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08 July 2013

Jean-Paul Belmondo

One of our favorite French stars is Jean-Paul Belmondo (1933). Bébel was a big comedy and action star in Europe from the mid-1960s till the mid-1980s, but he was initially associated with the Nouvelle Vague, the French New Wave of the 1960s. Despite his unconventional looks, including a broken nose, he was often polled as one of the sexiest men in the world. For some 50 years he now remains one of the most popular and best-loved personalities in France.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Spanish postcard by Oscarcolor, Barcelona, no. 83, 1964. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 160. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Italian postcard in the series Artisti di sempre by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. 355.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 77. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1065, presented by Corvisart, Epinal. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Bébel
Jean-Paul Belmondo was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, in 1933. He is the son of Paul Belmondo, a sculptor of Sicilian descent. Young Jean-Paul did not perform well at school, but developed a passion for boxing before he decided that his future lay in acting. After a number of attempts, he finally gained admittance to the Paris Conservatoire in 1952, although his tutors were not overly optimistic about his prospects. It was here that he acquired the nickname 'Bébel'. In the mid-1950s, he appeared in a few theatrical productions, often to great acclaim, before beginning a film career in 1956 with Les Copains du dimanche/The Sunday Friends (Henry Aisner, 1956-1958). The film was never played in public cinemas though and his episodes in À pied, à cheval et en voiture/On Foot, on Horse, and on Wheels (Maurice Delbez, 1957) were even cut before release, but soon bigger roles followed in the spoof thriller Sois Belle et Tais-Toi/Be Beautiful But Shut Up (Marc Allégret, 1957) - his first co-starring role with Alain Delon, the hit Les Tricheurs/The Cheaters (Marcel Carné, 1958) and À double tour/Web of Passion (Claude Chabrol, 1959) with Madeleine Robinson. It was in 1958 that the 25-year-old Belmondo attracted the attention of a former critic turned filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.  The latter was impressed by the actor’s spontaneity and cast him first in a quirky short, Charlotte et son Jules (1959).

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French postcard by E.D.U.G., nr. 233. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French postcard by E.D.U.G., nr. 78. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Jean Paul Belmondo
Belgian collector's card, nr. 30.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 1136. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Breathless
Stardom came in 1959 when Jean-Paul Belmondo took the lead role of a sympathetic gangster in Godard’s landmark feature debut A Bout de souffle/Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960). At AllMovie, Lucia Bozzola writes: "Belmondo perfectly embodied the cool youthful rebellion guiding Godard's trailblazing cinematic style, rendering Belmondo the Gallic James Dean and heir apparent to Michel Simon and Jean Gabin." This film launched not just Belmondo’s film career but also the Nouvelle Vague , the New Wave of the French cinema. Belmondo would play a major part in the Nouvelle Vague during the early 1960s with roles in e.g. Une femme est une femme/A Woman Is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961) and Pierrot le fou/Pierrot Goes Wild (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965). Besides these classics he also acted in a stream of other excellent films: Classe tous risques/The Big Risk (Claude Sautet, 1960) with Lino Ventura, Moderato cantabile/Seven Days... Seven Nights (Peter Brook, 1960), La Ciociara/Two Women (Vittorio De Sica, 1960) with Sophia Loren, and La Viaccia/The Lovemakers (Mauro Bolognini, 1961) with Claudia Cardinale. He played a priest in the dark World War II drama Léon Morin, prêtre/Leon Morin, Priest (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1961). Very popular was the swashbuckler Cartouche (Philippe de Broca, 1962) again with Cardinale. In Un singe en hiver/A Monkey in Winter (Henri Verneuil, 1962) he appeared with Jean Gabin. All that and the two films he made with Jean-Pierre Melville, Le Doulos/The Fingerman (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1962) and L’Aîné des Ferchaux/An Honorable Young Man (1963), which became modern classics of the film noir.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
German postcard by Ufa/Film-Foto, no. 1133. Photo: Sam Lévin / Ufa.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 1133. Photo: Vallois.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French postcard by Editions P.I., offered by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane', no. 1034. Photo: Studio Vallois.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Dutch postcard by SYBA, no. 44/364.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 559.

