18 September 2017

Jean Toulout

Jean Toulout (1887-1962) was a French stage and screen actor, director and scriptwriter. He was married to the actress Yvette Andreyor between 1917 and 1926. From 1913 on, he had an intense career in the French silent cinema.

Jean Toulout
French postcard by Editions-Cinémagazine.

A jealous, evil husband

Jean Joseph Charles Toulout was born in Paris in 1887. This biography is largely based on Toulout’s filmography while no real bio has been published online about him. According to Wikipedia, Toulout started to act on stage around 1907, when he played in the Victor Hugo play Marion Delorme at the Comédie Française.

One year after, he was acting at the Théàtre des Arts, so if he ever was a member of the Comédie Française, then it was not for long. In 1911 he travelled around with Firmin Gémier’s wandering stage company, but around 1913 he settled in Paris playing in André Antoine’s 1913 stage production of Paul Lindau’s The Prosecutor Hallers.

In 1912, Toulout debuted in the French cinema. Soon, his film career would become much more intense than his stage career. All-in all he would act in some 100 films within four decades.

Toulout started his screen career in short films by Abel Gance for Gance’s company Le film français. These included Il y a des pieds au plafond/There are feet on the ceiling, Le Nègre blanc/The White Negro, La Digue/The Dyke, Le Masque d’horreur/The Mask of Horror, all made in 1912. Soon, he also played various parts for Gaumont, Pathé and smaller companies. These films included La Maison des lions/The House of the Lions (Louis Feuillade, 1912), L’Homme qui assassina/The man who assassinated (Henri Andréani, 1913) and Les Enfants d'Édouard/The Children of Édouard (Henri Andréani, 1914).

In L’homme qui assassina, he is the evil, adulterous Lord Falkland [!], who presses his equally adulterous but goodhearted wife (Mlle Michelle) to either say goodbye to her child or publicly confess her sin, but her lover (Firmin Gémier) kills the husband and is even acquitted by the local Turkish commissionary (Adolphe Candé), who is very understanding in these matters.

Toulout didn’t act on screen in 1915, possibly because he was in the army during the First World War. From later 1916, he was back on track in several Gaumont films by Louis Feuillade and others. When he played in L’Autre/The Other (Louis Feuillade, 1917), he met the actress Yvette Andreyor, famous for her parts in Feuillade’s serials Fantomas and Judex. They married in 1917. Toulout and Andreyor would perform together in various films until their divorce in 1926.

Toulout was the evil antagonist of Emmy Lynn in La Dixième Symphonie/The Tenth Symphony (Abel Gance, 1918), blackmailing her for having accidentally killed his sister. She risks to wreck her new marriage with a composer (Séverin-Mars) but also the life of the composer’s daughter (Elizabeth Nizan). Luckily for the others he doesn’t kill them, only himself. As Wikipedia writes, “Gance's mastery of lighting, composition and editing was accompanied by a range of literary and artistic references which some critics found pretentious and alienating.”

He would be reunited with Emmy Lynn in La faute d’Odette Marchal/The fault of Odette Maréchal (Henri Roussel, 1920), and also - again as a jealous, evil husband - with Séverin-Mars in Jacques Landauze (1920) by André Hugon. With Hugon, Toulout would do several films in the 1920s and 1930s: including Le Roi de Camargue/The King of Camargue (1921), La Rue du pavé d'amour/The Pavement of Love (1923), and the first French sound film, Les Trois masques/The Three Masks (1929), shot at the London Elstree studios in only 15 days.

Jean Toulout
French postcard in the series Les Vedettes du Cinéma by Editions Filma, no. 28. Photo: Agence Générale Cinématographique.

A night in a haunted house

Jean Toulout also acted in films by Pierre Bressol, such as Le Mystère de la villa Mortain/The mystery of Villa Mortain (1919), and La Mission du docteur Klivers/The Mission of Doctor Klivers (1919), by Jacques Robert, Henri Fescourt, Armand du Plessis, and by Germaine Dulac, such as La fète espagnole/Spanish Fiesta (1920), and La belle dame sans-merci/The beautiful lady without mercy (1920). In La belle dame sans-merci he is a local count who finds a playful femme fatale he brought home is wrecking his whole family.

In Chantelouve (Georges Monca, 1921), he was once more the jealous husband who threatens to kill his wife (Yvette Andreyor). In La conquête des Gaules (Yan B. Dyl, Marcel Yonnet, 1923) he is a film director who tries to film Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul (modern France and Belgium) with only modest means. In Le Crime de Monique/The Crime of Monique (Robert Péguy, 1923) Yvette Andreyor is accused of killing her brutal violent husband (Toulout, of course).

Toulout also acted in Abel Gance’s hilarious comedy Au secours!/Help!(1924), starring Max Linder as a man who takes a bet to stay a night in a haunted house. When Max Linder returned to France after working in the US, he bet his friend Abel Gance - known for making big spectacles - that he couldn't make a film in less than three days. Gance accepted the bet, and this film is the result.

