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16 June 2015

Henri Vidal

Handsome, robust-looking Henri Vidal (1919-1959) was a wildly popular French leading man who played both heroes and heels opposite incredible beauties, including his wife Michèle Morgan. His thriving film career was cut short by a fatal heart attack at age 40.

Henri Vidal
French postcard, no. 952.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions P.I., La Garenne-Colombes, no. 22. Photo: Roger Carles.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions Votre Vedette (EVV), no. 166. Photo: Aldo Graziati.

Athletic Prowess


Henri Vidal was born in Clermont-Ferrand (some sources say in Royat), France, in 1919.

He started his acting acteer in small theatres, and was noted for his handsomeness and athletic prowess. When he took part in the beauty contest Apollon de l'année 1939 (Apollo of the Year 1939) he was discovered by Édith Piaf.

Vidal made his film debut in Montmartre-sur-Seine (Georges Lacombe, 1941) at the side of Piaf and Jean-Louis Barrault. The following years he appeared in numerous French films, including Les Maudits/The Damned (René Clément, 1947) with Marcel Dalio.

Nowadays he is best remembered for an Italian film, the Roman spectacle Fabiola (Alessandro Blasetti, 1949). At AllMovie, Hal Erickson writes: "After several years of wartime austerity, the Italian film industry returned to spectacle with Fabiola. (...) Originally released in 1949 at a length of 183 minutes, the French/Italian co-production was distributed to the U.S. two years later in a 96-minute version, retaining the action highlights but cutting the plot footage to incomprehensible ribbons."

French actress Michèle Morgan plays the title role in Fabiola, the daughter of a Roman aristocrat (Michel Simon) during the takeover by Emperor Constantine. Fabiola is irresistibly drawn to a Roman gladiator (Vidal), who is secretly working on behalf of the Christian Constantine. When the shooting of the film was finished the beautiful couple married.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 99. Photo: Pathé-Cinéma.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions Chantal, Rueil, no. 12. Photo: Vog.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions du Globe (EDUG), Paris, no. 84. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions O.P., Paris, no. 24. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions du Globe (EDUG), Paris, no. 761. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Charmant Garçon


After his breakthrough Henri Vidal starred in several other films with Michèle Morgan, like La Belle que voilà/Here Is the Beauty (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1950), L'Étrange Madame X/The Strange Madame X (Jean Gremillon, 1951) and Napoléon (Sacha Guitry, 1955).

Other successful films in which he appeared were Orient Express (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1954), and Porte des Lilas (René Clair, 1957) opposite Pierre Brasseur.

Vidal starred opposite sex kitten Brigitte Bardot in the comedies Une parisienne/La parisienne (Michel Boisrond, 1957) and Voulez-vous danser avec moi?/Come Dance With Me! (Michel Boisrond, 1959). Other beauties with whom he was paired were Sophia Loren in Attila, Flagello di Dio/Attila (Pietro Francisci, 1954), Marina Vlady in the film noir Les Salauds Vont En Enfer/The Wicked Go to Hell (Robert Hossein, 1955), Mylène Démongeot in Sois Belle et Tais Toi/Be Beautiful but Shut Up (Marc Allégret, 1957), Zizi Jeanmaire in Charmants Garcons/Charming Boys (Henri Decoin, 1957) and Romy Schneider in Ein Engel auf Erden/Angel on Earth (Géza von Radványi, 1959).

Depressions drove Vidal into a drugs habit. He died of a heart attack in 1959, in Paris. Between 1941 and 1959 he had appeared in 36 films. His last film was La Bête à l'affût/Beast at Bay (Pierre Chenal, 1959) with Michel Piccoli and Françoise Arnoul.

Henri Vidal was married twice, first to Michèle Cordoue (1943-1946) (divorced) and the second time to Michèle Morgan (1950-1959).

Henri Vidal
French postcard.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 3 7 G. Presented by les Carbones Kores 'Carboplane'. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1046. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Henri Vidal
French postcard by Editions du Globe (EDUG), no. 123. Photo: Teddy Piaz, Paris.

Henri Vidal
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag. Photo: Prisma.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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