Nationality: American/French. Born: Los Angeles, 29 October 1917; became French citizen. Education: Vienna Conservatory. Family: Married 1) the ballet dancer Helene Mussel; 3) Maja Faber-Janssen, children: Tania, Barbara, Lemmy, and Mia Bella Marie. Career: 1936—taken to Vienna by singing teacher Igor Gorin; while studying at Vienna Conservatory earned tuition by singing in cafes; 1938—worked in New York City and Newark at odd jobs; singing debut in Bayonne, New Jersey, theater in trio; trio joined by two others to form "The 5 Musketeers," performed in burlesque theaters and with swing bands; 1939—single dates in nightclubs; 1940—worked in Los Angeles singing and as movie extra; early 1940s—worked in radio in New York; 1949—first big success in Rio de Janeiro, nightclub dates and recordings in Paris after moving to France with first wife; 1952—signed to do gangster film by producer Victor Stoloff, Egypt by Three ; 1953—cast by director Bernard Borderie in breakthrough role as Detective Lemmy Caution in first of series of low-budget films; 1956—formed Belmont Productions; 1967—formed Panda Films with Robert Kronenberg and James Henaghan; 1970s—revived career with roles in films by new generation of German filmmakers, such as Fassbinder's Beware of a Holy Whore ; 1978—moved to Weisbaden, West Germany, to live with third wife; 1986—in TV series Roncalli ; 1990s—subject of a film retrospective in Germany shortly before his death. Died: Of heart attack, in Weisbaden, Germany, 25 February 1993.
Egypt by Three (Stoloff) (as Nick); La Môme vert-de-gris ( Poison Ivy ) (Borderie) (as Lemmy Caution); Cet homme est dangereux ( This Man Is Dangerous ) (Sacha) (as Lemmy Caution)
Les Femmes s'en balancent (Borderie) (as Lemmy Caution); Votre Devoue, Blake (Laviron) (as Captain Blake)
Ça va barder! (Berry); Avanzi di galera (Cottafavi); Je suis un sentimental ( Headlines of Destruction ) (Berry)
Vous pigez? (Chevalier) (as Lemmy Caution); Les Truands (Rim); "Paris after Dark" ep. of Around the World with Orson Welles (as himself); L'Homme et l'enfant (Andre)
Folies-Bergère (Decoin) (as Bob Hardie); Le Grand Bluff (Dally)
Ces dames preferent le Mambo ( Dishonorable Discharge ) (Borderie); Incognito (Dally); Hoppla, jetzt kommt Eddie! (Kingler) (as Eddie Petersen)
Passport to Shame ( Room 43 ; The Girl in Room 43 ) (Rakoff) (as Johnny); Du Rififi chez les femmes ( Riff Raff Girls ) (Joffé) (as Williams); S.O.S. Pacific (Guy Green) (as Mark); The Treasure of San Teresa ( Hot Money Girl ; Rhapsodie in Blei ) (Rakoff) (as Larry Brennan)
Bomben auf Monte Carlo (Jacoby); Comment qu'elle est! (Borderie) (as Lemmy Caution); Le Chien de pique (Yves Allégret)
Ca va etre ta fête ( Tout feu, tout flamme ; It's Your Birthday ) (Montazel); Me faire ca à moi! (Grimblat); En pleine bagarre ( Haut les mains! ; Destination Fury ) (Bianchi); Cause toujours, mon lapin (LeFranc)
"La Paresse" ("Laziness") ep. of Les Sept Péchés capitaux ( The Seven Capital Sins ) (Godard) (as himself); Lemmy pour les dames (Borderie) (as Lemmy Caution); Cléo de cinq à sept ( Cleo from 5 to 7 ) (Varda); Une Grosse Tête ( La Guerre des karts ) (de Givray); Bonne Chance, Charlie ( De la poudre et des balles ) (Richard); L'Empire de la nuit ( The Empire of Night ) (Grimblat) (as Eddie); Nous irons à Deauville (Rigaud) (bit role)
Les Femmes d'abord (Andre) (as Bobby Caro); Comme s'il en pleuvait ( If It Were Raining ) (Monter); A toi de faire, Mignonne ( Your Turn, Darling ) (Borderie) (as Lemmy Caution)
Des frissons partout (Andre) (as Jeff Gordon); Nick Carter va tout casser ( Nick Carter casse tout ; License to Kill ) (Decoin) (as Nick Carter); Laissez tirer les tireurs (LeFranc) (as Jeff Gordon); Lucky Jo (Deville) (title role)
Ces Dames s'en melent (Andre) (as Jeff Gordon); Alphaville ( Une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution ; Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution ; Tarzan versus I.B.M. ) (Godard) (as Lemmy Caution); Feu à volonte ( Faites vos jeux, mesdames ) (Marcel Ophüls) (as Mike Warner); Je vous salue, Mafia ( Hail, Mafia ) (Lévy) (as Rudy); Nick Carter et le trefle rouge (Savignac) (as Nick Carter); Cartes sur table ( Attack of the Robots ) (Franco) (as Al Pereira)
Residencia para espias ( Dan chez les gentlemen ) (Franco) (as Dan Layton)
Le Consortium ( Spara per primo vivrai di più ; A tout casser ) (Berry)
Lion's Love (Varda)
Malatesta (Lilienthal); Eine Rose für Jane (Geissendörfer—for TV)
Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte ( Beware of a Holy Whore ) (Fassbinder)
Welt am Draht (Fassbinder—for TV) (as man in Rolls Royce)
Der Zweite Frühling (Lommel) (as Frank Cabot); Souvenir de Gibralter
Le Couple témoin (Klein); Raid on Entebbe (Kershner—for TV) (as Capt. Michel Bacos)
It Lives Again ( It's Alive II ) (Cohen) (as Dr. Forrest)
Die dritte Generation ( The Third Generation ) (Fassbinder) (as Lenz); Bestellt—Geklaut—Geliefert ( Car-napping ) (Wicker) (as Lauroux, police officer)
The Long Good Friday (Mackenzie) (as Charlie); Exit . . . nur Keine Panik (Novotny); Panische Zeiten (Fratzscher and Lindenberg)
Rote Liebe (Von Prauheim); Boxoffice (Josef Bogdanovich) (as Hugh Barren)
Der Schnüffler (Runze); La Bête noire (Chaput)
Fluchtpunkt Berlin ( Flight to Berlin ) (Petit); J'ai bien l'honneur (Ruffio); Dorian Grey im Spiegel del Boulevardpresse (Ottinger)
Tiger—Fruhling in Wien (Partzak); Paul Chevrolet en de ultieme hallucinatie ( Paul Chevrolet and the Ultimate Hallucination ) (de la Parra) (as Boy Pappa, a gangster)
Elanprostekt nr. 4 ( Macaroni Blues ) (Csepcsanyi) (as a boot-legger); Frankenstein's Aunt
Nouvelle brigades du tigre (Vieds); Helsinki Napoli: All Night Long (Mika Kaurismäki) (as old gangster)
Pehavy Max a Strasilda (Jakubisco)
Europa Abends (Schroder)
Allemagne annee 90 neuf zero ( Germany Year 90 Nine Zero ) (Godard) (as Lemmy Caution)
Zentropa ( Europa ) (von Trier) (as Col. Harris)
Three Shake-a-Leg Steps to Heaven (Bausch)
The Godplayer , New York, 1976 (English-language translation of novel La Proprietaire ).