Toulout masterfully performed the persistent commissioner Javert in Les Misérables (Henri Fescourt, 1925), opposite Gabriel Gabrio as Jean Valjean. When a restored version was shown at the Giornate del Cinema Muto festival in Pordenone in October 2015, Peter Walsh wrote on his blog Burnt Retina: “Gabriel Gabrio as Jean Valjean was a towering presence on screen, and his redemptive arc, and gradual aging were shown in a convincing way. Jean Toulout as Javert was also superb, at times overpowered by some of the mightiest brows and mutton chops I’ve seen in a long time. The climax of his personal crisis, and collapse of his moral world was incredibly striking, with extreme close-ups capturing a bristling performance.”

After smaller parts as in Antoinette Sabrier (Germaine Dulac, 1927), in which Toulout would be paired with Gabrio again, Toulout left the set in 1928 and returned to the stage for Le Carnaval de l'amour at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin.

In 1929, however, Toulout was back on the screen as Mr de Villefort in the late silent film Monte Christo (Henri Fescourt, 1929) – the last big silent French production. He also appeared in the first French sound film Les Trois masques/The Three Masks (André Hugon, 1930) as a Corsican whose son (François Rozet) makes a girl (Renée Heribel) pregnant, after which her brothers take revenge during the carnival.

Toulout had the lead in the Henry Bataille adaptation La Tendresse/Tenderness (André Hugon, 1930) as a famous, older academic who discovers his much younger wife (Marcelle Chantal) isn’t as much in love with him as he is with her. When he gravely falls ill he however discovers she still gave the best of her life to him.

Jean Toulout
French postcard in the series Nos artistes dans leur loge, no. 325. Photo: Comoedia.

Fathers, judges, doctors, officers, and aristocrats

In 1930, Jean Toulout also tried his luck in film direction. Together with Joe Francis, he directed Le Tampon du Capiston (Joe Francis, Jean Toulout, 1930), a comical operetta film on an old spinster (Hélène Hallier), a captain’s sister, who wants to marry the captain’s aide (Rellys) who presumably has inherited a fortune.

In the same year, Toulout also wrote the scripts for two other films, both directed by André Hugon: La Femme et le Rossignol/Nightingale Girl (1930) and Lévy & Cie (1930), the first film of a series of four featuring Salomon and Moïse Lévy. In 1931 Toulout also scripted Moritz macht sein Glück, a German film by Dutch director Jaap Speijer.

The collaboration with Hugon continued when Toulout scripted and starred in Le Marchand de sable (André Hugon, 1931), while he had a supporting part in Hugon’s La Croix du Sud (André Hugon, 1931). The collaboration with Hugon would last till well into the mid-1940s with Le Faiseur (1936), Monsieur Bégonia (1937), La Rue sans joie (1938), Le Héros de la Marne (1938), La Sévillane (1943), and Le Chant de l'exilé (1943).

All through the 1930s Toulout had a steady, intense career as actor, but in 1934 he also directed his second film, La Reine du Biarritz, in which he himself had only a small part. Alice Field played Elenita de Sierra Mirador, who is the toast of Biarritz. For her, a young groom leaves his wife, and a forty-year-old inflamed suddenly deceives his young wife. But Elenita watched by her mother resigns herself to becoming honest and returns to her husband.

Otherwise Toulout had mostly supporting parts, as in Le petit roi/The Little King (1933) by Julien Duvivier, Fédora (Louis Gasnier, 1934), Les Nuits moscovites/Moscow Nights (Alexis Granowsky, 1934), and Le Bonheur/Happiness (Marcel L’Herbier, 1934). He played the jealous, shooting husband again in Le Vertige/Vertigo (Paul Schiller, 1935), again opposite Alice Field.

Toulout was the judge who forces Henri Garat and Lilian Harvey to marry on the spot in Les Gais lurons (Jacques Natanson, Paul Martin), the French version of Martin’s Glückskinder/Lucky Kids (1936). He is also the prosecutor in La Danseuse rouge/The Red Dancer (Jean-Paul Paulin, 1937), a courtroom drama starring Vera Korène, inspired by Mata Hari’s trial.

Toulout continued to act minor film parts in the late 1930s, during the war years and the late 1940s. Continuously, he played fathers, judges, doctors, officers, aristocrats. But he didn’t have major parts anymore. Memorable were his roles in Édouard et Caroline (Jacques Becker, 1951), starring Daniel Gélin and Anne Vernon, and – again, as a judge - in Obsession (Jean Delannoy, 1952) with Michèle Morgan and Raf Vallone.

Toulout also worked as voice actor in France. He dubbed Donald Crisp in How Green Was My Valley (John Ford, 1941, released in France in 1946), and Nigel Bruce in Limelight (Charles Chaplin, 1952). In the late 1950s, Toulout also acted on television.

Jean Toulout died in Paris in 1962. He was 75.

Au Secours/Help! (Abel Gance, 1924) with Max Linder and Jean Toulout. Source: Gunner Lonnberg (YouTube).

Sources: Peter Walsh (Burnt Retina), CinéArtistes (French), Wikipedia (English, French and Italian), and IMDb.

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