Louis Jourdan

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Louis Jourdan
Louis Jourdan in Madame Bovary trailer.JPG
Jourdan in Madame Bovary trailer, 1949
Louis Robert Gendre

(1921-06-19)19 June 1921
Marseille, France
Died14 February 2015(2015-02-14) (aged 93)
Years active1939–1992
Berthe Frédérique "Quique" Jourdan
(m. 1946;died 2014)

Louis Jourdan (born Louis Robert Gendre; 19 June 1921 – 14 February 2015) was a French film and television actor. He was known for his suave roles in several Hollywood films, including Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), Gigi (1958), The Best of Everything (1959), The V.I.P.s (1963) and Octopussy (1983). He played Dracula in the 1977 BBC television production Count Dracula .


Early life

Jourdan was born Louis Robert Gendre in Marseille, France, in 1921, [1] one of three sons of Yvonne (née Jourdan) and Henry Gendre, a hotel owner. [2] He was educated in France, Turkey, and the UK, and studied acting at the École Dramatique. While there, he began acting on the professional stage, where he was brought to the attention of director Marc Allégret, who hired him to work as an assistant camera operator on Entrée des Artistes (The Curtain Rises). [3]

Allegret then cast Jourdan in what should have been his first movie, Le Corsaire in 1939 opposite Charles Boyer. Filming was interrupted by the Second World War and was never resumed. [4]

World War II

Jourdan was too young for army service and was hired by Marcel L'Herbier to appear in La Comédie du bonheur (1940) in Rome. He was making Untel Père et Fils in that city when Italy declared war on France. He returned to France, and appeared in Premier rendez-vous (1941) with Danielle Darrieux, shot in Paris. He spent a year on a work gang. [4] Jourdan was ordered to make German propaganda films, which he refused to do, and fled to join his family in unoccupied France. [4]

There he started making movies again, ten films in two years. [4] They included several for Allegret: Parade en sept nuits (1941); L'Arlésienne (1942) with Raimu, The Beautiful Adventure (1942); Les Petites du quai aux fleurs (1944); Twilight (1944). He was in The Heart of a Nation (1943) with Raimu; La Vie de Bohème (1945).

His father was arrested by the Gestapo; months later he escaped, and joined the French Resistance, along with his family. [4] "I was given work to do and I did it", said Jourdan later of his time in the resistance. "I worked on illegal leaflets, helping to print and distribute them." [4] After the liberation of France in 1945, he returned to Paris with his childhood sweetheart, Berthe Frédérique (nicknamed "Quique").

Hollywood career

David O. Selznick

Cited by author James McKay as the "epitome of the suave Continental", [5] Jourdan was spotted in a French film by a talent scout working for David O. Selznick, who offered the actor a contract in March 1946. [6]

His first American film was The Paradine Case (1947) starring Gregory Peck. The movie is a drama directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who did not want Jourdan cast as the valet in the film. [7] [8] He appeared in a theatre production of Ghosts in Los Angeles. [9]

Jourdan frequently argued with Selznick, who put him on suspension a number of times for refusing roles. [10]

Selznick announced Jourdan and Alida Valli for Rupert of Hentzau but the film was not made. [11] Neither was Trilby which Selznick said Jourdan would appear in with Valli and Rossano Brazzi [12] or If This Be My Heart with Valli and Robert Mitchum. [13]

With Joan Fontaine, Jourdan starred in the Max Ophüls film Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). David Thomson in 2010 observed how his performance as Stefan Brand altered as the character aged over the extended period of the film's narrative: "I notice how his way of talking has changed. The younger Stefan was boyish, eager and open. Ten years later, the man is filled with self-loathing and fake ironies." [14] It was a "signature performance" from Jourdan, Thomson wrote in Have You Seen?, he was "handsome yet a touch empty; romantic yet not entirely there." John Houseman, the film's producer, "felt he lacked sex appeal, but that shortcoming serves very well as his defect of memory," a significant element of the film's plot. [15] In Hollywood, Jourdan became friends with several stars who shared his love of the game of croquet.[ citation needed ]

Enterprise borrowed him for No Minor Vices (1948), a box office flop. It was released by MGM, who borrowed Jourdan to appear in Madame Bovary (1949).

