Jean Gabin


Actor
Jean Gabin

About

Also Known As
Jean-Alexis Gabin Moncorge
Birth Place
Paris, FR
Born
May 17, 1904
Died
November 15, 1976
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

One of France's most celebrated actors, Jean Gabin was the tragic romantic hero of such pre-World War II dramas as "Marie Chapdelaine" (1934), "Pépé le Moko" (1937) and "Grand Illusion" (1937), and later, an aging, worldly presence in such post-war hits as "Touchez pas au grisbi" (Don't Touch the Loot") (1954) and "The Sicilian Clan" (1969). Early in his career, Gabin earned fame on the ...

Photos & Videos

Pepe le moko - Movie Poster
Grand Illusion - Movie Poster
Le jour se leve - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Gaby Basset
Wife
Actor. Married in 1925; divorced in 1933.

Biography

One of France's most celebrated actors, Jean Gabin was the tragic romantic hero of such pre-World War II dramas as "Marie Chapdelaine" (1934), "Pépé le Moko" (1937) and "Grand Illusion" (1937), and later, an aging, worldly presence in such post-war hits as "Touchez pas au grisbi" (Don't Touch the Loot") (1954) and "The Sicilian Clan" (1969). Early in his career, Gabin earned fame on the stage with an imitation of Maurice Chevalier, which in retrospect, seemed an almost foregone conclusion, as both men embodied opposing sides of the French male persona as seen through the filter of motion pictures: Chevalier the charming bon vivant, and Gabin the brooding, lustful and reckless anti-hero. Both performers continued to personify those archetypes in their later years, but Gabin brought profound emotional depth to his lions in winter. The sins of the past were never far from his characters, which were often forced to violently confront their histories as they returned to bedevil their present lives. A treasured figure in the history of French cinema, Jean Gabin set the bar for leading men in his native country and elsewhere for generations.

Born Jean-Alexis Moncorgé on May 17, 1904 in Paris, France, Jean Gabin was raised by his parents, both cabaret entertainers, in the village of Mériel, in Val d'Oise. He entered the family business as a teenager, playing bit roles in the Folies Bergères before serving in the military. After his discharge, his stage career blossomed, with turns in reviews and operettas, where he won favor with an impression of crooner Maurice Chevalier. After adopting "Gabin" as his stage surname, he began performing at the Moulin-Rouge in 1928. His film debut also came that year with a small role in the silent sketch comedy feature "Ohe! Les Valises" (1928). By 1930, he had worked his way up to supporting turns in talking pictures like "Chacun sa Chance," but waited a full four years before earning his star-making turn as a rough-hewn logger who lost his heart to Madeleine Renaud's "Marie Chapdelaine" (1934). The film and its follow-up, Marc Allégret's "Zouzou" (1934), with Gabin as a doomed circus performer, immediately established him as a screen idol, particularly with female audiences who queued up by the hundreds to swoon over his melancholy features and resonant voice.

For the next decade, Gabin epitomized the tragic romantic hero in dozens of films, most notably in collaboration with his "Marie Chapdelaine" director, Julien Duvivier. The success of "Marie" and "Zouzou" was compounded by 1936's "La Bandera," a wildly popular adventure-romance with Gabin as a falsely accused murderer who fled the law by joining the Spanish Foreign Legion. Duvivier would also oversee one of his most enduring hits, "Pépé le Moko" (1937), with Gabin as a thief on the lam in Algiers who lost his heart to Mireille Balin's Parisian expatriate. His turn as a working-class French officer who struggled to maintain his faith in humanity while in a World War I prison camp in Jean Renoir's anti-war classic "La Grande Illusion" (Grand Illusion") (1937) brought Gabin his first international acclaim, and he would reunite with Renoir a year later for "La Bete Humaine" (The Human Beast") (1938), a thriller about a train engineer's lust for his co-worker's wife (Simone Simon), which sets off a chain of tragic events. Gabin soon established himself as a pro-noir anti-hero in Marcel Carné's "Port of Shadows" (1938) and "Le Jour se lève" (1939).

With the outbreak of World War II, Gabin followed Renoir and Duvivier to America, where he attempted to launch a career in Hollywood. His efforts there, "Moontide" (1942) and "Strange Confession" (a.k.a. 1944's "The Imposter") for Duvivier were dismal failures, compounded in no small part by his bullish personality. A chance to star in a feature for RKO was torpedoed by his demand that his lover, Marlene Dietrich, was cast as the female lead. The studio refused, which infuriated Gabin, who was eventually fired and the production shelved. He returned to France in 1943, where he joined Charles De Gaulle's Free French Forces as a tank commander and won medals for combat in Europe and North Africa. Upon his return to acting in 1946, Gabin was dismayed to find that the public had forgotten about him. A string of expensive failures, including "Martin Roumagnac" (1947) with Dietrich rendered him box office poison. Even the critical success of "Au-Dela Des Grilles" (The Walls of Malpaga")(1947), which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, could not reverse his declining fortunes.

