Louis Jourdan


Actor
Louis Jourdan

About

Also Known As
Louis Gendre
Birth Place
Marseille, , FR
Born
June 19, 1919
Died
February 14, 2015
Cause of Death
Undisclosed

Biography

Actor Louis Jourdan was the epitome of continental charm in dozens of dramas both in his native France and in Hollywood, including "Letter from an Unknown Woman" (1948), "The Swan" (1955), "Gigi" (1958) and "The V.I.P.s" (1963). Possessed of dark good looks, an innate elegance, and a deep, sonorous voice, he romanced some of the screen's most legendary leading ladies, including Joan Font...

Family & Companions

Berthe Frederique
Wife
Married on March 11, 1946; one son, Louis Henry Jourdan.
Micheline Preale
Wife
Quique Jourdan
Wife

Biography

Actor Louis Jourdan was the epitome of continental charm in dozens of dramas both in his native France and in Hollywood, including "Letter from an Unknown Woman" (1948), "The Swan" (1955), "Gigi" (1958) and "The V.I.P.s" (1963). Possessed of dark good looks, an innate elegance, and a deep, sonorous voice, he romanced some of the screen's most legendary leading ladies, including Joan Fontaine, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Leslie Caron. Off-camera, he bristled at his stereotyping and sought more substantive parts on Broadway and television. He moved into character parts in the late 1960s and 1970s, essaying such celebrated characters as Count Dracula and D'Artagnan in TV movies. A spate of high-profile projects, including the James Bond thriller "Octopussy" (1983), preceded his retirement in 1992. His ability to move successfully between films, stage and television over the course of four decades while retaining his signature appeal made him one of Hollywood's most durable players. Jourdan died at home in Beverly Hills on February 14, 2015.

He was born Louis Genre in Marseille, France; accounts varied as to his birth year, which was frequently cited as 1921, but also 1919 and 1920. The first son of hotelier Henry Gendre and his wife, Yvonne Jourdan, he became acquainted with some of the great figures of 20th century art, including Picasso and Matisse, while staying as guests at his father's hotel in Cannes. The exposure to such figures cultivated in Jourdan an appreciation of the arts, including music and literature, but acting soon became his primary passion. With his brother, Pierre, he traveled to Paris, where both enrolled in the prestigious Ecole Dramatique. There, he studied drama under the famed actor and educator René Simon, and apprenticed with director Marc Allégret on his 1938 film "Entrée des Artises" ("The Curtain Rises") (1938) as a production assistant. The film's star, Louis Jouvet, took note of the teenager's handsome looks and innate grace, and recommended to Allégret that his talents were best served in front of, rather than behind the camera. Jourdan was soon cast in his first film, Allégret's "Le Corsaire" ("The Pirate") (1938), which had attracted major attention as actor Charles Boyer's first film in France since his rise to stardom in Hollywood. Production was halted after five weeks due to the arrival of German forces in Poland, and Jourdan and his castmates were soon called to national service.

He returned to moviemaking in 1940 with "Untel Pere et Fils" just as the Nazis seized control of France. Jourdan continued to act in French films, graduating from fresh-faced juvenile romantics to leading men in 1942's "L'Arlesienne" for Allégret and a non-singing version of "La Boheme" called "La Vie de Boheme" (1943). He ran afoul of German forces after refusing to act in propaganda films, and was sentenced to hard labor. However, he managed to escape and return to Cannes, where he secured his father's escape from the German forces. After he and his father were reunited, Jourdan became an active participant in the Resistance movement by printing and distributing anti-Nazi material. When Paris was liberated in 1944, Jourdan returned to his acting career, which received a boost when many of the films he had made in years prior finally made their way to French screens after being delayed by the war.

According to popular legend, Jourdan's entry into Hollywood was paved by producer David O. Selznick, who offered him a contract after meeting Jourdan at the Ritz Carlton in Cannes. He made his American feature debut opposite Gregory Peck and Charles Laughton in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Paradine Case" (1947), as a valet who becomes the scapegoat in a corrupt murder trial. The film endured numerous rewrites as well as a substantial re-edit by Selznick upon its release, which resulted in mixed reviews from the critics. Jourdan's true breakout picture was its follow-up, "Letter from an Unknown Woman" (1948), with Joan Fontaine as a woman whose lifelong, unrequited passion for a rakish pianist (Jourdan) leads to his downfall. The picture established him as a romantic continental-type figure, à la Charles Boyer - "cooing in women's ears," as Jourdan saw it - that he would reprise in numerous subsequent films, including "Madame Bovary" (1949) with Selznick's wife, Jennifer Jones.

