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 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, 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.
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 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 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 the production was a 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 failures.
His career seemed headed for oblivion. However, in the 1954 film Touchez pas au grisbi (Don't Touch the Loot), directed by Jacques Becker, Gabin's performance earned him critical acclaim. The film was very profitable internationally. He then 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.
|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||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.|
|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.|
|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||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||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. Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon.|
|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||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||Jules Maigret||Gilles Grangier||Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon.|
|1964||Monsieur||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.|
|The Gardener of Argenteuil||Joseph Martin alias 'Tulipe'||Jean-Paul le Chanoix|
|1967||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||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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