Mainstream
With L’homme de Rio/That Man from Rio (Philippe de Broca, 1964), Jean-Paul Belmondo switched to commercial, mainstream productions and became a big comedy and action star in France. During the production of their next hit comedy Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine/Chinese Adventures in China (Philippe de Broca, 1965), Belmondo fell in love with his co-star Ursula Andress. Following the example of Alain Delon he founded his own production company, Cerito Films, which produced around a dozen of his films over the next decade. Until the mid-1980s, his typical characters were either dashing adventurers or more cynical heroes in such films as Cent mille dollars au soleil/Greed in the Sun (Henri Verneuil, 1964) with Lino Ventura, Le Voleur/The Thief (Louis Malle, 1967), La Sirène du Mississipi/Mississippi Mermaid (Francois Truffaut, 1969) with Catherine Deneuve, Borsalino (Jacques Deray, 1970) opposite Alain Delon, and Stavisky... (Alain Resnais, 1974). Returning to his athletic roots, Belmondo became renowned for doing his own stunts as well as for his charming screen presence in such action films as the James Bond parody Le Magnifique/The Magnificent One (Philippe de Broca, 1973) with Jacqueline Bisset, L'Animal/The Beast (Claude Zidi, 1977) with Raquel Welch, and Le Professionnel/The Professional (Georges Lautner, 1981). Belmondo was one of France's biggest box-office stars of his time. He ceased to perform all the stunts himself after an accident during the filming of Hold-Up (Alexandre Arcady, 1985) with Kim Cattrall. He made a spectacular return to the theatre in 1987, appearing in Kean. Since then he has continued to perform on stage to great acclaim, whilst simultaneously pursuing his film career.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/345. Photo: Gérard Decaux.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Italian postcard. Photo: Dear Film. Publicity still for Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine/Chinese Adventures in China (Philippe de Broca, 1965).

Jean-Paul Belmondo
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden-Westf., no. 1334.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2325.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, lei 2.

No César
Jean-Paul Belmondo now prefers mostly dramatic roles. In 1989 he was awarded the César for his performance in Itinéraire d'un enfant gâté/The Lion (Claude Lelouch, 1988). He refused to take the trophy because César, the sculptor who designed the award and gave it his name, had once expressed bad opinions about the work of his father. Another popular dramatic film was Les Misérables (Claude Lelouch, 1995). Jean-Paul Belmondo married twice. In 1953, he married dancer Élodie Constantin, with whom he had three children: Patricia (1958), Florence (1960) and Paul (1963). Paul became a Formula One driver; his eldest daughter Patricia was killed in a fire in 1994. In 1966, due to the well-publicized affair between Belmondo and actress Ursula Andress, Belmondo and his wife divorced. Later he had a long relationship with Italian actress Laura Antonelli. In 1989, he met Nathalie Tardivel who was 24 years old at the time. Belmondo married her in 2002. In 2001, he suffered a stroke and for years he was absent from stage and screen. In 2003, at the age of 70, his fourth child Stella was born. In 2008, Belmondo and Tardivel divorced. Since 2007 he has been 'Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur' (Commander of the Legion of Honour), France’s highest accolade. Recently he returned performing in the Theatre Marigny in Paris. His most recent film production is Un homme et son chien/A Man and His Dog (Francis Huster, 2009), a remake of the classic Umberto D (Vittorio De Sica, 1952). The film was not well-received. In 2011, the Cannes Film Festival paid tribute to him by giving him a special Palme d’Or to commemorate his exceptional body of work.  But Jean-Paul Belmondo is not dead yet. In production now is his new collaboration with director Claude Lelouch, Les Bandits manchots (2013) .


Scene from Bébel's film debut Les Copains du dimanche (1956-1958). Source: ROBAGGIO10 (YouTube).


Scene from Borsalino (1970) with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon. Source: myytsent (YouTube).


Trailer of Le Magnifique (1973). Source: vivadjango (YouTube).

Sources: Lucia Bozzola (AllMovie), James Travers (Films de France), Wikipedia, Films de France, and IMDb.

2 comments:

Dorincard said...

Merry Christmas!
All the best!
:)

Linda said...

Here's one star familiar to me, but I haven't seen enough of his work. Thank you for the overview, and the great photos.