Jourdan fought constantly against his stereotyping as a Latin lover, which on several occasions earned him a suspension from the studios by Selznick. He found a refuge in radio dramas, where he enjoyed more substantive parts in productions of "Camille" with Joan Fontaine and an adaptation of "The Paradine Case" with Joseph Cotten. In 1950, Darryl F. Zanuck bought his contract from Selznick, and Jourdan hoped that it would signal a change in his cinematic fortunes. Unfortunately, what he was offered was overripe adventure films like "Bird of Paradise" (1951) and "Anne of the Indies" (1951), which again cast him as exotic romantic leads. On occasion, he earned a reprieve from these roles on television anthologies, most notably "A String of Blue Beads" (1953), with Jourdan as a grieving widower at Christmas time, and a turn as a dissolute European pressed into driving a truckload of nitroglycerin over rugged Guatemalan terrain in an adaptation of "The Wages of Fear" for "Robert Montgomery Presents" (NBC, 1950-57) that aired before the celebrated 1955 film version by Henri-Georges Cluzot. But audiences preferred him in romantic parts like the amorous Prince Dino in "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954). A disillusioned Jourdan eventually lobbied for release from his studio contract, which allowed him to pursue projects more to his liking.

He achieved critical success on stage in "The Immoralist" (1953) as a gay archaeologist whose attempts to curb his sexuality with a marriage to Geraldine Page are undone by a predatory houseboy, initially played by James Dean. Jourdan journeyed back to France to play a detective in the series "Paris Precinct," which became a surprise hit on ABC in 1955. He then returned to the stage for "Tonight in Samarkand" on Broadway in 1955, and soon balanced a steady diet of live TV dramas with panel and variety shows, where his charm and wit made him a popular guest. Hollywood eventually came around with more character-driven roles, including a kindly, bookish tutor who captured the heart of a princess (Grace Kelly) in "The Swan" (1955) and a psychotic husband to Doris Day in "Julie" (1955).

Jourdan was resistant to composer Alan Jay Lerner's request for him to play the bored, young bon vivant hero of his musical "Gigi" (1958). He had finally reached a level of satisfaction with his roles, and was reluctant to return to romantic parts. Jourdan also expressed serious doubts about his ability to carry a tune, but eventually relented. The charming musical became one of his most enduring film projects, thanks to beloved songs like "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "I Remember it Well." It was also one of Jourdan's most honored projects, with a record-breaking nine Academy Awards and three Golden Globes; Jourdan himself would net a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor for his deft performance.

The success of "Gigi" would give an uptick to his film career that would last through the early '60s. He made his second and final film musical with "Can-Can" (1960), a lightweight comedy with Jourdan as a straight-arrow judge who fell for the saucy owner (Shirley Maclaine) of a Paris nightclub, and drove a wedge between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the glossy "V.I.P.s" (1963). But as the decade wore on, Jourdan remained stuck in romantic roles, and more often than not, turned to television for quality projects like "Run a Crooked Mile" (NBC, 1969), a thriller about an amnesiac (Jourdan) who witnesses a murder. He also played a paranormal investigator in two superior but unsold pilots, "Fear No Evil" (NBC, 1969) and "Ritual of Evil" (NBC, 1970). The high points of his American TV movie career came in the late '70s with a trifecta of literary adaptations; in "The Count of Monte-Cristo" (NBC, 1975), he was the villainous prosecutor who sent Richard Chamberlain's Edmond Dantes to prison, while in "The Man in the Iron Mask" (NBC, 1977), he was Alexandre Dumas' heroic musketeer, D'Artagnan. He was also an acclaimed and altogether sensual Dracula in the BBC production "Count Dracula" (1977), which aired on "Great Performances" (PBS, 1971- ) in America.

