglon General de MontholonClaude Boissol
L'Enlèvement des Sabines Mars Richard Pottier
1962 Ponce Pilate Pontius Pilate Gian Paolo Callegari
The Mysteries of Paris Rodolphe de SambreuilAndré Hunebelle
Le Masque de fer d'Artagnan Henri Decoin
1963 L'honorable Stanislas, agent secret Stanislas Evariste DuboisJean-Charles Dudrumet
1964 Cherchez l'idole Un invité au spectacle de Sylvie VartanMichel BoisrondUncredited
Patate Noël Carradine Robert Thomas
Fantômas Fantômas / FandorAndré Hunebelle
1965 Le gentleman de Cocody Jean-Luc Hervé de la TommerayeChristian-Jaque
Thomas l'imposteur NarratorGeorges FranjuVoice
Pleins feux sur Stanislas Stanislas Evariste DuboisJean-Charles Dudrumet
Train d'enfer Antoine DonadieuGilles Grangier
Fantômas se déchaîne Fantômas / FandorAndré Hunebelle
1966 Le Saint prend l'affût Simon Templar Christian-Jaque
1967 Sept hommes et une garce Dorgeval Bernard Borderie
Fantômas contre Scotland Yard Fantômas / FandorAndré Hunebelle
1969 Le Paria ManuClaude Carliez
1970 La Provocation Christian André Charpak
Le Jouet criminel the nameless protagonistAdolfo Arrieta
Peau d'âne "The first King"Jacques Demy
1973 Joseph Balsamo  [ fr ] Alessandro Cagliostro André Hunebelle7 episodes
1976 Chantons sous l'Occupation HimselfAndré Halimi
1977 Vaincre à Olympie MenesthéeMichel SubielaTV movie
1980 Les Parents terribles GeorgesYves-André HubertTV movie
1982Emmenez-moi au théâtre George Bernard Shaw Alexandre TartaEpisode: "Cher menteur"
1985 Parking Hades Jacques Demy
1986 Lien de parenté Victor BlaiseWilly Rameau
1992 Les Enfants du naufrageur Marc-AntoineJérôme Foulon
1993Dis Papa, raconte-moi là-basGuy Gilles
1995 Les Misérables Monseigneur Myriel Claude Lelouch
1996 Stealing Beauty Monsieur Guillaume Bernardo Bertolucci (final film role)
1997 Milice, film noir HimselfAlain FerrariDocumentary
1999 Luchino Visconti HimselfCarlo LizzaniDocumentary

See also

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