Handsome French actor Philippe Lemaire (1927 - 2004) was a hero of several Swashbucklers in the 1960’s. His life began and ended with a tragedy.
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 140. Photo: Sam Lévin.
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 133. Photo: Sam Lévin.
Philippe Lemaire was born in Moussy-le-Neuf, France, in 1927. He had a tragic youth. His father, an officer, died when he was only two, and his mother disappeared when he was nine. Philippe grew up in a foster home. He was destined to become an officer in the navy like his father and other family members, but after working as an extra and a model, he decided to study acting at the Cours Simon. He made his film debut with an uncredited part in the drama Étoile sans lumière/Star Without Light (1944, Marcel Blistène) with Édith Piaf. Bigger parts followed in films like Les amoureux sont seuls au monde/Monnelle (1948, Henri Decoin) with Louis Jouvet, and Scandale (1948, René Le Hénaff). His first leading part was in the charming comedy Nous Irons à Paris/We Will All Go to Paris (1950, Jean Boyer) opposite Françoise Arnoul. In the sequel, Nous irons à Monte Carlo/Monte Carlo Baby (1951, Jean Boyer, Lester Fuller), Audrey Hepburn was one of his co-stars.
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 890 A. Offered by Les carbones Korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Studio Vallois, Paris.
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris. Photo Vallois.
Famous Jeune Premier
With his good looks Philippe Lemaire became a famous jeune premier during the 1950’s. He appeared in films by important directors including Jean-Pierre Melville in the melodrama Quand tu liras cette lettre/When You Read This Letter (1953) and Alexandre Astruc in Les mauvaises rencontres/Bad Liaisons (1955). He co-starred with Raf Vallone and Alain Cuny in the war drama Il Cristo Proibito/The Forbidden Christ (1951), the directorial debut of novelist Curzio Malaparte, who also wrote the musical score. Among his female co-stars were such actresses as Michèle Morgan, Anouk Aimée, Jeanne Moreau and Magali Noël. During the 1960’s, Lemaire specialized in the swashbuckling genre. He played supporting parts in hits like Cartouche/Swords of Blood (1962, Philippe de Broca) starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Le Masque de Fer/The Iron Mask (1962, Henri Decoin) featuring Jean Marais as the ageing musketeer D’Artagnan. Other films in which he appeared were the Marquis de Sade adaptation Le vice et la vertu/Vice and Virtue (1963, Roger Vadim) starring Annie Girardot and Catherine Deneuve, and the Émile Zola adaptation Germinal (1963, Yves Allégret).
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris. Photo: Bernard Vauclair, Paris.
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 568. Photo: Studio Harcourt.
Philippe Lemaire starred in five films directed by Bernard Borderie. The most successful was Angélique, marquise des anges/Angélique (1964, Bernard Borderie), the first episode of the popular Angélique series starring Michèle Mercier. Among his later films were the erotic film La nuit la plus chaude/The Night of the Three Lovers (1968, Max Pecas) and a part of the the anthology Histoires extraordinaires/Extraordinary stories (1968, Louis Malle) based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. From the end of the decade he mostly worked for TV. Incidentally he could be seen in B-films like the horror film Al otro lado del espejo/Obscene Mirror (1973, Jesus Franco) and the erotic film Ars amandi/The Art of Love (1983, Walerian Borowczyk). His last film part was in the action film Arsène Lupin (2004, Jean-Paul Salomé) with Kristin Scott Thomas. Philippe Lemaire died in 2004 in Paris. A day after his 77th birthday he committed suicide by throwing himself under the subway. He had been married three times: to Nicole Pinton, Juliette Gréco and Claude Bouton. From his marriage to Juliette Gréco he had a daughter, Laurence-Marie Lemaire (1954).
A musical medley from Nous Irons à Paris/We Will All Go to Paris (1950) with the Ray Anthony Orchestra. Source: Train6031 (YouTube).
Original trailer of Cartouche/Swords of Blood (1962). Source: ROBAGGIO10 (YouTube).
Trailer of Angélique, marquise des anges/Angélique (1964). Source: sorbone64 (YouTube).
Sources: Jacques-Olivier Holzer (IMDb), AllMovie, Wikipedia (French), and IMDb.