The late '70s and early '80s found Jourdan considerably reducing his screen efforts by touring the world in productions of "Present Laughter" and "13 Rue d'Amour" with his "Gigi" co-star, Leslie Caron. He suffered an immense personal tragedy during this period with the death of his only son, Louis Henry, from a drug overdose in 1981. Jourdan threw himself into a string of lesser projects, from the Wes Craven science fiction thriller "Swamp Thing" (1981), based on the popular DC comics series, to "Octopussy" (1982), a lesser James Bond franchise entry with a visibly aging Roger Moore battling Jourdan's renegade Afghan prince. In 1984, he returned to "Gigi," though as the aging roué played by Maurice Chevalier, for a stage production that toured throughout the country. There were a few more unremarkable film and television projects before his final screen effort, a wan romantic comedy called" Year of the Comet" in 1992. Jourdan retired from the screen and divided his time between homes in Los Angeles and the South of France. In 2010, a cadre of famous admirers, including Kirk Douglas and Sidney Poitier, were on hand to see the 89-year-old Jourdan receive the Legion of Honour medal from Pierre Vimont, the French Ambassador to the United States. Louis Jourdan died following a long illness on February 14, 2015 at his home in Beverly Hills.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Year Of The Comet (1992)
The Return Of The Swamp Thing (1989)
Beverly Hills Madam (1986)
Octopussy (1983)
Kamal Khan
Swamp Thing (1982)
Double Deal (1981)
Peter Stirling
Silver Bears (1978)
Prince Gianfranco Pietro Annunzio Di Siracusa
The Man In The Iron Mask (1977)
D'Artagnan
Plus ca va, moins ca va (1977)
Paul Tango
The Count of Monte Cristo (1975)
Devillefort
The Great American Beauty Contest (1973)
Ralph Dupree
To Commit a Murder (1970)
Charles Beaulieu
The Young Rebel (1969)
Cardinal Acquaviva
Run a Crooked Mile (1969)
Richard Stuart
A Flea in Her Ear (1968)
Henri
Made in Paris (1966)
Marc Fontaine
Disorder (1964)
Tom
The V.I.P.s (1963)
Marc Champselle
Amazons of Rome (1963)
Drusco
The Story of the Count of Monte Cristo (1962)
Edmond Dantès
Can-Can (1960)
Philippe Forrestier
The Best of Everything (1959)
David Savage
Gigi (1958)
Gaston Lachaille
Dangerous Exile (1958)
Duc De Beauvais
Julie (1956)
Lyle Benton
The Swan (1956)
Dr. Nicholas Agi
La Mariee est Trop Belle (1956)
Michel
Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
Prince Dino di Cessi
Decameron Nights (1953)
[Giovanni] Boccaccio/Paganino/Guilio/Don Bertrando
Rue de l'Estrapade (1953)
The Happy Time (1952)
Desmonde Bonnard
Anne of the Indies (1951)
Capt. Pierre François La Rochelle
Bird of Paradise (1951)
Andre Laurence
Madame Bovary (1949)
Rodolphe Boulanger
No Minor Vices (1948)
Octavio Quaglini
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)
Stefan Brand
The Paradine Case (1948)
André Latour
Premier Rendez-vous (1941)
Pierre

Cast (Special)

Ooh-La-La -- It's Bob Hope's Fun Birthday Spectacular From Paris' Bicentennial (1989)
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1985)
Performer
Salute to Lady Liberty (1984)
Count Dracula (1978)
The Louis Jourdan Timex Special (1959)
Host
Accent On Love (1959)
Host

Music (Special)

Ooh-La-La -- It's Bob Hope's Fun Birthday Spectacular From Paris' Bicentennial (1989)
Song Performer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Counterforce (1991)
Kassar
Grand Larceny (1989)
The First Olympics: Athens 1896 (1984)
The French Atlantic Affair (1979)

Life Events

1940

Became professional actor

1940

Film debut, "Le Corsaire"

1946

Moved to United States

1946

American film debut in "The Paradine Case"

1954

Broadway debut, "The Immoralist"

1955

US television debut as Inspector Beaumont in series "Paris Precinct"

1958

Starred in best-known film "Gigi"

1965

Originally cast opposite Barbara Harris in stage musical "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever"; replaced by John Cullum

1978

Starred as Dracula in PBS miniseries "Count Dracula"

1982

First played villainous Dr. Arcane in "Swamp Thing"

1989

Reprised role of Arcane in "The Return of Swamp Thing"

1992

Last feature role to date, "Year of the Comet"

Photo Collections

The Swan - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of The Swan (1956), starring Grace Kelly and Alec Guinness.

