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02 July 2016

Gérard Philipe

Gérard Philipe (1922–1959) played the artist Amedeo Modigliani in Montparnasse 19/The Lovers of Montparnasse (1958), one of the highlights of JACQUES BECKER – THE VERY IDEA OF FREEDOM at Cinema Ritrovata 2016. Philipe was adored for his good looks, but he was also a very talented actor. He was sought out by France's preeminent directors for his versatility and professionalism. His early death has elevated him to a near legendary status in France.

Gérard Philipe in Les amants de Montparnasse (1958)
French postcard by Sofraneme, Levallois Perret no. CP 210. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Montparnasse/The Lovers of Montparnasse (Jacques Becker, 1958) with Gérard Philipe as painter Amedeo Modigliani.

Gérard Philipe
French Postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 371. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Gérard Philipe
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 57. Photo: Discina.

Gérard Philipe
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Gérard Philipe
German postcard by Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft (UFA), Berlin-Tempelhof, no. 1041. Photo: UFA.

Rave Reviews


Gérard Philipe (sometimes written as Philippe) was born Gérard Philip in Cannes, France in 1922. In 1940, Gérard left school and his parents wanted him to become a lawyer. His mother noticed that he was only interested in acting, but his father was against the idea.

Gérard's father, a successful businessman, was a right-wing extremist and collaborated with the Nazis. After the war, he was forced to exile to Spain to escape a death sentence. Gérard himself was his whole life a staunch social liberal politically-wise.

Actor Claude Dauphin introduced the young Philippe in 1942 to the stage. One of his first parts was as the angel in Sodome et Gomorrhe by Jean Giraudoux in 1943.

Director Marc Allégret decided that the he showed some promise and gave him a small part in his film Les petites du quai aux fleurs/The Girls From the Quai aux Fleurs (Marc Allégret, 1944) starring Odette Joyeux.

With the support of his admirer Jean Cocteau, he entered the Paris Conservatory where, under the tutelage of Georges Le Roy he discovered his passion for live theatre. In 1945 he received rave reviews for his performance in the stage production of Albert CamusCaligula.

This success further opened the doors to the cinema. His first leading part in Le pays sans étoiles/Land Without Stars (Georges Lacombe, 1946) opposite Jany Holt got so many favourable reviews that he became a star.

Gérard Philipe
French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 22. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Gérard Philipe
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 31. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Gérard Philipe and Nicole Besnard in La Beauté du diable (1950)
French postcard by Editions P.I. / Editions du Musée Grévin., Paris, no. 4. Publicity still for La Beauté du diable/Beauty and the Devil (René Clair, 1950) with Nicole Besnard. Captions: Voyage de noces a Venise (Honeymoon in Venice).

Gérard Philipe
Serbian postcard by Sedm Sil.

Gérard Philipe
French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 51. Photo: Teddy Piaz, Paris.

Tongue-in-cheek Titular Swashbuckler


In 1947, Gérard Philipe exploded upon the European film scene in Le diable au corps/Devil in the Flesh (Claude Autant-Lara, 1947), playing Francois Jaubert, a callow youth in love with much-older and very married Micheline Presle.

Superstardom followed almost immediately: female filmgoers doted upon Philippe's sensitive, handsome features and strapping physique, while men identified with his soulfulness and introspection. Next he would take on prominent roles in such classic films as Une si jolie petite plage/Such a Pretty Little Beach (Yves Allégret, 1949), and La beauté du diable/Beauty and the Devil (René Clair, 1950) as Faust.

He was an international success as the tongue-in-cheek titular swashbuckler Fanfan la Tulipe/Fan-Fan the Tulip (Christian-Jaque, 1952), one of the most popular historical-adventure films made in France.

At Films de France, James Travers reviews: "Not only is the film impeccably made, with lavish production values, stunning cinematography and impressively choreographed fight scenes, but it has a timeless quality which will no doubt ensure it will remain a popular classic for years to come. Philipe excels in this film in what is regarded by many as his finest film role, the indefatiguable womaniser and agile swordsman Fanfan la Tulipe. Philipe is simply brilliant in the role, tackling the numerous swordfights and Henri Jeanson’s sparkling dialogue with equal relish."

He appeared with such great stars of the European cinema as Italian beauty Gina Lollobrigida in Les belles de nuit/Beauties of the Night (René Clair, 1952), with Michèle Morgan in both Les orgueilleux/The Proud Ones (Yves Allégret, 1953) and Les grandes manœuvres/The Grand Maneuver (René Clair, 1955).

