Pages

20 October 2012

Raymond Pellegrin

French actor Raymond Pellegrin (1925 – 2007) had the most beautiful voice of the French cinema. He appeared in more than 120 European films, both as good and as bad guys.

Raymond Pellegrin
French postcard. Photo Sam Lévin.

Multiple TransformationsRaymond Pellegrin was born Raymond Louis Pilade Pellegrini in Nice in 1925. In his films, he is sometimes credited as Raymond Pellegrini. His parents came from Tuscany and his father Attilius worked in Nice as a restaurateur. When Raymond was 14, his father died. He had to finish school and to find work to support his mother. His dream of becoming a marine officer evaporated. He did all kind of odd jobs, but he found his true vocation when he attended a dramatic course by Pierrette Caillol. In Nice were many artists who had fled occupied Paris. Caillol’s husband, film director Yvan Noë gave the 16-years-old a part in his film Six petites filles en blanc/Six little girls in white (1941) with Jean Murat and Janine Darcey. The film was produced in the famous Victorine studios. A year later, the then 17-years-old made his stage debut at the Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice in Le président Haudecoeur (President Haudecoeur) by Roger Ferdinand. In 1943, he appeared at the Théâtre de Monaco in the play C'était en juillet (It was July), in which he made multiple transformations. In the audience was famous author-director Marcel Pagnol who thought he was a passionate and promising talent. Pagnol hired him in 1945 for a resumption of his play Topaz at the Théâtre Pigalle in Paris. The following year Pagnol offered him a role in César at the Théâtre des Variétés. Pellegrin played a convincing Césariot opposite Henry Vilbert as César (Raimu had died three months earlier) and Orane Demazis as Fanny.

Raymond Pellegrin
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 532, offered by Les carbones Korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Raymond Pellegrin
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 817, 1958. Retail price: 0,20 DM.

A JanusRaymond Pellegrin was discovered by film producers, but he also continued to be active on stage. He made his real second screen debut in Naïs (1945, Raymond Leboursier) starring Fernandel. The film was supervised by Marcel Pagnol. At Les gens du Cinema, Yvan Foucart compares Pellegrin with a Janus: he had a double profile and was asked to play both ‘good guys’ and - more often – ‘bad guys’. His film roles included pimps, cops and gangsters. His breakthrough role was Gino, the young Corsican condemned to death for having avenged the family honour in Nous sommes tous des assassins/We are all murderers (1952, André Cayatte) opposite Mouloudji. His performance was awarded the Prix du Meilleur acteur français (Prize for Best French actor) and the film won a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. He played the tender teacher of the beautiful savage Manon in Manon des sources/Manon of the Spring (1952, Marcel Pagnol), and then easily changed the register as the infamous pimp of Françoise Arnoul in Les compagnes de la nuit/Companions of the night (1953, Ralph Habib). In Le grand jeu/The Great Game (1954, Robert Siodmak), the jealous Jean-Claude Pascal killed him because of the ravishing Gina Lollobrigida. In 1948, Pellegrin had married actress Dora Doll. They divorced in 1955, and later that year he married actress/socialite Gisèle Pascal. He had co-starred with Pascal in Le feu dans la peau/Fire Under Her Skin (1954, Marcel Blistène) a drama about passionate and tortured love. A highlight of this period is his interpretation of the older Napoleon in the mega production Napoléon (1955, Sacha Guitry). Yvan Foucart: “He fills his role with conviction and perfect credibility.” For this portrayal, he won the Prix Triomphe du Cinéma français. At Films de France, James Travers writes about the film: “The scope of this film and its scale are breathtaking – but the end result is only partially successful. (...) Instead of creating a genuinely great piece of cinema, he (Guitry) offers a film that is little more than a colourful historical text book.”

Raymond Pellegrin
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 1923, 1963. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Raymond Pellegrin
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 532. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Sumptuous And SilkyRaymond Pellegrin had ‘the most beautiful voice of the French cinema’, according to French actor Dominique Zardi. Yvan Foucart compared his voice to that of Charles Boyer: sumptuous and silky. In the 1960’s, he became known for dubbing Jean Marais for the voice of Fantômas in the film trilogy Fantômas (1964, André Hunebelle), Fantômas se déchaîne/Fantomas Strikes Back (1965, André Hunebelle), and Fantômas contre Scotland Yard/Fantomas Against Scotland Yard (1967, André Hunebelle). He could also be seen in the cinema, like in Carillons sans joie/Bells without joy (1961, Charles Brabant) with Paul Meurisse and Dany Carrel. Another highlight is the policier Le deuxième soufflé/Second Breath (1966, Jean-Pierre Melville) based on a novel by José Giovanni. He played a gangster from Marseilles, who is associated with Lino Ventura for a bloody holdup. The directors of the Nouvelle Vague showed no interest in him, but he found work in the Italian cinema, and also appeared in German and British films. He can be seen in interesting Italian films by Pasquale Squitieri. He also appeared in Maigret/Maigret at the Pigalle (1966, Mario Landi) with Gino Cervi, and the Spaghetti Western Quanto costa morire/Cost of dying (1968, Sergio Merolle) with John Ireland. He was also engaged by American filmmakers like Nicholas Ray for the war drama Bitter Victory (1957) starring Richard Burton, by Sidney Lumet for Vu du pont/A View from the Bridge (1962) based on the play by Arthur Miller, and by Fred Zinnemann for Behold a Pale Horse (1964) with Gregory Peck. In 1981 he returned to France and appeared in Claude Lelouch’s great fresco Les uns et les autres/Bolero (1981, Claude Lelouch). He played a director of a Parisian music hall, the father of Francis Huster. Two years later he reunited with Lelouch for the less successful Viva la vie!/Long Live Life (1984, Claude Lelouch) starring Charlotte Rampling. Since then he often worked for television. His last appearance was in the TV film Notes sur le rire/Notes on laughter (2002, Daniel Losset), an adaptation of a story by his old master Marcel Pagnol. Raymond Pellegrin died in 2007 in Garons, France. He was 82, and passed away eight months after the death of his wife Gisèle. He had two daughters. With Dora Doll, he had a daughter named Danielle. With Gisèle Pascal, he also had a daughter, actress Pascale Pellegrin (1962).


Scenes from Manon des sources/Manon of the Spring (1952). Source: MarcelPagnolOfficiel (YouTube).


Jeanne Moreau and Raymond Pellegrin in Les intrigantes (1954). Source: Tarlait (YouTube).


Raymond Pellegrin and Brigitte Bardot in La lumière d'en face (1955)> Source: Tarlait (YouTube).

Sources: Yvan Foucart (Les gens du cinema) (French), Caroline Hanotte (CinéArtistes) (French), James Travers (Films de France), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Tom B. (Westerns... All’Italiana), Wikipedia (French and English) and IMDb.

No comments: