Jean Gabin: French actor (1904 - 1976) | Biography
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Jean Gabin
French actor

Jean Gabin

Jean Gabin
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro French actor
Was Actor Film actor Singer Screenwriter
From France
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music
Gender male
Birth 17 May 1904, 9th arrondissement of Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
Death 15 November 1976, Neuilly-sur-Seine, canton of Neuilly-sur-Seine, arrondissement of Nanterre, Hauts-de-Seine (aged 72 years)
Star sign Taurus
Mother: Hélène Petit
Father: Ferdinand Gabin
Spouse: Gaby BassetJeanne MauchainChristiane Fournier
Children: Florence Moncorgé-Gabin
Jean Gabin
The details (from wikipedia)


Jean Gabin (French: [ʒɑ̃ gabɛ̃]; 17 May 1904 – 15 November 1976) was a French actor and sometime singer. Considered a key figure in French cinema, he starred in several classic films including Pépé le Moko (1937), La grande illusion (1937), Le Quai des brumes (1938), La bête humaine (1938), Le jour se lève (1939), and Le plaisir (1952). Gabin was made a member of the Légion d'honneur in recognition of the important role he played in French cinema.


Gabin in Le Jour Se Lève (1939)

Early life

Gabin was born Jean-Alexis Moncorgé in Paris, the son of Madeleine Petit and Ferdinand Moncorgé, a cafe owner and cabaret entertainer whose stage name was Gabin, which is a first name in French. He grew up in the village of Mériel in the Seine-et-Oise (now Val-d'Oise) département, about 22 mi (35 km) north of Paris. He attended the Lycée Janson de Sailly. Gabin left school early, and worked as a laborer until the age of 19 when he entered show business with a bit part in a Folies Bergères production. He continued performing in a variety of minor roles before going into the military.


After completing his military service in the Fusiliers marins, he returned to the entertainment business, working under the stage name of Jean Gabin at whatever was offered in the Parisian music halls and operettas, imitating the singing style of Maurice Chevalier, which was the rage at the time. He was part of a troupe that toured South America, and upon returning to France found work at the Moulin Rouge. His performances started getting noticed, and better stage roles came along that led to parts in two silent films in 1928.

Two years later Gabin easily made the transition to talkies, in a 1930 Pathé Frères production titled Chacun sa Chance. Playing secondary roles, he made more than a dozen films over the next four years, including films directed by Maurice and Jacques Tourneur. However, he only gained real recognition for his performance in Maria Chapdelaine (fr), a 1934 production directed by Julien Duvivier. He was then cast as a romantic hero in a 1936 war drama titled La Bandera; this second Duvivier-directed film established him as a major star. The following year he teamed up with Duvivier again, this time in the highly successful Pépé le Moko; its popularity brought Gabin international recognition. That same year he starred in the Jean Renoir film La Grande Illusion, an anti-war film that ran at a New York City theatre for an unprecedented six months. This was followed by another one of Renoir's major works: La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast), a film noir tragedy based on the novel by Émile Zola and starring Gabin and Simone Simon, as well as Le Quai Des Brumes (Port of Shadows), one of director Marcel Carné's classics of poetic realism. He was divorced from his second wife in 1939.

Gabin in The Walls of Malapaga (1949)

In the late 1930s Gabin was flooded with offers from Hollywood; for a time he turned them all down, until the outbreak of World War II. After the German occupation of France in 1940, he joined Jean Renoir and Julien Duvivier in the United States. During his time in Hollywood, Gabin began a torrid romance with actress Marlene Dietrich which lasted until 1948. However, his films in America – Moontide (1942) and The Impostor (1944), the later reuniting him with Duvivier – were not successful.

Gabin was a difficult personality; he did serious damage to his Hollywood career while working for RKO Pictures. Scheduled to star in an RKO film, at the last minute he demanded Dietrich be given the co-starring role. The studio refused. After Gabin remained steadfast in his demand, he was fired, and the film project was shelved.

Undaunted, he joined General Charles de Gaulle's Free French Forces and earned the Médaille militaire and a Croix de guerre for his wartime valor fighting with the Allies in North Africa. Following D-Day, Gabin was part of the military contingent that entered a liberated Paris.

He was hired by Marcel Carné in 1946 to star in the film, Les Portes de la Nuit, but his conduct got him fired again. He then found a French producer and director willing to cast him and Marlene Dietrich together, but their film Martin Roumagnac was not a success and their personal relationship soon ended. Following another box office failure in 1947, Gabin returned to the stage, but there too, the production was another financial disaster. Nevertheless, he was cast in the lead role of the 1949 René Clément film Au-Delà Des Grilles, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Despite this recognition, the film did not do well at the French box office, and the next five years brought little more than repeated box office failures.

Gabin in The Little Rebels (1955)

His career seemed headed for oblivion. However, he made a comeback in the 1954 film Touchez pas au grisbi (Don't Touch the Loot), directed by Jacques Becker. Gabin's performance earned him critical acclaim, and the film was a very profitable international success. Later, he worked once again with Jean Renoir in French Cancan, with María Félix and Françoise Arnoul. Gabin played Georges Simenon's detective Jules Maigret for three films in 1958, 1959 and 1963. Over the next twenty years he made almost 50 more films, most of them very successful commercially and critically, including many for Gafer Films, his production partnership with fellow actor Fernandel.

His co-stars included leading figures of post-war cinema such as Brigitte Bardot (En cas de malheur), Alain Delon (Le Clan des Siciliens, Mélodie en sous-sol and Deux hommes dans la ville), Jean-Paul Belmondo (Un singe en hiver) and Louis de Funès (Le Tatoué).


Gabin died of leukaemia at the American Hospital of Paris, in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. His body was cremated, and—with full military honours—his ashes were scattered at sea from a military ship.


The Musée Jean Gabin.
  • He was considered one of the greatest stars and an important figure in the French cinema, and was also appointed Officier de la Légion d'honneur.
  • In 1981, French actor Louis de Funès initiated the Prix Jean Gabin, a film accolade presented to upcoming actors working in the French film industry. It was awarded annually between 1981 and 2006.
  • The Musée Jean Gabin—in the commune of Mériel, where he grew up—narrates his story and features his film memorabilia.
  • The Place Jean Gabin was inaugurated on 16 May 2008 by Daniel Vaillant, the then mayor of the 18th arrondissement of Paris, and Jean Gabin's children. It is located on the corner of rue Custine and rue Lambert, at the foot of Montmartre.
  • The Cinema Jean Gabin in Montgenèvre was named after him. Montgenèvre claims to be the oldest ski resort in France, and was a popular holiday destination for Jean Gabin and other French artists and intellectuals, including Jean-Paul Sartre.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Director Notes
1931 Paris-Béguin (The Darling of Paris) Bob Augusto Genina
1932 Les Gaîtés de l'escadron (Fun in the Barracks) Fricot Maurice Tourneur
1933 Le Tunnel (The Tunnel) Allan Mac Allan Curtis Bernhardt French version of a German film
1933 Du haut en bas (High and Low) Carles Boula Georg Wilhelm Pabst
1934 Maria Chapdelaine (fr) François Paradis Julien Duvivier NBR Award 1935
1934 Zouzou Jean, an orphan Julien Duvivier Featuring Josephine Baker
1935 La Bandera (Escape from Yesterday) Pierre Gilleth Julien Duvivier Adaptation of Pierre Mac Orlan's novel La Bandera.
1936 Les Bas-fonds (The Lower Depths) Wasska Pepel Jean Renoir Louis Delluc Prize 1937. Adaptation of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths.
La Belle Équipe (They Were Five) Jeannot Julien Duvivier With Charles Vanel and Viviane Romance.
1937 Pépé le Moko Pépé Julien Duvivier Remade twice: Algiers (1938) and Casbah (1948).
La Grande Illusion Lieutenant Maréchal Jean Renoir NBR Award 1938
Gueule d'amour (Lady Killer) Lucien Bourrache Jean Grémillon Adaptation of a novel by André Beucler (fr).
1938 Le Récif de corail (Coral Reefs) Trott Lennart Maurice Gleize With Michèle Morgan. Adaptation of a novel by Jean Martet.
Le Quai des brumes (Port of Shadows) Jean Marcel Carné With Michèle Morgan and Claude Brasseur. Louis Delluc Prize 1939
La Bête humaine (The Human Beast) Jacques Lantier Jean Renoir Adaptation of Émile Zola's novel La Bête humaine.
1939 Le Jour Se Lève (Daybreak) François Marcel Carné Remade as The Long Night, starring Henry Fonda.
1941 Remorques (Stormy Waters) Captain André Laurent Jean Grémillon With Madeleine Renaud. Adaptation of a novel by Roger Vercel.
1942 Moontide Bobo Archie Mayo With Ida Lupino. Adaptation of a novel by Willard Robertson.
1944 The Impostor Clement Julien Duvivier
1946 Martin Roumagnac (The Room Upstairs) Martin Roumagnac Georges Lacombe With Marlene Dietrich. Adaptation of a novel by Pierre-René Wolf.
1947 Miroir Raymond Lamy
1949 Au-delà des grilles (The Walls of Malapaga) Pierre Arrignon René Clément Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film 1949
1951 È più facile che un cammello... (His Last Twelve Hours) Carlo Bacchi Luigi Zampa French title: Pour l'amour du ciel
