Louis Jourdan, Star of ‘Octopussy,’ ‘Gigi,’ Dies at 93

louis jourdan Dead

Louis Jourdan, who crafted a Hollywood acting career in the footsteps of fellow dapper Frenchmen Maurice Chevalier and Charles Boyer and is best remembered for the musical “Gigi” and as the villain in James Bond pic “Octopussy,” has died at 93. According to his friend and biographer Olivier Minne, he died Saturday at his home in Beverly Hills.

Jourdan offered a certain effortless charm that worked equally well in light heroic roles and more sinister ones.

“He was the last French figure of the Hollywood golden age. And he worked with so many of the greatest actors and directors,” said Minne, who is working on a documentary and a book about Jourdan.

In Vincente Minnelli’s 1958 musical confection “Gigi,” Jourdan starred with Leslie Caron and Chevalier in an effort from the “My Fair Lady” team of Lerner & Loewe, turning the Collette tale into a Frenchified version of “Pygmalion.” The New York Times said, “Louis Jourdan is suave as the hero who holds out against (Gigi’s) blossoming charms.”

The film won nine Oscars; while Jourdan was not among those honored, he did receive a Golden Globe nomination in the comedy/musical actor category.

Raising his profile in the 1980s were bigscreen appearances in Wes Craven’s campy monster movie “Swamp Thing” and James Bond film “Octopussy.”

The actor had made his English-language debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1947 thriller “The Paradine Case,” playing a valet with mysterious motives, and then appeared with Joan Fontaine in the Max Ophuls 1948 masterpiece “Letter From an Unknown Woman,” in which he portrayed a playboy who barely notices the woman who is infatuated with him.

In Minnelli’s 1949 version of “Madame Bovary” starring Jennifer Jones, Jourdan played one of the men with whom Bovary becomes scandalously entangled.

He appeared in a pair of adventure pics in 1951, “Bird of Paradise” with Debra Paget and Jacques Tourneur’s “Anne of the Indies,” about a female pirate played by Jean Peters.

The next year he starred with Boyer in a very different sort of movie: the cozy, near-classic “The Happy Time,” about a boy coming of age in a French-Canadian family.

Jourdan reunited with Fontaine for “Decameron Nights” and returned to France to star in Jacques Becker’s 1953 film “Rue de l’Estrapade.” While in Europe, he also shot the very frothy romance “Three Coins in the Fountain,” in which he played an Italian prince.

Back in the U.S. he appeared opposite Grace Kelly in the 1956 “The Swan,” in which Kelly played a princess who loves her brothers’ tutor, played by Jourdan, but dutifully marries a dour prince (Alec Guinness).

The actor explored darker territory as the insanely jealous husband of Doris Day in the 1956 thriller “Julie.” The same year he played opposite Brigitte Bardot in the French romantic comedy “Her Bridal Night.”

The actor seemed appropriately uninterested in his rather humorless role in the middling 1960 musical “Can Can,” which reunited him with Chevalier and also starred Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine.

Jourdan made a couple of forays onto the Broadway stage in the 1950s, starring in “The Immoralist” with Geraldine Page and James Dean and in “Tonight in Samarkand.” In 1965, he starred with Barbara Harris in the out-of-town tryouts for the Alan Jay Lerner-Burton Lane musical “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” but Jourdan was replaced by John Cullum by the time the show reached Broadway.

Jourdan had begun doing smallscreen work since 1953, appearing on episodic anthology shows such as “Studio One in Hollywood” and “The Ford Television Theatre” but most interestingly starring in the brief ABC rarity “Paris Precinct,” a series about French police detectives actually shot in Paris but intended for American TV. It ran for two seasons from 1953-55.

In the 1960s and 1970s Jourdan did his bigscreen work in mostly low-profile pictures, many made in Europe. These films included “Disorder,” “The Sultans” and “To Commit a Murder.”

Jourdan remained on the radar with work in a few prominent films: He played an unctuous ladies’ man trying to woo Elizabeth Taylor away from Richard Burton in the 1963 all-star pic “The V.I.P.s”; he was the narrator for Billy Wilder’s “Irma La Douce”; he appeared with Rex Harrison and Rosemary Harris in a 1968 adaptation of Feydeau’s “A Flea in Her Ear.”

On TV he appeared in the NBC telepic “Run a Crooked Mile” with Mary Tyler Moore in 1969. He also played the villain in a TV version of “The Count of Monte Cristo” opposite Richard Chamberlain. (In 1961, Jourdan had starred as the hero in a visually enticing 1961 bigscreen French version of the Dumas classic.) He reunited with Chamberlain for another Dumas TV adaptation, 1977’s “The Man in the Iron Mask,” in which he played D’Artagnan.

Jourdan also played the title character in “Count Dracula” for PBS’ “Great Performances,” one of the most faithful adaptations of Bram Stoker’s book; and appeared in ABC’s 1979 miniseries “The French Atlantic Affair.”

In 1978 returned to Broadway after an absence of more than two decades to star in “13 Rue de l’Amour.”

He made his final TV appearance in NBC’s 1986 telepic “Beverly Hills Madam,” starring Faye Dunaway.

The actor returned to the big screen for a “Swamp Thing” sequel in 1989 and retired to the South of France and Beverly Hills in 1992 after appearing in Peter Yates’ “Year of the Comet,” a misleadingly titled caper pic centered around wine.

Louis Gendre was born in Marseille, raised in Cannes and received his training as an actor at the Ecole Dramatique. Jourdan’s film debut came in 1939’s “Le Corsaire,” and he appeared in several movies made by director Marc Allegret as war was raging in Europe, including “Les petites du quai aux fleurs” and “Twilight.”

In 2010 the actor was awarded the Legion d’Honneur in Los Angeles. Friends including Sidney Poitier and Kirk Douglas were there to congratulate him.

Son Louis Henry Jourdan died of a drug overdose in 1981. His wife, Berthe Frederique “Quique” Jourdan, to whom he was married for more than six decades, died last year.

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  1. Can you please tell me the cause of death of Louis jourdan wife berthe jourdan
    Look forward to hearing from you

  2. gale donner says:

    Louis Jourdan had such grace and stage presence. His on stage presence captivated you from beginning to end. Louis did belong to the Golden Era of Hollywood! May you be in a better place with your loved ones!

  3. roberta warwick,baker says:

    an actor of the golden era,gone but not forgotten,now re,united with your loved ones.godbless

  4. anne says:

    He was an elegant, international gentleman. Seeing his picture and story in the same edition as Fifty Shades filth shows how far our tastes have fallen.

  5. zyggie says:

    Prayers for him and to his family. Sorry for the loss. He lived a very long time 93 is a blessing. I hope I can live that long and my quality of life is excellent.

  6. Beckett says:

    Gigi was magical! I think he was made for the role with Leslie Caron. RIP Mr Jourdan…What a body of work he leaves behind.

  7. tgdf3141 says:

    Wonderful recap of his career, but what was the cause of death? Doesn’t anyone know how to write a news report any more?

  8. geribean says:

    He was an incredible actor, and one of my early childhood favorites.

    He lived a full life, but will still be sorely missed.

    I like to think he’s happy in the arms of his family now, especially his son who died all too soon.

    BTW, in the film, “Letter from an Unknown Woman,” the woman didn’t kill herself, but rather died of typhus.

    I wish you had also mentioned “La Comedie du Bonheur,” a talkie in which he appeared with one of the greatest silent stars, Ramon Novarro, also a favorite of mine.

    RIP Monsieur Jourdan. Never to be forgotten.

  9. Rebecca Noel says:

    It sounds as though Mr Jourdan had no more living relatives left. So sad. He was a wonderful actor. We will miss him. 💖

  10. No mention of his work during WWII with the French Resistance.

  11. Reblogged this on The Fluff Is Raging and commented:
    ah, the night they invented champagne …

  12. john wells says:

    requeim in pacem

  13. john wells says:

    A beautiful man and a wonderful actor requiem in pace

  14. Ken says:

    Continental charm to spare! Louis in that top hat and tails; Leslie in that gorgeous white gown towards the end of GIGI – both effortlessly beautiful…a dream movie couple. Lived to ripe old age of 93. Well done, Sir!

  15. The first Dracula to make me root for the vampire

  16. Spider says:

    I thought he was good as Arcane in 1982’s classic, B-flick “Swamp Thing”. RIP, Mr. Jordan.

  17. What a great actor. I lived him in Gigi………He will be missed

  18. Mary S says:

    He was a handsome and charming actor, one whom I always enjoyed seeing in his many different roles. I loved him in Gigi and CanCan! I am so glad that he had a long and (hopefully) happy life! May he rest in peace and may his spirit bask forever in the love of God and of his wife, who went before him.

  19. Marty Gillis says:

    Louis Jourdan was excellent as the murderer in the 1978 Columbo episode “Murder Under Glass”. ‘Paul Gerard’ , his character , was so despicable that even Columbo could not find one redeeming thing about him. And along with Richard Kiel, his Bond villain ‘Kamal Khan’ from “Octopussy” was among the very best for Roger Moore’s films. He will be fondly remembered by film and TV aficionados. Never a bad performance.

    • k2graphics says:

      I’m so glad you mentioned the Columbo episode. Monsieur Jourdan was such a delicious villain.

      You don’t happen to be any relation to Jackson Gillis, who created some of the best Columbo story lines?

  20. jim russell says:

    He was also in one of Columbo’s best episodes. Playing the wine connoseur came across as totally effortless. RIP.

  21. Salty Bill says:

    “The last French figure of the Golden Age”? Leslie Caron is still around.

  22. aryedirect says:

    Jourdan in ‘Gigi’ = Magnifique. Effortless charm masks remarkable acting.

  23. He was also the elegant television spokesman for FTD in the 70’s. Rest in peace.

    • Jeffrey Snyder says:

      Very much the elegant spokesman! Worked with him at FTD in the 70’s as I watch him pitch the failed fragrance “joie de fleurs.” Ah…that certainly was a time!

  24. Christophe says:

    So sad! I didn’t know about him until very recently but I’ve happened to watch two of his Hollywood films over the last few weeks: Gigi and Letter from an Unknown Woman. He was magnificent in both and I’m looking forward to watch more of his work.

  25. Michael says:

    Is he 83 or 93? Get the facts straight.

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