Jacques Becker's "Touchez pas au grisbi" (Don't Touch the Loot") (1954) marked the beginning of Gabin's comeback. Fifty at the time of its release, Gabin's ruddy good looks had hardened, and his roguish charm was replaced by a sense of world-weariness, as well as a distinct touch of menace. Both aided significantly in his portrayal of an aging gangster forced to abandon plans of retirement to rescue his friend. The film, which earned Gabin the Volpi Cup from the Venice Film Festival, launched the second phase of his career, which saw him transformed into a character actor and occasional lead whose gravitas bespoke of a life filled with extraordinary highs and lows. He reunited with Renoir for the wistful comedy "French Cancan" (1955), co-starring Edith Piaf, and Duvivier for "Voici le temps des assassins" (Here is the Time of the Assassins) (1956) as a restaurateur whose life is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of his step-daughter (Daniele Delorme). In 1959, he won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival as a tramp who planned to avoid the winter by landing in prison in "Archimede, le clochard" (1959). The following year, he was made a member of France's Legion of Honor.

In the 1960s, Gabin divided his time between genial comedies like "Un singe en hiver" (A Monkey in Winter") (1962) with Jean-Paul Belmondo and "Rififi in Paris" (1966) with George Raft, and French crime thrillers that hinged much of their appeal on his enduring star status. The best of these was "The Sicilian Clan" (1969), with Gabin as the godfather of an Italian crime family who teamed with a rogue French crook (Alain Delon) to steal a collection of jewels. In 1971, he won a second Silver Bear for "Le Chat" ("The Cat"), a downbeat drama about an aging husband whose affection for a stray cat roused his wife (Simone Signoret) to anger. He soon returned to French crime pictures, including "Verdict" (1974) with Sophia Loren and the comedy "Holy Year" (1976). That same year, he was hospitalized with leukemia, which claimed his life on Nov. 15, 1976. A national hero to generations of moviegoers, Gabin's ashes were dispersed into the sea from a naval ship with full military honors.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Les Miserables (1989)
Jean Valjean
L' Annee Sainte (1976)
Lambert
Verdict (1974)
Leguen
Deux hommes dans la ville (1973)
Germaine
L' Affaire Dominici (1972)
Dominici
Le Chat (1971)
Julien
The Killer (1971)
Le Guen
Le Drapeau Noir Flotte Sur La Marmite (1971)
Victor
The Sicilian Clan (1970)
Vittorio Manalese
Action Man (1969)
Denis Farrand
The Upper Hand (1967)
Paulo Berger
Action Man (1967)
A Monkey in Winter (1963)
Albert Quentin
Any Number Can Win (1963)
Charles
The Counterfeiters of Paris (1962)
The Boss
The Magnificent Tramp (1962)
Archimède
La desordre et la nuit (1961)
Inspector Vallois
Le President (1961)
Le Baron de l'Ecluse (1960)
Vieux de la vieille, Les (1959)
Maigret et l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre (1959)
Inspector Maigret (1958)
Grandes Familles, Les (1958)
Noel Schoudler
In Case of Emergency (1958)
Andre Gobillot
Les Miserables (1958)
Razzia (1957)
Four Bags Full (1957)
The Case of Dr. Laurent (1957)
Dr Laurent
Crime and Punishment (1956)
Deadlier Than the Male (1956)
French Cancan (1955)
Danglard
Des Gens sans Importance (1955)
Napoleon (1955)
L' Air de Paris (1954)
Grisbi (1954)
Max
Leur Derniere Nuit (1953)
La Minute de Verite (1952)
Dr Pierre Richard
Le Plaisir (1952)
Verite sur Bebe Donge (1951)
La Marie du Port (1950)
The Walls of Malapaga (1949)
Martin Roumagnac (1946)
The Impostor (1944)
Clement [also known as Maurice LaFarge]
Moontide (1942)
Bobo
Remorques (1941)
Le quai des brumes (1939)
Le Jour Se Leve (1939)
La Bete Humaine (1938)
Grand Illusion (1937)
Le Messager (1937)
Pepe Le Moko (1937)
Pepe le Moko
Gueule d'Amour (1937)
La Belle Equipe (1936)
The Lower Depths (1936)
Golgotha (1935)
Varietes (1935)
Maria Chapdelaine (1934)
La Bandera (1934)
Zou Zou (1934)
Der Tunnel (1933)
(French-Langauge Version)
Die Schohen Tagen von Aranjuez (1933)
Du haut en bas (1933)
Stern von Valencia (1933)
La foule hurle (1932)
Joe Greer
Gaietes de l'Escadron, Les (1932)
La Belle Mariniere (1932)
Tout ca ne vaut pas l'amour (1931)

Music (Feature Film)

A Good Year (2006)
Song Performer
Bandits (1987)
Song Performer

Life Events

1918

Laborer

1923

Dancer with Folies-Bergere

1930

Film actor

1963

Formed company Gafer Films (with Fernandel)