Selznick announced him for The Frenchman and the Bobbysoxer a sequel to The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer [16] but it was not made. Selznick sold his interest in Jourdan for one film to Warner Bros. [17]

All Jourdan's Hollywood films had lost money. He decided to buy out his contract with Selznick for $50,000. [18]


At 20th Century Fox, Jourdan played the lead in a remake of Bird of Paradise (1951). The studio kept him on to appear in Anne of the Indies (1951), directed by Jacques Tourneur. He was announced for the romantic male lead in the Fox remake of Les Miserables [19] but ended up not appearing in the film.

He was in a comedy, The Happy Time (1952). He was reunited with Joan Fontaine for Decameron Nights (1953) then returned home to France to make Rue de l'Estrapade (1953).

Jourdan with Felicia Montealegre (1955) Felicia Montealegre Louis Jourdan 1955.JPG
Jourdan with Felicia Montealegre (1955)

After appearing in Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), Jourdan made his Broadway début in the lead role in the Billy Rose stage adaptation of André Gide's novel, The Immoralist .

He returned to the Great White Way for a short run in 1955, and also that year he made his American TV début as Inspector Beaumont in the TV series Paris Precinct . In 1956, he appeared in the film The Swan playing the role of "Dr Nicholas Agi" along with Grace Kelly and Sir Alec Guinness for MGM. This was Kelly's last film, and lost money at the box office. More popular was Julie (1956) a thriller where Jourdan tormented Doris Day. [20]

He returned to France to play the male lead in The Bride Is Much Too Beautiful (1956) with Brigitte Bardot as the lead actress, and Escapade (1957). In Britain he appeared in a swashbuckler, Dangerous Exile (1957).

Jourdan appeared in his biggest hit to date playing the romantic lead alongside Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier in the film version of the novella by Colette, Gigi (1958). This film won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He enjoyed another hit with The Best of Everything (1959), an all star romance in the vein of Three Coins in the Fountain. He also appeared in a variety show on TV, An Evening with Louis Jourdan. [21]

Jourdan was going to follow it in a remake of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in England for Terence Fisher. "It's a terrific change of pace for me," he said. [22] However he did not appear in the final film, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll .

Jourdan co-starred with Frank Sinatra, Chevalier and Shirley MacLaine in the musical Can-Can (1960). He travelled to Italy to appear in a peplum, Amazons of Rome (1961). Then it was back to France to star in a version of The Count of Monte Cristo (1961), a massive hit in France. Disorder (1962) was an Italian-French comedy, Mathias Sandorf (1963) was based on a novel by Jules Verne.

For MGM, he made The V.I.P.s (1963), another all star melodrama, and a big hit.

Credit page from Playbill for Boston tryout of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965) ClearPlaybillBoston.jpg
Credit page from Playbill for Boston tryout of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965)

Jourdan also sang in the Alan Jay Lerner/Barton Lane stage musical, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965), at least during its out-of-town tryout at the Colonial Theatre in Boston. [23] He was replaced as leading man by John Cullum before the show reached Broadway.

He supported Ann-Margret in Made in Paris (1966) for MGM, then returned to Europe: The Sultans (1967), To Commit a Murder (1967), Cervantes (1967). To Die in Paris (1968) was a US TV movie and A Flea in Her Ear (1968) a Hollywood financed farce.

There were more TV movies: Fear No Evil (1969), Run a Crooked Mile (1970), Ritual of Evil (1970), The Great American Beauty Contest (1973). In later years, Jourdan also appeared on television, including 1977's Count Dracula for the BBC and as a murderous chef in the 1978 Columbo episode "Murder Under Glass". [24]

Later career

Jourdan later played Anton Arcane in the movie Swamp Thing (1982) and in its sequel The Return of Swamp Thing (1989).

During the 1970s, Jourdan recorded a series of spoken word albums of the Babar the Elephant books that were released by Caedmon Records.

