Jean Marais – great French actor
Jean Marais was a great French actor, who played many wonderful roles. In addition, he is known as a director, writer, artist, sculptor, stuntman.
Jean-Alfred Villain-Marais was born on December 11, 1913 in Cherbourg into the family of a veterinarian. But he almost did not remember his father, because his parents divorced when he was only five years old. At the age of six little Jean went to the cinema and immediately decided to become an actor. But the dream was not realized at once. He had to work at a small factory. The talented young man didn’t like the life of a simple worker. So, he became a pupil of the photographer. Having received the necessary experience, Jean Marais began to make photo-reports for the Paris fashion magazines and unexpectedly received an offer to work as a demonstrator of fashionable clothes. On the podium Jean felt himself confident.
The athletic grace of the body, graceful manners made him irresistible. He tried himself on stage in the Paris theater Atelier. The salary was not paid there, but they allowed to take free acting lessons. During that time, he met Jean Cocteau, a famous French poet, writer, screenwriter and director. Jean Cocteau was delighted with the beauty of young Marais. He gave the young actor the main roles in his performances Orpheus, Knights of the Round Table and King Oedipus. At the same time, Cocteau said to the young man: “I must warn you that if you play in my plays, everyone will say that you are my friend.” Jean Marais was embarrassed at first, and then said: “I will be very proud of this!” So, the love story of a young actor and a great maestro began. Cocteau introduced him to the Parisian bohemia, famous filmmakers. In 1937 Marais began to star in films, first in episodes, and then in the lead roles. Marais and Cocteau were together until the death of the maestro in 1963. After the death of his friend Marais was in deep depression and only intensive work in films saved him.
In August 1939, the Second World War began. France declared war on Germany. Jean voluntarily went to the front. There he became a petrol tank driver and took part in hostilities. Under bombs and artillery fire, he brought fuel to the French tankmen. He drove his tank truck along the minefield, as the rest of the roads were blocked by the enemy. For this feat he received the Military Cross. Curiously, the actor did not see anything heroic in his behavior. On the contrary, it seemed obvious and normal to him.
In June 1940, France was defeated and capitulated. Jean returned to Paris and took up acting again. However, when in 1944 the American and British troops landed in the territory of France, the actor returned to the army. He voluntarily joined the French division of General Leclerc and took part in the hostilities until the German troops were expelled from the territory of France.
The long-awaited glory came to Jean Marais in 1943 after his role in the film The Eternal Return. It is interesting that in this film he acted with his dog. He found it during the war and the dog became his faithful and beloved friend.
The actor had a lot of fans, but he did not fall ill with star fever and always treated himself very critically.
The actor had starred in many films: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Paris Secrets, Family Relations, Escaping Beauty and many, many others. In the film about Fantômas Marais played two main roles at once – Fantômas and journalist who pursues him. Unfortunately, Fantômas was his last big role in the movie.
Theater became the real passion in the last period of his life. The actor had played almost the entire classical repertoire – from Sophocles and Shakespeare to Moliere and Bernard Shaw. He participated in theatrical productions in the US and Japan.
At the same time, he was fond of design and sculpture. When Pablo Picasso saw the early sculptures by Marais, he was surprised how a man with such a talent could waste his time playing in the films and theater.
At the end of his life, the actor wrote memoirs My Four Truths and The Stories of My Life.
Jean Marais died on 8 November 1998 in Cannes.