Jean-Louis Barrault

PARIS — Actor-director Jean-Louis Barrault, an unrivaled ambassador of French theatrical tradition, died Saturday in Paris. He was 83.

Actors and public figures hailed Barrault, famous for his role as the mime Baptiste in Marcel Carne’s 1945 film classic “Les Enfants du Paradis” (Children of Paradise), as the embodiment of French theater at home and abroad.

On tours around the world, Barrault performed classic plays by Moliere and Corneille, as well as works of postwar authors Claudel, Giraudoux and Camus.

“Barrault represented France the world over,” said leading actor Francis Huster.

Actors at the Theatre de l’Odeon in central Paris, which Barrault directed for a decade, dedicated their performance to him. The France-2 television channel dedicated all but five minutes of its evening news broadcast to Barrault’s death.

Born in Le Vesinet, outside Paris, Barrault decided on a career in the theater at the age of 6. Penniless and desperate at the age of 20, he wrote to Charles Dullin, director of a drama school in Paris, and was allowed to attend for free.

Barrault will be buried in Paris Tuesday after a ceremony in the church of Saint-Pierre de Chaillot near his home.

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