Louis Jourdan Photo Credit: Gene Trindl_Shooting Star™
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Louis Jourdan, Golden Globe Nominee (1921-2015)

The suave French actor Luis Jourdan, who appeared in movies both in Hollywood and in his native France, passed away February 14, 2015, aged 93.
His most notable and popular role was in the musical comedy Gigi, (1958) the last major musical out of MGM. Gigi was nominated for six Golden Globes, and won three statuettes: Best Film/Musical, for producer Arthur Freed, Best Director for Vincent Minnelli, and best supporting actress for Hermione Gingold. The three French leads, Leslie Caron who played the title role, Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier were nominated but did not win. The musical romantic comedy, based on a novella by Collette, was the perfect vehicle for Jourdan. It takes place in Paris, at the turn of the 20th century. Chevalier plays a charming old rogue, and Jourdan is his wealthy, young bon vivant nephew who falls in love with the young, lower class uneducated Gigi, in a Pygmalion/My Fair Lady like plot, delightfully written and scored by the same team of Lerner and Loewe which proved to be the perfect vehicle for Jourdan, who acted, danced, and had two solo musical numbers.
Jourdan was not the first choice for the role of Gaston. Producer Freed wanted to cast Dirk Bogarde, but he was signed to the Rank studio which refused to release him. Freed remembered Jourdan from the 1954 romantic comedy Three Coins in the Fountain, and cast him instead. Costarring in the enormously successful film made Jourdan an international heartthrob, and cemented his reputation and stature in Hollywood, where he remained until his death. He himself did not however consider Gigi his best movie: “It was wonderful for Chevalier and Caron,” he said “but I played a colorless leading man. You’ll notice that none of us were nominated for an Oscar.” He was successful in Hollywood but resented his typecasting. “Any actor who comes here with an accent is automatically put in roles as a lover,” he once told the AP, “I didn’t want to be perpetually cooing in a lady’s ear.”
Born Louis Gendre in Marseilles in 1921, he changed his name to Jourdan when he decided to become an actor, having met movie people in his father’s Cannes hotel.
During World War II he refused to act in Nazi made films, and joined the resistance.
Returning to acting after the war as a resistance hero (while many French actors were shunned because of their collaboration). He was lured to Hollywood by David O. Selznick, and landed his first USA role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case (1947) and was soon cast , alongside such leading ladies as Joan Fontaine, in Max Ophuls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), playing a debonaire, womanizing pianist. In Vincent Minelli’s Madame Bovary (1949) he played the lover of adulterous Jennifer Jones (a Golden Globe winner). Back in France meantime he worked with Brigitte Bardot in Her Bridal Night (1956).Capitalizing on his Gallic charm, he was the go-to continental romantic lead and called himself, disarmingly, ‘Hollywood’s French cliche’. But Jourdan ached to extend his range, and in Julie (1956) he was cast against type as six-times Golden Globe-nominee Doris Day’s psycho-killer husband. As he grew older he got more villain roles, but with a continental flavor, most famously in the 1983 Bond film Octopussy. The last decades of his career saw him on Broadway, on TV, and in movies that are better forgotten, such as Swamps Thing (1982), and inevitably The Return of Swamp Thing (1989).His last role was the suave villain in Golden Globe-winner Peter Yate’s vintage wine heist caper movie Year of the Comet (1992).
Jourdan last years were a mixture of loss and recognition: His only son died of a drug overdose, in 2010 he was appointed to the French Legion of Honor, and last year he lost his wife of 60 years.
Yoram Kahana