Videos

Movie Clip

Gigi (1958) - The Night They Invented Champagne Leslie Caron (title character) has defeated (Louis Jourdan) at cards, whereupon he honors his bet, and they, with Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) launch Lerner and Loewe's "The Night They Invented Champagne," in Gigi, 1958.
Julie (1956) - Sick With Fright Now convinced that her husband Lyle (Louis Jourdan) murdered her previous husband and means to kill her, Doris Day (title character) contrives an escape from their isolated Carmel seaside home, complete with anxious narration, in Julie, 1956.
Julie (1956) - I Only Meant To Frighten You As Doris Day's theme song fades out, her title character unwillingly collects her husband Lyle (Louis Jourdan), following an incident we have not seen, shot at the Pebble Beach Links golf club, scolding him for his erratic behavior, and finds out there's more to come in Julie, 1956.
Irma La Douce (1963) - Stomach Of Paris A portion of Louis Jourdan's opening narration from the Billy Wilder-I.A.L. Diamond script, introducing the Rue Casanova, Shirley MacLaine (title character) and her "Mec" Hippolyte (Bruce Yarnell), in Wilder's Irma La Douce, 1963.
V.I.P.s, The (1963) - Opening Credits There’s a hint of irony and some achievement in the credits for the MGM all-star drama, Anthony Asquith directing as we meet Liz and Dick (Taylor And Burton), Orson Welles, Louis Jourdan, Elsa Martinelli, Rod Taylor, Maggie Smith and Academy Award-winner Margaret Rutherford, in The V.I.P.s, 1963.
V.I.P.s, The (1963) - Through The Common Herd First scene for top-billed Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as jet setters Frances and Paul Andros, Dennis Price his assistant Millbank, Richard Wattis the airline manager, bumping (not incidentally, it will transpire) into bon vivant friend Marc (Louis Jourdan), early in The V.I.P.s, 1963.
Swan, The (1956) - Open, Send For Caesar! Opening credits and Princess Beatrix (Jessie Royce Landis) in a panic, from Charles Vidor's The Swan, 1956, starring Grace Kelly, Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdan, shot at the Vanderbilt (Biltmore) Estate in North Carolina.
Swan, The (1956) - Fencing Lessons In fairness, Louis Jourdan ("Dr. Agi") looks just about as good in fencing gear as Grace Kelly ("Princess Alexandra") does, in an early scene from Kelly's last movie, The Swan, 1956, from the play by Ferenc Molnar.
Gigi (1958) - She Is Not Thinking Of Me First Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) in person, then Gaston (Louis Jourdan), voiced-over, with the Lerner and Loewe songs "Gossip," then "She Is Not Thinking Of Me," in Vincente Minnelli's Gigi, 1958.
Can-Can (1960) - Apache Dance The tune is a Cole Porter composition from the original Broadway show, Shirley MacLaine as Paris entertainer Simone, astonishing her guest (Louis Jourdan), an extended, athletic performance choreographed by Hermes Pan, from Can-Can, 1960.
Three Coins In The Fountain (1954) - Predatory Prince First scene for Clifton Webb as author Shadwell at a Rome social, then the three American heroines, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters and Maggie McNamara as "Maria," meeting Louis Jourdan, as suave prince "Dino," early in director Jean Negulesco's Three Coins In The Fountain, 1954.
Madame Bovary (1949) - I Demand The Privilege Emma (Jennifer Jones), arriving at the long-awaited ball hosted by Marquis D'Andervilliers (Paul Cavanagh) with her hesitant husband Charles (Van Heflin), director Vincente Minnelli goes to work, choreography by Jack Donohoe, camera by Robert Planck, in Madame Bovary, 1949.

Trailer

Octopussy (1983) -- (Original Trailer) Original trailer for the 13th outing for James Bond and Roger Moore’s sixth in the title role, in the only feature named for the Bond “girl,” in this case, Maud Adams as Octopussy, 1983, with Louis Jourdan as the villain Kamak Khan, from two Ian Fleming short stories.
Gigi (1958) -- (Original Trailer) A Parisian girl (Leslie Caron) is raised to be a kept woman but dreams of love and marriage in Gigi (1958), directed by Vincente Minnelli.
Swan, The - (Original Trailer) On the eve of her marriage to a prince, a noblewoman falls for her brother's tutor in The Swan (1956) starring Grace Kelly.
Happy Time, The - (Original Trailer) A Canadian patriarch (Charles Boyer) fights to keep his wayward brother (Louis Jordan) from leading his son astray in The Happy Time (1952).
Three Coins in the Fountain - (Original Trailer) Three American rommates working in Italy wish for the man of their dreams after throwing Three Coins in the Fountain (1954).
Can-Can - (Wide-release trailer) An ambitious judge tries to put a stop to the "forbidden dance" at a nightclub despite the protest of its owner in Can-Can (1960).
Madame Bovary (1949) - (Original Trailer) A romantic country girl sacrifices her marriage when she thinks she's found true love in Madame Bovary (1949) starring Jennifer Jones.
Amazons of Rome - (Textless Trailer) Ancient Rome is threatened with invasion from the Etruscans in Amazons of Rome (1963).
V.I.P.s, The - (Original Trailer) Wealthy passengers fogged in at London's Heathrow Airport experience a series of personal trials in The V.I.P.s (1963) starring Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton.
Made In Paris - (Original Trailer) Ann-Margret is a young fashion designer who is transformed by her first trip to Paris in Made In Paris (1966).
Best of Everything, The - (Original Trailer) Three secretaries look for love while working in the publishing business in The Best of Everything (1959).

Family

Henry Gendre
Father
Hotelier. Arrested by the Gestapo.
Yvonne Jourdan Gendre
Mother
Louis Henry Jourdan
Son
Born 1951; mother Berthe Frederique.

Companions

Berthe Frederique
Wife
Married on March 11, 1946; one son, Louis Henry Jourdan.
Micheline Preale
Wife
Quique Jourdan
Wife

Bibliography