Monday, December 11, 2017

Born Today in 1913: French Actor Jean Marais

Jean Marais was born today, December 11, in 1913. He was a French actor, writer, director, and sculptor. He performed in more than 100 films and was the muse of acclaimed director Jean Cocteau. In 1996, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his contributions to French Cinema.

In 1933, Marais was discovered by filmmaker Marcel L'Herbier, who purchased one of his paintings, then cast him in two films. Marais starred in several movies directed by Jean Cocteau, for a time his lover and a lifelong friend, most famously Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Orphée (1949).

Marais with Jean Cocteau in 1938
In the 1950s, Marais became a star of swashbuckling pictures, enjoying great box office popularity in France. He performed his own stunts. In the 1960s, he played both the famed villain and the hero of the Fantômas trilogy.

After 1970, Marais's on-screen performances became few and far between, as he preferred concentrating on his stage work. He performed on stage until his eighties, also working as a sculptor. His sculpture Le passe muraille (The Walker Through Walls) can be seen in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris.

He was married for two years to the actress Mila Parély, with whom he later performed in Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast.

After Cocteau's death, Marais wrote a memoir of Cocteau, L'Inconcevable Jean Cocteau, attributing authorship to "Cocteau-Marais." He also wrote an autobiography, L'Histoire de ma vie, published in 1975. From 1953 until 1959, his companion was the American dancer George Reich.

Marais died from cardiovascular disease in Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes, in 1998 at age 84.

His life story became the i
nspiration for the 1980 François Truffaut film The Last Metro. Marais appears on the cover sleeve of The Smiths single "This Charming Man."

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