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Jean-Louis Barrault

Jean-Louis Barrault

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Also Known As: Died: January 22, 1994
Born: September 8, 1910 Cause of Death: heart failure
Birth Place: France Profession: actor, director, teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Highly gifted French stage actor whose gentle features, flexible voice, and sensitive, skilled mime enhanced slightly over two dozen films from the mid-1930s through the late 60s. Devoted primarily to his stage work, especially acting and directing for the Comedie Francaise and for his own company, he nevertheless performed for such directors as Abel Gance ("The Life and Loves of Beethoven" 1936), G.W. Pabst ("Mademoiselle Docteur" 1937), Sacha Guitry ("Pearls of the Crown" 1937), Jean Delannoy ("La part de l'ombre/Blind Desire" 1945), Max Ophuls ("La ronde" 1950) and Jean Renoir ("Le testament du Dr. Cordelier" 1960, in an especially bizarre and delightful Jekyll-and-Hyde performance).Barrault's most brilliant film performance--and certainly his best remembered--was in the leading role of Marcel Carne's superb "Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise" (1945), playing a mime whose love goes largely unrequited in this moving and graceful meditation on performance. Barrault's sensitivity was also very well utilized when he played Hector Berlioz in Christian-Jaque's fine, music-filled biopic, "La symphonie fantastique" (1942). His film work was less frequent after the early 1950s but in later years...

Highly gifted French stage actor whose gentle features, flexible voice, and sensitive, skilled mime enhanced slightly over two dozen films from the mid-1930s through the late 60s. Devoted primarily to his stage work, especially acting and directing for the Comedie Francaise and for his own company, he nevertheless performed for such directors as Abel Gance ("The Life and Loves of Beethoven" 1936), G.W. Pabst ("Mademoiselle Docteur" 1937), Sacha Guitry ("Pearls of the Crown" 1937), Jean Delannoy ("La part de l'ombre/Blind Desire" 1945), Max Ophuls ("La ronde" 1950) and Jean Renoir ("Le testament du Dr. Cordelier" 1960, in an especially bizarre and delightful Jekyll-and-Hyde performance).

Barrault's most brilliant film performance--and certainly his best remembered--was in the leading role of Marcel Carne's superb "Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise" (1945), playing a mime whose love goes largely unrequited in this moving and graceful meditation on performance. Barrault's sensitivity was also very well utilized when he played Hector Berlioz in Christian-Jaque's fine, music-filled biopic, "La symphonie fantastique" (1942). His film work was less frequent after the early 1950s but in later years included the English-language film "Chappaqua" (1966), where he rose above the film's groovy antics, and Ettore Scola's fine "La Nuit de Varennes/That Night at Varennes" (1982), where he performed, with his usual aplomb, as a randy writer during the French Revolution. Barrault's death in early 1994 was a national event in France, where he was justly acclaimed as one of the finest actors of the century. His wife was celebrated actress and stage company co-founder Madeleine Renaud and his niece was actress Marie-Christine Barrault.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
3.
 Nuit de Varennes, La (1982) Nicolas Edme Restif De La Bretonne
4.
 Carne: l'Homme a la Camera (1980) Commentator
5.
 Chappaqua (1967) Dr. Benoit
6.
 The Longest Day (1962) Father Roulland
7.
 Testament du Dr Cordelier, Le (1961) Dr Cordelier; Opale
8.
 Carmelites, The (1960) Mime
9.
 Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954) Francois Fenelon
10.
 La Ronde (1950)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Worked as a teacher and, for a time, studied art
1931:
Paris stage debut, "Volpone"
1935:
Debut as stage director
1935:
Film acting debut in "Les Beaux Jours"
1936:
First film with director Marcel Carne, "Jenny"
1940:
Acted and directed at the Comedie Francaise
1947:
Co-founded Renaud-Barrault Paris stage company with his wife
1959:
Named director of the Theatre de France
1960:
Returned to films after a notable absence to play a role in "Dialogue des Carmelites"
1962:
Debut in English-language film, the all-star war epic "The Longest Day
1968:
Removed from directorship of the Theatre de France for siding with French students and workers during famous riots of May, 1968
1988:
Final film appearance in "La Lumiere du Lac/The Light of the Lake"
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Notes

Barrault was the first in France to use filmed sequences as part of a theatrical production (in Claudel's "Christophe Colomb", film sequences directed by Michel Boyer).

"Face, voice, body--there's nothing mean about Barrault; he acts with the lot. His lean, bony features, aided by a touch of greasepaint, have a register, even when in apparent repose, that ranges from the noble to the dissolute, from smugness to suffering. Vocally, he can go all the way from quiet authority to glass-shattering hysteria. But it's the way he uses his physique that makes him something special ... I can't imagine any role in which he'd be ridiculous." --Bob Baker in Film Dope, Number 2, March 1973.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Madeleine Renaud. Actor. Born February 21, 1903; founding partner of Renaud-Barrault Paris theater company with her husband.

Family close complete family listing

niece:
Marie-Christine Barrault. Actor. Starred in "Ma Nuit chez Maud/My Night at Maud's" (1969).

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