1952 La Vérité sur Bébé Donge (The Truth About Bebe Donge) François Donge Henri Decoin With Danielle Darrieux. Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon.
Le Plaisir (House of Pleasure) Joseph Rivet Max Ophüls An anthology film based on three stories by Guy de Maupassant.
La Minute de vérité (La Minute de vérité) Pierre Richard Jean Delannoy French-Italian-Austrian coproduction
1954 Touchez pas au grisbi (Don't Touch the Loot) Max Jacques Becker With Jeanne Moreau and Lino Ventura. Adaptation of a novel by Albert Simonin.
Razzia sur la chnouf (Raid on the Drug Ring) Henri Ferré Henri Decoin Based on a novel by Auguste Le Breton.
1955 Napoléon Jean Lannes Sacha Guitry Cameo appearance
French Cancan Henri Danglard Jean Renoir Musical film
Gas-oil (fr) Jean Chape Gilles Grangier With Jeanne Moreau.
1956 Des gens sans importance Jean Viard Henri Verneuil
Voici le temps des assassins (Deadlier Than the Male) André Chatelin Julien Duvivier Produced by Raymond Borderie (and others).
Le Sang à la tête (fr) François Cardinaud Gilles Grangier Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon.
La Traversée de Paris (The Trip Across Paris) Grandgil Claude Autant-Lara With Louis de Funès and Bourvil
Crime and Punishment Commissaire Gallet Georges Lampin With Robert Hossein and Marina Vlady
1957 Le rouge est mis (Speaking of Murder) Louis Bertain / Louis le Blond Gilles Grangier With Annie Girardot.
1958 Maigret tend un piège (Maigret Sets a Trap) Jules Maigret Jean Delannoy With Annie Girardot. Adaptation of an original Maigret story by Georges Simenon.
Le désordre et la nuit (Night Affair) Inspecteur Georges Vallois Gilles Grangier With Danielle Darrieux.
Les Misérables Jean Valjean Jean-Paul Le Chanois Franco-Italian-German adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel.
En cas de malheur (In Case of Adversity) André Gobillot Claude Autant-Lara With Brigitte Bardot.
Les Grandes Familles (The Possessors) Noël Schoudler Denys de La Patellière
1959 Archimède le clochard (The Magnificent Tramp) Archimède Gilles Grangier Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 9th Berlin International Film Festival
Maigret et l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre (fr) Jules Maigret Jean Delannoy Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon.
Rue des prairies Henri Neveux Denys de La Patellière
1961 Le Président (The President) Émile Beaufort Henri Verneuil Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon.
Le cave se rebiffe (The Counterfeiters of Paris) Ferdinand Maréchal Gilles Grangier Adaptation of a novel by Albert Simonin.
1962 Le Gentleman d'Epsom (The Gentleman from Epsom) Richard Briand-Charmery Gilles Grangier Raymond Oliver as himself.
Un singe en hiver (A Monkey in Winter) Albert Quentin Henri Verneuil With Jean-Paul Belmondo. Adaptation of Antoine Blondin's novel "A Monkey in Winter".
1963 Mélodie en sous-sol (Any Number Can Win) Mister Charles Henri Verneuil With Alain Delon. Adaptation of Zekial Marko's novel "The Big Grab".
Maigret voit rouge (fr) Jules Maigret Gilles Grangier Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon.
1964 Monsieur (fr) René Duchêne / Georges Baudin Jean-Paul Le Chanois With Liselotte Pulver
1965 Le Tonnerre de Dieu (God's Thunder) Léandre Brassac Denys de La Patellière With Lilli Palmer, Michèle Mercier and Robert Hossein.
1966 Du rififi à Paname (The Upper Hand) Paul Berger Denys de La Patellière With Gert Fröbe, George Raft and Mireille Darc.
Le jardinier d'Argenteuil Joseph Martin alias 'Tulipe' Jean-Paul le Chanoix
1967 Le Soleil des voyous (fr) (Action Man) Denis Ferrand Jean Delannoy With Robert Stack.
1968 Le Pacha Comissaire Louis Joss Georges Lautner
Le tatoué (The Million Dollar Tattoo) Comte Enguerand Denys de La Patellière Co-starring Louis de Funès
1969 Le clan des siciliens (The Sicilian Clan) Vittorio Manalese Henri Verneuil With Alain Delon and Lino Ventura. Score by Ennio Morricone.
1970 La Horse Auguste Maroilleur Pierre Granier-Deferre
1971 Le Chat Julien Bouin Pierre Granier-Deferre Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival
1972 Le Tueur (fr) Commissaire Le Guen Denys de La Patellière
1973 Deux hommes dans la ville (Two Men in Town) Germain Cazeneuve José Giovanni With Alain Delon, Mimsy Farmer and Gérard Depardieu.
1974 Verdict Judge Leguen André Cayatte With Sophia Loren. Produced by Carlo Ponti.
1976 L'Année sainte (Holy Year) Max Lambert Jean Girault His last film, with Jean-Claude Brialy, Henri Virlojeux, and Danielle Darrieux
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