Louis Jourdan

Not to be confused with Louis Jordan.
Louis Jourdan
Born Louis Robert Gendre
(1921-06-19)19 June 1921
Marseille, France
Died 14 February 2015(2015-02-14) (aged 93)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1939–1992
Spouse(s) Berthe Frédérique "Quique" Jourdan (1946–2014; her death)
Children Louis Henry Jourdan (1951–1981)

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 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 Allegret, 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 Julien Duvivier along with his brother Pierre to appear in Untel Père et Fils in Rome. This was interrupted by the declaration of war between France and Italy; he returned to France, made some films and 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] His father was arrested by the Gestapo; months later he escaped, and joined the French Resistance.[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 Frederique ("Quique").

Hollywood career

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. 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.[6] Jourdan frequently argued with Selznick, who put him on suspension a number of times for refusing roles.[7][8]

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."[9] 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.[10] In Hollywood, Jourdan became friends with several stars who shared his love of the game of croquet.

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.

During the 1950s, Jourdan acted in several major films, taking the male lead in The Bride Is Much Too Beautiful (1956) with Brigitte Bardot as the lead actress. However, he may be best remembered as 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. Jourdan co-starred with Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine in the musical Can-Can (1960).[11]

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. He was replaced as leading man by John Cullum before the show reached Broadway.

Credit page from Playbill for Boston tryout of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (1965)

In later years, Jourdan also appeared on television, including 1977's Count Dracula for the BBC and the 1978 Columbo episode Murder Under Glass. He 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 played the role of Pierre de Coubertin in The First Olympics: Athens 1896, a 1984 TV series about the 1896 Summer Olympics.[11]

Personal life

On 11 March 1946, Jourdan married Berthe Frédérique (nicknamed "Quique"), with whom he had his only child, Louis Henry Jourdan (born 6 October 1951),[12] a son who died of a drug overdose on 12 May 1981[13] and was buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles, California.[13] Berthe died in 2014.[14]

Jourdan retired and lived, at least part-time, in the greater Los Angeles area. In July 2010, he was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, which he received accompanied by friends, including Sidney Poitier and Kirk Douglas.[15][16]

Jourdan has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6153 and 6445 Hollywood Boulevard.[14]


Jourdan died at his home in Beverly Hills on 14 February 2015 at the age of 93.[14]


Year Film/TV Role Notes
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, le clown
1942 L'Arlésienne Frédéri
The Beautiful Adventure André d'Éguzon
1943 The Heart of a Nation Christian Uncredited
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. Beaumont TV (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 Narrator Uncredited
Escapade Frank Raphaël
Dangerous Exile Duke Philippe de Beauvais
1958 Gigi Gaston Lachaille Nominated 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 Dantès / Comte de Monte Cristo
1962 Disorder Tom
Leviathan Paul
1963 Mathias Sandorf Le comte Mathias Sandorf
The V.I.P.s Marc Champselle
Irma la Douce Narrator Uncredited
1966 Made in Paris Marc Fontaine
Les Sultans Laurent
1967 To Commit a Murder Charles Beaulieu aka Peau d'espion
Cervantes Cardinal Acquaviva
1968 To Die in Paris Colonel Bertine Westrex TV
A Flea in Her Ear Henri Tournel
1969 Fear No Evil David Sorell TV
Run a Crooked Mile Richard Stuart TV
1970 Ritual of Evil David Sorell TV
1973 The Great American Beauty Contest Ralph Dupree TV
1975 Piange Il Telefono Alberto Landi
1975 The Count of Monte Cristo De Villefort TV
1976 L'hippopotamours Le camionneur
1977 Silver Bears Prince di Siracusa
Count Dracula Count Dracula TV
The Man in the Iron Mask D'Artagnan TV
The More It Goes, the Less It Goes Paul Tango
1978 Columbo Paul Gerard TV episode "Murder Under Glass"
1979 The French Atlantic Affair Captain Charles Girodt TV
1982 Gamble on Love
Bayou Romance Host Uncredited
Escape to Love
Swamp Thing Dr. Anton Arcane
1983 Octopussy Kamal Khan
Double Deal Peter Sterling
1984 Cover Up George LeMare TV
1984 The First Olympics: Athens, 1896 Pierre de Coubertin TV
1986 Beverly Hills Madam Douglas Corbin TV
1987 Escuadrón Kassar
Grand Larceny Charles Grand
1988 Counterforce Kassar
1989 The Return of Swamp Thing Dr. Anton Arcane
1992 Year of the Comet Philippe (Last appearance)

Select theatre credits



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