Jule Paufichet in Poitiers, 9 February 1883.
Studied architecture at Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Paris.
1914–19—awarded Croix de Guerre.
1903—auditioned for Théâtre Antoine on a whim, and
hired for company; 1907—success in Feydeau's
La Duchesse des Folies-Bergères
in Lyons; engagement by Théâtre des Galeries-Saint-Hubert,
Brussels; 1908–20—pursued career in Brussels; 1911—in
"films d'art" production
; 1920s—established reputation as front rank comedic actor in
Paris; 1928—induced to take small role in L'Herbier's
; early 1930s—worked in film studios in Stockholm, Berlin, and
Budapest; 1933—temporarily ceased stage acting; 1940—last
stage appearance, Paris.
23 April 1951.
Tirez s'il vous plait (Gasnier)
Mon Coeur et ses millions (Arveyres) (as Frank Creighton)
Quick (Siodmak) (title role); Le Roi des palaces (Gallone) (as Claude Decourcy)
Arlette et ses papas (Roussel) (as Pierre)
Une Femme chipée (Colombier) (as Germont); Un Petit Trou pas cher (Ducis—short)
Baccara (Mirande) (as André Leclerc); Et moi j'te dis qu'elle t'a fait de l'oeil (Forrester) (as André Courvalin); Jeunes Filles à marier (Vallée) (as Perret); Le Crime de Monsieur Pégotte (Ducis—short) (as M. Pégotte); Touche à tout (Dréville) (as Comte de Bressac); Monsieur Personne (Christian-Jaque) (as Comte de Trégunc)
Le Disque 413 (Pottier); Les Loups entre eux (Mathot) (asCommissaire Raucourt); Cargaison blanche ( Le Chemin de Rio ) (Siodmak) (as Moreno); La Bête aux sept manteaux ( L'Homme à la cagoule noire ) (de Limur) (as Pierre Arnal); Un Colpo di vento (Tavano); Adventure à Paris (Marc Allégret) (as Michel Levasseur); Le Mort en fuite (Berthomieu) (as Trignol); Rigolboche (Christian-Jaque)(as Bobby); Une Poule sur un mur (Gleize); 27, Rue de la Paix (Pottier) (as Denis Grand); Le Voleur de Femmes (Gance); Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (Renoir) (as Batala)
Rendez-vous aux Champs-Elysées (Houssin) (as Maxime Germont); Le Club des aristocrates (Colombier) (as Serge de Montbreuse); Les Rois du sport (Colombier) (as Burette); L'Habit vert (Richebé) (as Parmeline); Les Deux Combinards ( Le System bouboule ) (Houssin) (as Barisart); Arsène Lupin Detective (Diamant-Berger) (title role); L'Occident (Fescourt); L'Homme à abattre ( Ceux du deuxième bureau )(Mathot) (as Commissaire Raucourt); Un Déjeuner de soleil (Cohen) (as Pierre Haguet)
L'Inconnue de Monte-Carlo (Berthomieu) (as Messirian); Café de Paris (Lacombe) (as Louis Fleury); Mon Père et mon papa (Schoukens) (as La Vaillant); Eusebe depute (Berthomieu); L'Avion de minuit (Kirsanoff) (as Carlos); Hercule (Esway) (as Vasco); Clodoche ( Sous les ponts de Paris ) (Lamy) (as Prince Berky); Carrefour (Bernhardt) (as Lucien Sarroux); Balthazar (Colombier) (title role)
Cas de conscience (Kapps) (as Laurent Arnoux); Accord final (Bay) (as Baron Larzac); Son Oncle de Normandie ( La Fugue de Jim Baxter ) (Dréville) (as Joseph); Derrière la façade (Mirande and Lacombe) (as Alfredo); Le Jour se lève ( Daybreak ) (Carné) (as Valentin); Retour au bonheur ( L'Enfant de la tourmente ) (Jayet); La Famille duraton (Stengel) (as Samy); Paris—New York (Mirande and Heymann) (as the manager)
L'Héritier des Mondésir (Valentin) (as Waldemar); L'An quarante (Mirande); Soyez les bienvenus (de Baroncelli)
L'Embuscade (Rivers—produced 1939); Face au destin (Fescourt—produced 1939) (as Claude); Parade en sept nuits (Marc Allégret); Les Petit riens (Leboursier)
Après l'orage (Ducis) (as Alex Krakow); La Symphonie fantastique (Christian-Jaque) (as Schlesinger); La Troisième Dalle (Dulud) (as Stéphane Barbaroux); L'Assassin a peur la nuit (Delannoy) (as Jérôme); Les Visiteurs du soir (Carné) (as le Diable); Le Grand Combat (Roland) (as Charlie)
Des jeunes filles dans la nuit (Hénaff and Mirande); Le Camion blanc (Joannon) (as Shabbas); Le Voyageur de la Toussaint (Daquin) (as Plantel); Marie-Martine (Valentin)(as Loïc Limousin); Le Soleil de minuit (Roland) (as Forestier); L'Homme de Londres (Decoin) (as Brown); Tristi amori (Gallone); T'amero sempre (Camerini)
Le Mort ne reçoit plus (Tarride); Beatrice devant le désir (de Marguenat)
Dorothée cherche l'amour (Gréville) (as Monsieur Pascal)
Monsieur Gregoire s'evade (Daniel-Norman) (as Charles Tuffal); Messieurs Ludovic (Le Chanois) (as Guillaume Maréchal); Etoiles sans lumière (Blistène); L'Assassin n'est pas coupable (Delacroix) (as himself); Desarroi (Dagan) (as Frontenac)
Rêves d'amour (Stengel) (as Belloni); La Taverne du poisson couronne (Chanas) (as Fléo)
Si jeunesse savait (Cerf) (as Charles Vigne)
Portrait d'un assassin (Roland) (as Pfeiffer); Histoires extraordinaires (Faurez) (as Fortunato)
Pas de week-end pour notre amour (Montazel) (as Baron Richard); Tête blonde (Cam) (as Frédéric Truche); Sans tambour ni trompette (Blanc); Le Gang des tractionsarrière (Loubignac) (as Baron Dupuy de la Margelle); Les Maitres-Nageurs (Lepage) (as Chamboise)
Marc, Henri, Jules Berry: Le Jouer , Paris, 1988.
Barrot, O., "Jules Berry," in Anthologie du Cinéma , vol. 8, Paris, 1972.
* * *
After graduating from secondary school Jules Berry began training to become an architect, but took a job as an apprentice in a theater company and therefore his fate was sealed. He appeared in various minor roles, then attracted attention during the visit of his theater company to Lyons and was engaged by a company in Brussels where he was to remain for many years. He appeared in Paris on tour in 1910 and 1913, and during those years he occasionally played a small part in a film. After the First World War Berry returned to Paris and appeared in a series of vaudevilles and light comedies that were not particularly challenging but did give him the opportunity to play a great variety of parts and to refine his talent. In his private life, he was a ladies' man and a gambler (he gambled away much of what he earned in his life), and something of the aura of the dandy pervaded his performances: he became noted for his elegant appearance, vivid temperament, timing, and his ease at portraying both lovers and seducers—roles he was to be equally adept at playing in films.
Berry made his first important film appearance in 1928 in L'Herbier's L'Argent , an adaptation of the work by Zola. In the early 1930s, like many of his fellow stage actors, he made films abroad, in Sweden, Hungary, and Germany (he appeared in Siodmak's Quick in Berlin). After returning to Paris he got a part in Roussell's Arlette et ses papas , returned briefly to the stage, then left the theater entirely for a time and accepted any film offers that came his way without much concern for the quality of the script or the director. From 1933 until his death in 1951 Berry appeared in almost 100 films, often as many as 10 a year, his reputation in the theater often serving as a guarantee for many adaptations on plays, talky efforts that had little to do with the expressionistic techniques available to film. These unpretentious products were popular with French audiences of the early 1930s, and Berry was the ideal representative of the usual hero—high society sophisticate, aristocrat, successful industrialist, cynical Don Juan. He played yet another variant on his usual range of characters in Le Crime de Monsieur Lange in 1935, but this was a film written by Prévert and directed by Jean Renoir, and here Berry achieved a greater conciseness and dramatic tension in performance than in his other films. As the entrepreneur Batala, whose interests are dictated by his egoism, who not only mercilessly exploits his employees but also tries to dupe them, he gave a performance that was universally admired.
Berry had some success in the part of the police commissioner Raucourt in films made by Mathot in 1936–37, and he returned to detective films in 1938–40. He worked with such directors as Pottier, Allégret, Mirande and others, but none of his films of the late 1930s in notable. The exception is Le Jour se lève , with a script by Prévert and directed by Carné, in which Berry had one of his most important roles—the artist Valentin, a demonic incarnation of evil who obstructs the love of two young people. Berry gives a masterful performance of rich nuance, expressing a series of contradictory states of mind: a charlatan who sneers at human goodness and weakness, abuses his power, dissimulates, torments others with his cruelty, then tries to evoke pity for himself. He created yet another incarnation of evil in the 1942 Carné film, Les Visiteurs du soir . The film was highly praised, and it marks a high point in Berry's career as a film actor.
From then on, however, Berry's career seemed to go into eclipse. He made more detective films and played yet another unsympathetic character in Daguin's Le Voyageur de la Toussaint . But Berry was not really offered the opportunities in the 1940s that his talent and reputation should have commanded. An exception in André Cerf's Si jeunesse savait (reminiscent in many ways of the style of Clair, whose assistant Cerf had been). Berry plays a billionaire in this brilliant comedy, and provides additional evidence, if any were needed, of the exceptional range, technique, and mature interpretational style he had developed.