In 1983, Jourdan played the villainous Kamal Khan in the James Bond movie Octopussy . He said at the time he earned most of his money over the past ten years doing commercials:

I take them so seriously that I participate in the original concept and the actual writing. After all, whatever an actor is doing, he's a salesman, so why not commercials? I must confess I love the theater best, though. I've never done a play I didn't like, but one often does movies just to keep functioning. They're less important to me than plays. [25]

In 1985, he appeared in a stage revival of Gigi . [26]

He played the role of French educator, historian and Baron, Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), in The First Olympics: Athens 1896 , a May 1984 NBC TV (2-part) mini-series about the 1896 Summer Olympics and the American team member/discus thrower from Baltimore, Robert Garrett (1875-1961). His last film role was eight years later in Year of the Comet (1992).

Personal life

On 11 March 1946, Jourdan married Berthe Frédérique. The marriage produced one child, Louis Henry Jourdan, born on 6 October 1951. [27] Louis Henry Jourdan died of a narcotics overdose at the age of 29 on 12 May 1981; [28] his body was buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. [28] Berthe Jourdan died in 2014. [29]

After his retirement from acting in 1992 Jourdan lived in Los Angeles. In July 2010 he was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, an honor that he received accompanied by friends, including Sidney Poitier and Kirk Douglas. [30] [31]

Jourdan has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6153 and 6445 Hollywood Boulevard. [29]


Jourdan died at his home in Beverly Hills on 14 February 2015 at the age of 93. [29] His body was buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[ citation needed ]


1939 Le Corsaire (The Pirate)Film never completed
1940 La Comédie du bonheur Fédor(Italy: Ecco la felicità) (England Comedy of Happiness)
1941 Her First Affair Pierre Rougemont(France: Premier rendez-vous)
Parade en sept nuits Freddy Richard, le clown
1942 L'Arlésienne Frédéri
The Beautiful Adventure André d'Éguzon
1943 The Heart of a Nation ChristianUncredited
1944 Les Petites du quai aux fleurs Francis
Félicie Nanteuil (US: Twilight)Robert de Ligny
1945 La Vie de Boheme Rodolphe / Rodolfo
1947 The Paradine Case André Latour, Paradine's Valet
1948 Letter from an Unknown Woman Stefan Brand
No Minor Vices Octavio Quaglini
1949 Madame Bovary Rodolphe Boulanger
1951 Bird of Paradise André Laurence
Anne of the Indies Captain Pierre François La Rochelle
1952 The Happy Time Uncle Desmond Bonnard
1953 Paris Precinct Insp. BeaumontTV (15 episodes, 1953–1955)
Decameron Nights Giovanni Boccaccio / Paganino / Giulio / Don Bertando
Rue de l'Estrapade Henri Laurent
1954 Three Coins in the Fountain Prince Dino di Cessi
1956 The Swan Dr. Nicholas Agi
Julie Lyle Benton
The Bride Is Much Too Beautiful Michel
1957 Love in the Afternoon NarratorUncredited
Escapade Frank Raphaël
Dangerous Exile Duke Philippe de Beauvais
1958 Gigi Gaston LachailleNominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
2nd Place – Golden Laurel Award for Top Male Musical Performance
1959 The Best of Everything David Savage
1960 Can-Can Philipe Forrestier
1961 Le Vergini di Roma Drusco
The Count of Monte Cristo Edmond Dantes
1962 Disorder Tom
Leviathan  [ fr ]Paul
1963 Mathias Sandorf Le comte Mathias Sandorf
Irma la Douce NarratorUncredited
The V.I.P.s Marc Champselle
1966 Made in Paris Marc Fontaine
Les Sultans Laurent
1967 To Commit a Murder Charles Beaulieuaka Peau d'espion
Cervantes Cardinal Acquaviva
1968 To Die in Paris Colonel Bertine WestrexTV
A Flea in Her Ear Henri Tournel
1969 Fear No Evil David SorellTV
Run a Crooked Mile Richard StuartTV
1970 Ritual of Evil David SorellTV
1973 The Great American Beauty Contest Ralph DupreeTV
1975 Piange Il Telefono Alberto Landi
1975 The Count of Monte Cristo De VillefortTV
1976 L'hippopotamours Le camionneur
1977 The Man in the Iron Mask D'ArtagnanTV
Silver Bears Prince di Siracusa
The More It Goes, the Less It Goes Paul Tango
Count Dracula Count DraculaTV
1978 Columbo Paul GerardTV episode "Murder Under Glass"
1979 The French Atlantic Affair Captain Charles GirodtTV
1980 Charlie's Angels Dr. RedmondTV episode "Nips and Tucks"
1982 Romance Theatre : Gamble on LoveHostTV
Romance Theatre : Bayou Romance HostTV; uncredited
Swamp Thing Dr. Anton Arcane
1983 Octopussy Kamal Khan
Double Deal Peter Sterling
1984 Cover Up George LeMareTV
1984 The First Olympics: Athens, 1896 Pierre de Coubertin TV
1986 Beverly Hills Madam Douglas CorbinTV
Romance Theatre : Escape to Love HostTV
1987 Grand Larceny Charles Grand
1988 Counterforce Kassar
1989 The Return of Swamp Thing Dr. Anton Arcane
1992 Year of the Comet Philippe(final film role)