Photo Collections

Pepe le moko - Movie Poster
Here is a 1950s re-issue Belgian poster for Pepe le moko (1937), starring Jean Gabin and Gabriel Gabrio.
Grand Illusion - Movie Poster
Here is the original release French movie poster for Grand Illusion (1937), directed by Jean Renoir and starring Jean Gabin and Erich von Stroheim.
Le jour se leve - Movie Poster
Here is an original French poster for Le jour se leve (1939), starring Jean Gabin and Jules Berry.
La bete humaine - Movie Poster
Here is an original French poster for Jean Renoir's La bete humaine (1938), starring Jean Gabin and Simone Simon.
Remorques - Movie Poster
Here is an original French movie poster for Remorques (1941), starring Jean Gabin, Madeleine Renaud, and Michele Morgan.
Leur derniere nuit - Movie Poster
Here is an original French movie poster for Leur derniere nuit (1953), starring Jean Gabin, Madeleine Robinson, and Michel Barbey.

Videos

Movie Clip

Zou Zou (1934) - I Would Have Preferred A Crocodile Looks like work on location in Toulon, Josephine Baker (title character) disappointed when her childhood mate Jean (Gabin), whom she hasn’t seen in ages, doesn’t get off the boat, but thrilled when he appears later, with their adoptive de-facto stage-father (Pierre Larquey), in Zouzou, 1934.
Zou Zou (1934) - ...And Count The Days First scene for title character, American Josephine Baker, in her first talking feature, made in France, running her old act for a young friend when her adoptive dad (Pierre Larquey) gets the post card from their long-lost brother, son, colleague and sailor Jean (Gabin), in Zouzou, 1934.
La Bete Humaine (1938) - I Don't Want People Looking At Me! A train, of all things, interrupts engineer Lantier (Jean Gabin) when he gets carried away, while visiting hometown sweetheart Flore (Blanchette Brunoy), in Jean Renoir's La Bete Humaine, 1938.
Zou Zou (1934) - She Always Causes Problems Laundress Josephine Baker (title character) and colleague Claire (Yvette Lebon) with her childhood circus-performer pal Jean (Jean Gabin), quickly making friends at a club when she’s assaulted by a goon, leading to a big fight and quick exit, in director Marc Allégret’s Zouzou, 1934.
Grand Illusion (1937) - All Your Old French Stock Observing drills in the courtyard, dividing up care packages, French POW's Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), de Boldieu (Pierre Fresnay), Marechal (Jean Gabin) et al reflecting on their circumstances, a famous scene from Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion, 1937.
Grand Illusion (1937) - May The Earth Lie Gently Second scene, German Captain Von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim) returns from a sortie, announcing he expects French officers de Boldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and Marechal (Jean Gabin), introduced in the first scene, to arrive, in Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion, 1937.
Grand Illusion (1937) - A Real Girl! Dumping dirt from their tunnel diggings, French POW officer de Boldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and Marechal (Jean Gabin), who joins fellow non-comms enjoying the womens' clothing provided for their theatrical project, in Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion, 1937.
La Bete Humaine (1938) - Lantier, Le Havre After a prologue, cribbed from the original Emile Zola novel in his Rougon-Macquare cycle, the headlong opening scene from director Jean Renoir, in La Bete Humaine, 1938, much of it shot by the director's nephew Claude, in which Lantier (Jean Gabin) and Pecqueux (Julien Carette) bring their train into Le Havre.
La Bete Humaine (1938) - The Heat Was Unbearable Much tension as Robaud (Fernand Ledoux) and Severine (Simone Simon) commit a quick off-screen murder on a train, then realize off-duty engineer Lantier (Jean Gabin) is a witness, in Jean Renoir's La Bete Humaine, 1938.
Grand Illusion (1937) - I Am Perfectly Sane! POW officer de Boldieu (Pierre Fresnay) taunting guards with his flute and diversion, chivalrous commandant von Raffenstein (Erich von Stroheim) urging him to surrender, a famous scene from Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion, 1937.
Cinema Paradiso (1989) - Verso La Vita We discover what Fr. Adelfio (Leopoldo Trieste) was rushing off to do, censor the new movie in the Sicilian wartime town, altar-boy Salvatore (Cascio) peeping and Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) projecting (Jean Renoir's The Lower Depths, with Jean Gabin, Suzy Prim and Louis Joudet), early in Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso, 1989.
Port Of Shadows (1939) - No One Likes My Face Panama (Edouard Delmont), at his waterfront hide-out, has just repelled gunmen who, he learns, were after Zabel (Michel Simon) who happens to be the guardian of Nelly (Michele Morgan) who, with deserter Jean (Jean Gabin), is among the outcasts on hand, in Marcel Carne's Port Of Shadows, 1939.

Trailer

Companions

Gaby Basset
Wife
Actor. Married in 1925; divorced in 1933.

Bibliography