16 March 2014

Jean-Claude Drouot

Belgian actor Jean-Claude Drouot (1938) started his acting career with a boom in the French TV series Thierry La Fronde (1963-1966) and with Agnès Varda’s controversial masterpiece Le Bonheur (1965). Although he went on to appear in many film, TV and stage roles he would never completely lose the image of Thierry la Fronde, the French Robin Hood.

French postcard by Publistar, Marseille, no. 983bis. Photo: Philips.

French postcard by Publistar, Marseille, no. 969. Photo: Philips / Alibert.

French postcard by Publistar, Marseille, no. 984bis. Photo: Philips.

So Passionate About Theatre

Jean-Claude Constant Nestor Gustave Drouot was born in Lessines (Lessen), Belgium, in 1938. He studied law and later medicine at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), where he also appeared at the Jeune Théâtre (Youth Theatre).

He was so passionate about theatre that he gave up his academic studies. He settled in Paris where he attended acting courses by Charles Dullin.

From 1962 on, he interpreted the classic tragedies classics and the plays by Molière. He was spotted for television when he appeared in Orestes in 1962.

Between 1963 and 1966, Drouot played the title role in the legendary TV series Thierry La Fronde/Thierry the Sling Man (Pierre Goutas, 1963-1966), created for television by Jean-Claude Deret (who also played the traitor Florent in the series). The series, created to compete with the overwhelming British and American TV productions with medieval themes, became one of the most popular programs on French television in the 1960s. Thierry La Fronde is credited with boosting the use of the sling shot in French school playgrounds and turning the relatively rare first name, Thierry, into one of the most popular names for French boys.

On IMDb, Canadian reviewer Animal 8 5 writes: “Thierry was not only an unmatched sling man, but the savvy leader of a band of French rebels during the Hundred Year War. Jean-Claude Drouot portrayed Thierry of Janville, who begins the series as a young lord betrayed out of his title and property by conniving steward, Florent, played by Jean-Claude Deret. Actress Céline Léger played his love interest, Isabelle. Joined by his friends, Thierry becomes a 'Robin Hood' type of character and fights undercover to end the iron rule of the ruthless Brits. I remember the adventure was top-notch and very watchable.”

In 1963 Jean-Claude Drouot also appeared in a short film, L'évasion/The Avoidance (Henri Fishbach, 1963).

French postcard by Éditions d'art Yvon, Arcueil, no. 2. Photo: O.R.T.F. / Télé France Film / Photo Bruguière. Still from Thierry la Fronde (1963-1966).

French postcard by Éditions d'art Yvon, Arcueil. Photo: O.R.T.F. / Télé France Film / Photo Bruguière. Still from Thierry la Fronde (1963-1966).

French postcard by Éditions d'art Yvon, Arcueil, no. 6. Photo: O.R.T.F. / Télé France Film / Photo Bruguière. Still from Thierry la Fronde (1963-1966) with Jean-Claude Drouot and Céline Léger.

An Invitation To Free Love

Jean-Claude Drouot made his feature film debut in Le Bonheur/Happiness (Agnès Varda, 1965) in which he performed with his wife Claire and his children Olivier and Sandrine. Agnès Varda’s third film (and her first colour film) is associated with the French Nouvelle Vague (New Wave).

Le Bonheur/Happiness provoked something of a scandal when it was first released in France, at the height of the sexual revolution in the mid-1960s. What was so shocking about the film was not so much its subject but the way in which Varda approaches it, in a way that suggests a kind of moral equivalence between love in a stable marriage and love in an adulterous relationship. The film can be interpreted as an invitation to free love, even implying that the lives of married couples can only be improved by an extra-marital affair or two.

Hal Erickson at AllMovie writes: “To critics who carped that her choice of hues was not "realistic", she responded that she was choosing the hues that were best suited psychologically to her story. The film's protagonist is a young, married carpenter (Jean-Claude Drouot). He takes a mistress (Marie-France Boyer), assuming that he can be equally in love with both his wife and the new woman in his life. When the wife drowns, the mistress quietly takes her place. This plot twist remains a subject of debate amongst Varda’s admirers.”

At Films de France, James Travers adds: “Le Bonheur is actually a far more subtle film than this, and indeed it is one of the most ironic and truthful portrayals of romantic love in French cinema. The film doesn’t celebrate open relationships, as its detractors claimed, but merely observes that marital infidelity is an inevitable fact of life. It also reminds us that there is no so such thing as the perfect love affair.”

French postcard by Publistar, Marseille, no. 970. Photo: Laurent Camil / Philips.

French postcard by Publistar, Marseille, no. 983. Photo: Philips.

French postcard by Publistar, Marseille, no. 968. Photo: Philips / Alibert.

Jules Verne Adventure

Jean-Claude Drouot next played a role in Les ruses du diable/The Devil's Tricks (Paul Vecchiali, 1965) with Michel Piccoli.

Later he appeared in British and American films as the Vladimir Nabokov adaptation Laughter in the Dark (Tony Richardson, 1969) starring Nicol Williamson and Anna Karina, the  anti-imperialist satirical farce Mr. Freedom (William Klein, 1959) with Delphine Seyrig and John Abbey, the Jules Verne adventure The Lighthouse at the End of the World (Kevin Billington, 1970) with Kirk Douglas, and the historical drama Nicholas and Alexandra (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1971) about the rise and fall of the last of the Russian Romanovs.

In France, director Claude Chabrol made him a mentally ill addict in the thriller La Rupture/The Breach (1970) starring Stéphane Audran, and he appeared in L'histoire très bonne et très joyeuse de Colinot Trousse-Chemise/The Edifying and Joyous Story of Colinot (Nina Companéez, 1973) with Francis Huster and  Brigitte Bardot in her final role.

On television, Drouot starred in popular series such as Gaston Phoebus (Bernard Borderie, 1978). He founded with some friends La Coopérative théâtrale, a theatre group, where they were both producers and actors. Their plays included Cyrano de Bergerac, The Three Musketeers and Kean.

From 1984 till 1986, he directed the Centre dramatique national de Reims (National Dramatic Center of Reims), and from 1985 till 1989, the Théâtre national de Belgique (National Theatre of Belgium).

He was a member of the Comédie-Française from 1999 till 2001. He is also artistic director of the Compagnie Jean-Claude Drouot and director of numerous plays co-produced with the Théâtre régional des Pays de la Loire.

His most recent film is Va, petite!/Go, girl! (Alain Guesnier, 2003). He also appeared in TV series such as Trois femmes... un soir d'été/Three women... A Summer Evening (Alain Guesnier, 2003) and Les Rois maudits/The Cursed Kings (Josée Dayan, 2005) with Philippe Torreton and Jeanne Moreau.

Since then Jean-Claude Drouot dedicates himself mainly to the stage, but in 2010 he made a new TV film, Les châtaigniers du desert/The Sweet Chestnut Trees of the Desert (Caroline Huppert, 2010), followed by more TV films and he had a small part in the comedy Les conquérants/The Conquerors (Xabi Molia, 2013), starring Agnès Varda's son Mathieu Demy.

In October of 2012, it was announced that a modern version of Thierry la Fronde is in production. However, IMDb does not mention the production,

Since 1960, Jean-Claude Drouot is married to Claire Drouot.

French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 396. Photo: FIEBIG.

French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 395. Photo: FIEBIG.

French postcard by E.D.U.G.. Photo: FIEBIG.

Leader of Thierry La Fronde (1963). Source: Benoitus xvi (YouTube).

Sources: James Travers (Films de France), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Evene.fr (French), Wikipedia and IMDb.


Snap said...

I'm glad my doctor and lawyer don't look like Claude! I'd be looking at them instead of listening to them! Interesting how many artists were lawyers/doctors and heard their muse call them elsewhere.

Aimee said...

Very interesting! Happy PFF!

Joy said...

Never saw Thierry La Fonde although I do remember the fabulous French series Accursed Kings of the 60s so the fact that Drouot has been part of a film remake (Cursed Kings) made me sit up, I may have to search it out.

Dorincard said...

I enjoyed Thierry while I grew up in Romania...:)

Linda said...

Thierry is new to me, but not Agnes Varda. I'm a big fan of hers, but have not seen Bonheur/Happiness. It is on my list now. Thanks! and Happy PFF.

Bonbon2010 said...

Very interesting history!

This is my first entry to Postcard Friendship Friday.

Over the Mile

My apology for being late. I'm practically a newbie.

Funoldhag said...

What a handsome man.

Beth Niquette said...

What an interesting story behind this handsome face. Thank you for all the research you do, and for taking part in Postcard Friendship Friday.

I know we are all enriched with the information and amazing postcards you post each Friday!

Happy PFF!

Clytie said...

A perfect Robin Hood!!! I so enjoy your PFF posts!