11 February 2014

Michel Auclair

French actor Michel Auclair (1922-1988) is best known for his roles in over 100 French films. He appeared in only a few English-language films.

Michel Auclair
French postcard by O.P., Paris. no. 77. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Michel Auclair
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 225. Photo Studio Harcourt.

A Menacing but also Fragile Seducer

Michel Auclair was born Vladimir Vujović in Koblenz, Germany, in 1922. His father was Vojislav Vujović, a prominent Yugoslav Communist and a secretary of the Communist Youth International, and his mother was Charlotte Caspar, French biologist and sister of John Marchat.

Auclair moved to Paris when he was three years old. He later entered medical school but then studied acting at the Conservatoire (CNSAD) in Paris.

His stage debut was at the Théâtre de l'Œuvre in 1940 and he appeared in plays by Alfred de Musset, Jean Cocteau and Henrik Ibsen. His stage name was based on the title of a play by Charles Vildrac, which revolves around the loyalty of a man to a woman who has rejected him.  It was written in the year of the actor's birth, 1921.

Auclair made his screen debut after the war in the classic La Belle et la Bête/Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946). It was followed by a part in the war drama Les Maudits/The Damned (René Clément, 1946).

Two years later he starred in Manon (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1949) as a French Resistance fighter who rescues a woman (Cécile Aubry) from villagers convinced she is a Nazi collaborator. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

In the following decade, he gradually developed into a leading man of the post-war French cinema. His type was the deprived dandy, a menacing but also fragile seducer.

His films included the German-French whodunit Unter den tausend Laternen/Under Thousand Lanterns (Erich Engel, 1952), the comedy La fête à Henriette/Holiday for Henrietta (Julien Duvivier, 1952) with Dany Robin, the historical epic Si Versailles m'était conté/Royal Affairs in Versailles (Sacha Guitry, 1954), the Georges Siménon adaptation Maigret et l'affaire Saint-Fiacre/Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case (Jean Delannoy, 1959) starring Jean Gabin, and L'Education Sentimentale/Sentimental Education (Alexandre Astruc, 1962) with Jean-Claude Brialy and Marie-José Nat.

Michel Auclair
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 959 A. Publicity card for les Carbones Korès. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Michel Auclair
German postcard by Ufa (Universum-Film Aktien Gesellschaft), Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 1020. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Lucienne Chevert, Paris.

Michel Auclair
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 124. Photo: Lantin.

Michel Auclair
French collectors card by Editions P.I. Paris for Biscottes Corvisart, Epinal.

Shady Film Producer

While a major French star, Michel Auclair only had a few English-language roles: as Professor Flostre in the musical Funny Face (Stanley Donen, 1957) with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, as a French police investigator in Day of the Jackal (Fred Zinnemann, 1973) with Edward Fox, as a cuckolded husband in Story of a Love Story (John Frankenheimer, 1973) with Alan Bates, and a doctor in the spy film Enigma (Jeannot Swarc, 1983) with Martin Sheen.

Auclair played in excellent European productions like the political thriller Le Juge Fayard Dit le Sheriff/Judge Fayard, Called the Sheriff (Yves Boisset, 1977) starring Patrick Dewaere, Trois Hommes à Abattre/Three Men to Kill (Jacques Deray, 1980) with Alain Delon, Mille Milliards de Dollars/A Thousand Billion Dollars (Henri Verneuil, 1982) another political thriller starring Patrick Dewaere, and the mysterious fantasy La Belle Captive/The Beautiful Prisoner (Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1983).

Michel Auclair was also a distinguished stage actor. On television he is remembered as Luis de Sant'angel in the mini-series Christopher Columbus (Alberto Lattuada, 1985) starring Gabriel Byrne.

Michel Auclair died by a cerebral haemorrhage in 1988, in Saint-Paul-en-Forêt, Var, France. He had appeared in over 100 films.

In Preuve D'Amour/Love Token (Miguel Courtois, 1988), Auclair played one of his last screen roles: a shady film producer. The feature is dedicated to him.

Michel Auclair
German postcard by Netter's Star Verlag, Berlin.

Michel Auclair
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag. Co., München. Photo: Kurt Ulrich-Film / Constantin Film / Wesel. Michel Auclair in the WWII thriller Der Fuchs von Paris/The Fox of Paris (Paul May, 1957).

Michel Auclair
French postcard, no. 153.

Michel Auclair
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 1428, 1961. Photo: Progress. Publicity still for Unter den Tausend Laternen/Under Thousand Lanterns (1952).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), José L Bernabé Tronchoni (Find A Grave), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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