Interview with M. Lindsay, in Cinema (Beverly Hills), no. 4, 1968.
"On aime Eddie Constantine," interview with V. Berthommier and M. C. Questerbert, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1980.
Interview with A. Le Guay, in Cinématographe (Paris), Decem-ber 1980.
Interview in Time Out (London), March 1984.
Hasemann, Dieter, and Michael Dittmar, Hoppla: hier kommt Eddie! Eddie Constantine und seine Filme , Berlin, 1986.
Thissen, Rolf, Eddie Constantine: seine Filme, sein Leben , Munich, 1991.
"The Star Who Didn't Come Home," in Show (Hollywood), May 1962.
Roud, Richard, "Anguish: Alphaville ," in Sight and Sound (Lon-don), Autumn 1965.
Nolan, Jack Edmund, "Eddie Constantine," in Films in Review (New York), August-September 1968.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 22 July 1982.
Tuliara, P., "Eddie Constantine!," in Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 4, 1989.
Seesslen, G., "Eddie Constantine," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), Sep-tember 1991.
Sauvaget, D., "Eddie Constantine," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), November 1991.
Obituary in New York Times , 2 March 1993.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 8 March 1993.
Stars (Mariembourg, Belgium), Spring 1993; see also Autumn 1993.
Obituary in Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), April 1993.
Obituary in EPD Film (Frankfurt), April 1993.
* * *
Eddie Constantine's film roles are primarily in one of two categories: two-dimensional, hard-boiled American detectives in fast-paced French action thrillers or variations on these sleuths in politically and aesthetically provocative films by French new wave and new German filmmakers. There are exceptions—such as his down-and-out American loser in Lucky Jo —but the exceptions prove the rule.
Constantine was born in Los Angeles. As a young man he studied opera in Vienna, but on his return to America he achieved nothing more exalted than the chorus at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. He went back to Europe in 1947, settled in Paris, began singing in nightclubs there, became a protégé of Edith Piaf, and before long had become a popular French recording star. The French director Bernard Borderie gave him his first real opportunity in films in 1953, not as a musical performer but as Lemmy Caution, the hero of La Môme vert-de-gris , derived from Peter Cheyney's mystery novels. Constantine went on to play Lemmy—sometimes as a private eye, sometimes as an instrument of the FBI—in several other films by Borderie (the importance of the role to the actor is evidenced by the naming of Constantine's son Lemmy). The popularity of his screen persona determined the roles he played in films by other directors such as Yves Allégret, Henri Decoin, and Marcel Ophüls.
In the late 1960s various of the more "cerebral" directors began to use the Constantine persona, well known to European audiences, to make their avant-garde political films more accessible. This easily recognized actor played an actor in several self-reflexive films, such as Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7 , Godard's "Laziness" episode of The Seven Capital Sins , and Fassbinder's Beware of a Holy Whore . These films are far removed from the transparent genre films for which Constantine had become famous.
He once again played Lemmy Caution—or rather a parody of Lemmy—in Godard's Alphaville , an aggressive political parody of the science-fiction and detective genres. He portrays the quiet but firm anarchist leader in Peter Lilienthal's conventional but politically charged Malatesta . Fassbinder goes further in The Third Generation . He uses the Constantine screen persona in this instance as a wealthy industrialist who arranges his own kidnapping by leftist terrorists in order to consolidate his own power. There is method in the transposition: Constantine had moved in his film career from the individualistic private eye or FBI operative to the omnipotent head of a multinational corporation.
In one of Constantine's last films before his death in 1993, however, he was able to bring a more explicit, and perhaps more fitting, culmination to his career through one last reprise of Lemmy Caution in another Godard film, 1991's Germany Year 90 Nine Zero . Here, Caution is "the last spy" lost in a post-Cold War Germany bereft of conflict, yes, but also bereft of any meaning beyond that of commerce. With this transition, the easily recognized Constantine image is effectively shown to be obsolete and irrelevant, climaxing with Constantine/Caution's epigrammic cry of "The bastards!" at film's end.
—Howard Feinstein, updated by David E. Salamie