Louis de Funès1914-1983
In 1943, de Funès married Jeanne Barthélemy, with whom he would have two sons, Patrick and Olivier. Having decided to become an actor, de Funès enrolled on a drama course, which proved to be a waste of time except for his meeting with Daniel Gélin, who would become a close friend and provide de Funès with his first acting job, a small walk-on part in Jean Stelli’s 1945 film La Tentation de Barbizon.
For the next ten years, de Funès would appear in fifty films, but always in minor roles, usually as an extra, scarcely noticed by the audience. His big break came in 1956 when he appeared as the black-market pork butcher Jambier (another small role) in Claude Autant-Lara’s well-known film WWII comedy, La Traversée de Paris.
De Funès would continue to play smallish roles in films whilst pursuing a stage career, the latter culminating in a magnificent performance in the stage play Oscar (a role which the actor reprised a few years later in the film version). Stardom finally arrived in 1963 with Jean Girault’s film, Pouic-Pouic, a film which guaranteed top billing for de Funès in all of his subsequent films.
Following on from this first collaboration, director Jean Girault saw de Funès as the ideal actor to play the part of the accident prone gendarme in the series of six ‘Gendarme’ films, beginning with Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez. De Funès also appeared in another popular series of films, the Fantomas series, in which he starred with legendary actor Jean Marais.
Another director who was impressed with de Funès’ unique brand of comedy was Gérard Oury, who cast him opposite another great comic actor, Bourvil, in the 1964 film, Le Corniaud. The winning de Funès-Bourvil double act was repeated two years later in La Grande vadrouille, one of the most successful films made in France. Oury envisaged a further reunion of the two comics in his film La Folie ds grandeurs , but Bourvil’s death in 1970 led to the unlikely pairing of de Funès with Yves Montand in this film.
In 1975, de Funès was admitted to hospital for heart problems and forced to take a rest from acting. After his recovery, he appeared opposite another comic genius, Coluche, in L’Aile ou la cuisse. In 1980, de Funès realised a long-standing dream to make a film version of Molière’s play, L’Avare.
A few months after making his final film, Le Gendarme et les gendarmettes, Louis de Funès died from a heart attack, on 27th January 1983. He is buried in a cemetery at Allonnes, near to Saumur. Although fame was a long time coming, Louis de Funès is regarded today as not just a great comic actor with an unfaltering ability to make his audience laugh, but practically an institution in his own right. His many films bear testimony to the extent of his comic genius and demonstrate the tragedy that he never earned the international recognition that he certainly deserved.
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Louis de Funès is best-known for the following films:
- Comme un cheveu sur la soupe (1957)
- Ni vu, ni connu (1958)
- Taxi, Roulotte et Corrida (1958)
- Certains l’aiment... froide (1960)
- Dans l’eau qui fait des bulles (1961)
- Le Corniaud (1965)
- La Grande vadrouille (1966)
- Oscar (1967)
- La Folie des grandeurs (1971)
- Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob (1973)
- L’Aile ou la cuisse (1976)
The Film DirectorLouis de Funès directed the following films:
The ActorLouis de Funès has appeared in the following films:
Les Joueurs (1951) (short)
Boîte à vendre (1951) (short)
The WriterLouis de Funès contributed to the screenplay for the following films: