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Louis Jourdan, French actor and star of Gigi, dies aged 93

February 16, 2015

The French actor Louis Jourdan, best known for his role in the multi-Oscar winning 1958 musical Gigi, has died in California aged 93

Born in Marseilles, he began his career acting in French films before being lured to the US.

Often seen in roles that capitalised on his Gallic charm, he described himself as Hollywood's "French cliche".

His later years saw him play evil villains, including in the 1983 Bond film Octopussy.

Jourdan died at his home in Los Angeles, his official biographer Olivier Minne said.

"He embodied French elegance and Hollywood offered him the parts to go with that," he told the AFP news agency.

Among those paying tribute on Twitter was Indian film star Kabir Bedi, who played Jourdan's bodyguard Gobinda in Octopussy.

"Deeply saddened to hear, from @twitter friends, of the passing of Louis Jordan," he wrote.

Cassian Elwes, producer of films including Monster's Ball and Dallas Buyers Club, wrote: "Louis Jourdan was an absolutely charming man who was always elegant in everything he did it was no wonder he was friends w [sic] everyone he met."

American actress Rose McGowan, whose films include The Black Dahlia, wrote: "Louis Jourdan, thank you for the entertainment. Your elegant beauty and wit were a joy to behold."

French resistance

Born Louis Gendre in 1921, he changed his name to Pierre Jourdan, then Louis Jourdan when he became an actor.

According to a biography by the late Hollywood correspondent Bob Thomas, Jourdan's father owned a seaside hotel in Cannes, where he met artists, actors and directors who encouraged him to study drama in Paris.

His early career in France was interrupted by World War Two. He refused to star in Nazi propaganda films and escaped to join the French resistance.

After the war, he resumed his film career, eventually becoming one of Hollywood's favourite French actors.

Jourdan played opposite leading ladies Joan Fontaine, Jennifer Jones, Grace Kelly and Shirley MacLaine in films during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s.

Gigi, a musical romantic comedy in which he played the suave Gaston Lachaille, was one of the most successful films of the 1950s. It won nine Oscars, including best picture.

Despite this, Jourdan did not consider Gigi his best achievement, reportedly saying: "It was a wonderful story for Leslie and Maurice Chevalier, but I played a colourless leading man.

"You'll note that none of the actors was nominated for Academy Awards."

'Perpetually cooing'

Other key roles included a part in Alfred Hitchcock's 1947 film The Paradine Case, and with Grace Kelly in The Swan.

He played concert pianist Stefan Brand opposite actress Joan Fontaine in the 1948 film Letter from an Unknown Woman.

He also showed that he could play a villain in the 1956 film Julie, in which he played Doris Day's husband, a psychopathic killer.

But despite his 15 years as a leading man, Jourdan felt he was often subject to Hollywood typecasting.

"Any actor who comes here with an accent is automatically put in roles as a lover," the Associated Press news agency reported him as once saying. "I didn't want to be perpetually cooing in a lady's ear."

Jourdan has two stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame and in 2010 he was given France's highest honour, Legion D'Honneur.

His wife of more than 60 years, Berthe Frederique Jourdan, died last year.

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