Jean Marais

  1. François Perier, Lafindujour, France,1939.     The notoriety of being JeanCocteau’s lover (for 26 years) led to good film offers. Not always accepted. Marais was even paid not to make some films.
  2. Gilbert Gil, Nuit de décembre, France, 1939.     Ill. Or, waiting for Cocteau movies to match the stage playshe wrote for him.They eventually made himthefirst post-war French heartthrob.
  3. Louis Jourdan, Premier Rendez-Vous (US: Her First Affair), France, 1941.     France was occupied by the Nazis, so were the film companies – indeed, Continentale was 100% German. And the Germans refused to hire Marais – never realising that Jourdan would go on to fight them in theFrench Resistance. Marais madethree later films with Jourdan’s co-star, Danielle Darrieux.
  4. Jean Desailly, Cheri,France, 1950.    “I’ll make the film for free if you take Valentina Tessier as Léa,” said Jeannot. “She’s too old,” said the suits. “Nonsense, she’s the perfect age – 39,” argued Marais. (He’s even shot secret tests to prove it).“Well, I will not hire her if you offer me 25m Francs!” Marais quit the project that few remember because Colette’s couple were Desailly and Marcelle Chantal, rather than the illustrious Marais-Tessier.
  5. Gérard Philipe, Juliette ou La clef des songes/Juliette or Key of Dreams, France, 1951.    Quickly shuttered by the Nazi Occupation when production began in October 1941, realisateur Marcel Carné revived it a decade later with not a second, but a third pair of co-stars. From Marais-Micheline Presle, to Roland Lesarffe-Leslie Caron, to Michel Auclair (or Philipe) opposite Susanne Cloutier. (Peter Ustinov’s sercond wife, 1954-1971).
  6. Jean-François Poron, La Princesse de Cleves,France, 1961.   In 1946, realisateur Jean Delannoy had Czech locations arranged but the project still sank.   Fifteen years on, Marais played the husband, being too old for the lover of the princess.
  7. Kerwin Matthews, OSS 117 se déchaîne (aka A Kick In The Teeth), France-Italy, 1963.        Inspired by the Dr No triumph and the Jean Bruce books about a French 007 called OSS 117, the leading (OK, ageing) French star suggested a copy-Bond series to his usual cloak-and-dagger réalisateur André Hunebelle. Great idea! Hunebelle quickly set it up – but dropped Marais! He made it up to Marais, with double whammy roles in the Fantômas franchise, starting in 1964 – way more successful that flimsy Kerwin Whosis as OSSomebody Who Was Not Bond. Not even close.
  8. Bernard Blier, La chance et l’amour (sketch: Une chance explosive), France, 1964.     For his second  sketch-film, the former criitic, publicist and Jean-Pierre Melville assistant, Bertrand Tavernier had meets with Marais and Eddie Constantine,before settling on Blier.And asked for him again (“I adore him!”) for his first feature, L’Horologer de Saint-Paul, ,1974, only to find him committed elsewhere.
  9. Massimo Girotti, La fabuleuse aventure de Marco Polo (UK/US: Marco The Magnificent), France-Italy-Yugoslavia-Afghanistan-Egypt, 1965.    Change of Popfor Marco – indeed, change of Marco as well, as the initial stars- Marais and Alain Delon – disappeared in the financial mess. When shopping began anew, pere et fils were Horst Buchholz and Girotti.
  10. Dirk Bogarde, Morte a Venezia (Death In Venice), Italy-France-1970.     The Italian maestro Luchino Visconti had tried to seduce him away from Jean Cocteau in 1936. Theythen  worked on stage – Two For The See-Saw in Paris, 1958 – yet, somehow, never for the cinema.Visconti settled for remaining friends and decades later wanted Marais to be the dying, gay composer in Venice – and later, the Prince de Guermantes in the never made Proust project, La Recherche du temps perdu.
  11. Jacques Perrin, Blanche, France, 1971.      Marais wanted not more money, but Catherine Deneuve  as  the titular young, pure, beautiful wife – or no deal. No way, said Polish director Walerian  Borowczyk, who wrote the film for his usual muse – his wif, Ligia Branice.  When Perrin took over, Boro was shocked because (a) Perrin wanted Deneuve as well and (b) proved to be one of his co-producers.  “Would never  have  chosen him if I’d known that.” He barely spoke to Perrin  during shooting. Marais   and Perrin had fallen for La Deneuve  the previous year when making Peau d’âne  together.
  12. Thierry Rode, Je vous salue Marie, Switzerland-France, 1984.    The new film-makers of La NouvelleVague iconised – and, strangely,fearedMarais.Only Jean-Luc Godard was brave enough to suggest a role – Joseph, now a drop-out cabby -in his update of the Nazareth virgin birth. Never happened. Of course not.  Marais was too old – just a tad – at age 61. As Godard continued to practise what he preached: “Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.”


 Birth year: 1913Death year: 1998Other name: Casting Calls:  12