Jean Gabin

The Actor Who Was France


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About the Book

Jean Gabin was more than just a star of iconic movies still screened in film festivals around the world. To many, he was France itself. During his 45-year career, he acted in 95 films, including Le Quai des Brumes, La Grande Illusion, Touchez Pas au Grisbi and French Cancan. From his start as a reluctant song and dance man at the Moulin Rouge and Folies Bergère, Gabin became a first-magnitude actor under such directors as Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné and Jean Renoir. This revealing biography traces his involvement in the réalisme poétique and film noir movements of the 1930s and 1940s, his unhappy Hollywood years, his role in the World War II liberation of France, his tumultuous affairs with Michèle Morgan and Marlene Dietrich and his real-life role as a Normandy gentleman farmer.

About the Author(s)

Joseph Harriss’s articles and columns from his posts in Paris, North Africa, Brussels and Washington have appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including Time, The New York Times, Smithsonian, and The American Spectator. He is the author of three previous books on France. He lives in Paris.

Bibliographic Details

Joseph Harriss

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 229
Bibliographic Info: 49 photos, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7627-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3460-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
1 • The Moncorgés 5
2 • Good for Nothing 11
3 • Becoming Gabin 22
4 • Moulin Rouge 28
5 • First Films 34
6 • Rising Star 41
7 • Breakthrough 49
8 • Politics and Poetics 57
9 • Prewar Classics (Part One) 67
10 • Prewar Classics (Part Two) 77
11 • Storm Clouds of War 90
12 • Escape to America 97
13 • Hollywood Alien 106
14 • Marlene 117
15 • Free French 128
16 • Oldest Tank Commander 137
17 • Gray Years 146
18 • Dream Realized 157
19 • New Persona 168
20 • Monument 184
Filmography 195
Chapter Notes 199
Bibliography 207
Index 213

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “A thorough, well-researched biography”—Los Angeles Times
  • “Fascinating and thoroughly researched…. This is the first full-length account of Gabin’s colorful life in English and is likely to be the book of choice for film scholars and Anglophone French cinema fans for some time to come…. Harriss brings narrative skill and sweeping historical context to the Gabin saga…. Harris weaves the threads of Gabin’s life into a coherent chronological story covering 72 years, from his birth in 1904 to his death in 1976. He avoids the star-struck tone of so many such biographies and lets the story tell itself. And the story is riveting.”—Facts & Arts
  • “This beautifully written, fast-moving book is immaculately researched. One of the best film bios I have ever read, it will be a useful work of scholarship for many years to come.”—Charles Zigman, Los Angeles based screenwriter and teacher of film studies