Select theatre credits

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  1. Hutchings, David (14 January 1985). "Louis Jourdan Takes on the Chevalier Role in Gigi and Proves He Remembers It Well". People . Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  2. Louis Jourdan profile, FilmReference.com; accessed 5 June 2014.
  3. Louis Jourdan – 20s and 30s, Louisjourdan.net, accessed 26 January 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Louis Jourdan's War Service". Lewiston Evening Journal . 5 March 1960. Retrieved 21 January 2014. reprinted
  5. McKay 2010, p. 101.
  6. FRENCH FILM STAR SIGNED BY SELZNICK New York Times 5 Mar 1946: 21.
  7. Thomson 2002, p. 448.
  8. Hare, William (2007). Hitchcock and the Methods of Suspense. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 140. ISBN   9780786425600.
  9. DRAMA AND FILM: Wilde Gets Gay Role; Stage Upturn Historic Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 23 June 1947: A2.
  10. Garner, Rex (1960). "Jourdan the Glamorous Gaul". Coronet . Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  11. SELZNICK PLANS 'RUPERT' REMAKE By THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 18 Feb 1947: 30.
  12. BRYAN FOY RESIGNS POST AT EAGLE LION By THOMAS F. BRAD New York Times 07 Apr 1948: 29.
  13. SELZNICK IS NAMED IN $2,175,000 SUIT By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 22 July 1948: 26.
  14. Thomson, David (28 January 2010). "Why you should see Max Ophüls's reissued 1948 classic". The Guardian .
  15. Thomson 2008, p. 466.
  16. HEDDA HOPPER: Louis Jourdan Cools Heels, Awaits Boss Los Angeles Times 11 Oct 1949: A6.
  18. Here Comes Mr. Jourdan--Looks Like He'll Stay! Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 27 May 1951: D1.
  19. Drama: Debra Paget, Jourdan Play Hugo Romancers Los Angeles Times 9 Nov 1951: B8
  20. Drama: 'Designing Woman' Sure for Kelly, Says Schary; Jourdan Star With Day Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 7 Feb 1956: B7.
  21. LOUIS JOURDAN The Washington Post, Times Herald 08 Nov 1959: AW9.
  22. Entertainment Films Stage Music: Louis Jourdan Will Star in 'Mr. Jekyll' Los Angeles Times 15 Oct 1959: C12.
  23. JOURDAN LIVING DOWN CHARMER IMAGE Glover, William. Los Angeles Times 12 Sep 1965: N34.
  24. Louis Jourdan to Guest on Colombo Los Angeles Times 19 Oct 1977: f24.
  25. LOUIS JOURDAN MEETS 007 Richard Freedman Field News Service. Boston Globe 11 Jan 1983: 1.
  26. Louis jourdan to star in local 'Gigi' staging Los Angeles Times 21 Apr 1985: s5
  27. "Louis Jourdan". nndb.com. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  28. 1 2 "Louis Jourdan Jr. Is Found Dead". The New York Times . 14 May 1981. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  29. 1 2 3 Dagan, Carmel (February 15, 2015). "Louis Jourdan Dead; French actor starred in Octopussy, Gigi – Variety". Variety. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  30. A day with the French Ambassador on YouTube; retrieved 5 September 2010.
  31. "Louis Jourdan reçoit la Légion d'honneur". Ouest-France (in French). 26 January 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.