When I was a junior in high school, I saw The Swamp Thing (1982). Directed by Cleveland native Wes Craven, who would go on to fame and fortune as a purveyor of gory slasher flicks, the movie offered a gentler, more old-fashioned, monster-based brand of horror. I recall Adrienne Barbeau as the scantily-clad love interest. Akron native Ray Wise played the monstrous hero. But the one actor who grabbed my attention was Louis Jourdain as the “criminal mastermind,” Dr. Anton Arcane.
Jourdain was then in the “evil genius” phase of his career. In Octopussy, the sixteenth entry in the James Bond canon, he portrayed the suave backgammon-playing villain, Kamal Khan.
Even as a campy villain, Jourdain still had the sexy charisma of Gaston, the romantic hero of Lerner and Loewe’s sublime Gigi (1958; directed by Vincente Minnelli). No doubt he had it until the day he died, at age 93, on February 15, 2015.
As Gaston, Jourdain had to do a fair bit of singing, which he managed by adopting the Rex Harrison “spoken word” approach. I read somewhere that he struggled with his songs and that the title song had to be spliced together from many takes. No matter. It works beautifully. He fills “Gigi” with tenderness and a sense of wonder, and his delivery of “She Is Not Thinking Of Me” veers between wry amusement and outraged male vanity.
A friend who studies French film told me that Jourdain was never well known in France; he owed his career to Hollywood. Still, the Monsieur Louis Jourdain archive contains a wealth of articles in both English and French. Perhaps he represented a stereotype of the suave “French Lovair” for American consumption, and after Gigi he regretted that he was always viewed more as a dreamboat than a “serious actor.” But I am grateful that Jourdain’s extraordinary Beauty and talent were recognized in Hollywood. He worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Grace Kelly, Jennifer Jones, Shirley MacLaine and many other legends.
Delving into Jourdain’s catalogue, I discovered that he played Count Dracula for a BBC adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel. You can bet I’ll be tracking that one down!
I saw “Gigi” on screen when I was a preteen. It was gloriously romantic, not only for Louis Jourdain, who was as dreamy as you describe, but also for Maurice Chevalier who twinkled and flirted, and stole every scene. It’s sad if Jourdain was left typecast as a character he didn’t enjoy.
Oh yes, Maurice Chevalier was lovely in that film. He gave it a shot of French authenticity because he really was a huge star in France, as well as in Hollywood. As you say, he always had a twinkle in his eye.
I live and learn. I never associated Gaston Lachaille with Kamal Khan! Thank you for correcting this deplorable oversight LM.
Sometimes the campy roles are the most fun 🙂
I adore the movie Gigi. Jourdain, another Beautiful Man LM. That last photo, oh my.
Yes, he was stunning! And I am a sucker for a French accent 🙂
“J’étais le cliché français” he used to say.
More photos and videos here:
Thank you for the links! Excellent photos and clips. I don’t think I’ve seen “Can-Can,” so that one will be next on my list. And like “Gigi” it has the great Maurice Chevalier!
Oh, good heavens those Frenchman. Years ago, I dated a French model not because we had anything remotely in common, but simply because I loved to hear him speak. He was about as intelligent as a telephone post, but I was not looking for scintillating conversation. Sometimes, I’d just ask him to read to me out of whatever book I had handy. Seems rather cruel now, doesn’t it? God, those were good times.
LOL. Never underestimate the power of a good voice! Some men could read Leviticus aloud and still be sexy 🙂
Saw “Swamp Thing” back in the 80s and loved it. As I recall, it didn’t rate particularly high with film critics, but that’s their problem. You well describe it as a movie that “offered a gentler, more old-fasioned, monster-based brand of horror” – and it was great fun. Too bad Wes Craven went on to bigger and worser things.
Yes, I can’t bear slasher movies, but I enjoy a little monster horror now and then. Swamp Thing was inspired by old pulp fiction, I think. You can tell by the movie poster: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/4/45/Swampthing.jpg/225px-Swampthing.jpg
And maybe the critics didn’t like it, but it was successful enough to spawn a sequel 🙂
I didn’t know he passed away… he was a elegant and smooth man and actor.. had also not realised he wasn’t so big in France! My mom loved him, not as much as Maurice Chevalier i might add. But i do remember these movies very well. Just as well as i do the detective films with Jean Gabin 🙂 or Jean Marais playing Le Cid. Those are wonderful memories 🙂
You’ve just given me some good tips. I have not seen either of those Jeans! But I love Jean Reno: http://www.listal.com/viewimage/832412
oh yes, know that one! wonder what makes French men so interesting as they are rarely very traditionally good looking, but they have a certain ‘ je ne sais quoi’ 🙂
Well as you know from my fan preference, I go for the non-traditional ones 🙂
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