Louis Jourdan, considered the epitome of the classic, classy French aristocrat, died Saturday, February 14, at the age of 93.
People is reporting that Jourdan, born Louis Gendre in 1921, died Saturday in his home. Jourdan was best known for his Oscar-winning performance in Gigi. Jourdan also had roles in many movies, like Madame Bovary, Three Coins in the Fountain, The Swan, The V.I.P.S and Can-Can, among many others.
Jourdan, under the name of Gendre, grew up in the south of France with his two brothers. His parents ran hotels in Cannes, Nice, and Marseilles. This is where Jourdan learned English, interacting with the tourists and listening to the music. He was studying drama in Paris and had numerous roles until World War II, when the Gestapo arrested his father. At that point, Jourdan and his brothers began working for the underground Resistance.
Jourdan continued making movies. He made his film debut in 1939’s Le Corsaire. David O. Selznick saw Jourdan and got Jourdan and his childhood sweetheart, Berthe Frederique “Quique” Jourdan, to move to Hollywood in 1946. A year later, Jourdan starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case.
Also in 1946, he and Berthe got married, and were to remain married until her death last year.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that after The Paradine Case, he was cast in roles that he felt made him a stereotype in Hollywood, something he was not fond of.
“That ooh-la-la, conventional, embarrassing character,” he complained in a 1965 interview with the Associated Press. “I’m proud to be a Frenchman, but I resent the image people have of the stupid, continental charmer.”
“Against that type of role I fight pitilessly.”
Not helping the stereotyping conundrum was perhaps his greatest success, 1958’s Gigi, as Gaston. That would win that year’s Best Picture Oscar. He tried acting on television, but the stereotyping there, along with the stigma held back in that era (that actors would go act on television as a last-ditch effort to keep their career going) only heightened his disdain for those stereotypical roles.
As Jourdan aged, the quintessential Frenchman roles deteriorated, but Jourdan could play a good bad guy. He was cast as Kamal Khan in 1983’s Octopussy. He also played the villain Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing (1982) and The Return of the Swamp Thing (1989). His last role was in the movie Year Of The Comet.
His marriage to Berthe produced one offspring, son Louis Henry. Unfortunately, Louis Henry suffered from depression, and took his own life in 1981 by overdose at the age of 21.
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