In 1956, Philipe starred in and directed a filmization of the old folk tale Till Eulenspiegel, Les aventures de Till L'Espiègle/Bold Adventure (Gérard Philipe, Joris Ivens, 1956). The French-East-German coproduction was not a success. He simultaneously pursued his stage career, with a keen involvement in the Théatre National de Paris, which would endure up until his death. Whilst working at the TNP, Philipe, a strong believer in egalitarianism, would draw exactly the same salary as junior actors. He would also become president of the French actors union, actively promoting the rights of actors.

Gérard Philipe
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 73. Photo: Franco-London-Film S.A. Publicity still for Le rouge et le noir/The Red and the Black (Claude Autant-Lara, 1954).

Gérard Philipe in Pot-Bouille (1957)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 1290, 1960. Photo: publicity still for Pot-Bouille/Lovers of Paris (Julien Duvivier, 1957).

Dany Carrel, Gérard Philipe and Danièle Darrieux in Pot-Bouille (1957)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 1294, 1960. Photo: publicity still for Pot-Bouille/Lovers of Paris (Julien Duvivier, 1957) with Dany Carrel and Danielle Darrieux.

Gérard Philipe, Liselotte Pulver
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 2699. Retail price: 0,20 MDN. Photo: publicity still for Le joueur/The Gambler (Claude Autant-Lara, 1958) with Liselotte Pulver.

Gérard Philipe and Anouk Aimée in Les amants de Montparnasse (1958)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin no. 1272, 1960. Photo: publicity still for Les amants de Montparnasse/The Lovers of Montparnasse (Jacques Becker, 1958) with Anouk Aimée.

Legendary Status


Gérard Philipe continued his string of film successes throughout the 1950s. Among these films were the Fyodor Dostoevsky adaptation Le joueur/The Gambler (Claude Autant-Lara, 1958) with Liselotte Pulver, and Les liaisons dangereuses/Dangerous Liaisons (Roger Vadim, 1959) opposite Jeanne Moreau.

In 1959 doctors told Philippe that he had liver cancer. On 25 November that year, while working on Luis Buñuel's Le Fievre Monte a El Pao/Fever Mounts at El Pao (Luis Buñuel, 1959), he died at the peak of his popularity. He was just 36 years old.

The news provoked an immediate and intense out-pouring of grief. His early death elevated him to a near legendary status in France. Since 1951, Philipe was married to actress and writer Nicole Fourcade, with whom he had two children, writer and actor Anne-Marie Philipe (1954) and Olivier Philipe (1957).

Nicole adopted the pseudonym Anne Philipe, and wrote two books about her husband, Souvenirs (1960) and Le Temps d'un soupir (1963, No Longer Than a Sigh). In 1961, Gérard's portrait appeared on a French commemorative postage stamp. There is a film festival named in his honor as well as a number of theaters, schools and colleges in various parts of France. He was also very popular in Germany, and a Berlin theatre has been named after him.


Trailer for La Beauté du diable/Beauty and the Devil (René Clair, 1950). Source: entertainmentone (YouTube).


French trailer for Les belles de nuit/Beauties of the Night (1952). Source: Imineo (YouTube).


Trailer for Fanfan la Tulipe/Fan-Fan the Tulip (Christian-Jaque, 1952). Source: Retrotrailer (YouTube).


Compilation of scenes from Les grandes manœuvres/The Grand Maneuver (1955). Source: Slava Batareykin (YouTube).


French trailer for Les amants de Montparnasse/The Lovers of Montparnasse (Jacques Becker, 1958). Source: Gaumont (YouTube).

Sources: James Travers (Le Film Guide), AllMovieFilms de France, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

7 comments:

Sheila said...

Interestingly, he looks of a more recent era. How tragic that he died so young.

viridian said...

What a handsome man! Did he play Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons? He looks as if he could!
Happy PFF!

Classic Maiden said...

Wonderful post cards and indeed a great tribute too. He was such a captivating presence on the screen that I can't wait to see more of his film work!

Daryl said...

Fascinating as always

Robin said...

Great post!.....so very interesting.
I wasn't able to post to Friendship Friday last week.....missed out on all. So glad I made it this week.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Debby said...

Very handsome. Wonderful pics.
Debby

Bob of Holland said...

Thanks for your comments. I was away for a long weekend to Italy, to the city of Torino (Turin). They have a wonderful Film Museum there in a huge tower. So beautiful. I misses the PFF fun and could only read your comments tonight. And yes Viridian, he played Valmont. He was perfect for the part. Till next PF Friday!