Jules Eugène Louis Jouvet in Crozon, Finistère, Brittany,
24 December 1887.
Attended schools at Toulouse, Vorey-sur-Arzon, Le Puy-en-Velay, and
elsewhere; studied pharmacy, 1905–07.
Performed military service, 1914–17.
Married; three children.
1908—co-founder and administrator of Théâtre
d'Action et d'Art; 1910—stage debut as member of
Léon Noël troupe; 1911—joined Théâtre
des Arts company; 1913—joined Jacques Copeau's
Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier as actor and stage manager;
1917—assisted in preparation for Copeau season on Broadway;
1919–21—actor-designer with Vieux-Colombier following
reopening; 1923–34 actor-manager of
Comédie-Théâtre in Champs-Elysées; formed
group "théâtre de cartel" with aim of reviving
traditions of French theater; 1928—began association with
playwright Jean Giraudoux: produced Giraudoux's subsequent plays;
1932—film debut in
; 1934—began managing Athénée Théâtre
and collaboration with designer Christian Bérard; appointed to
faculty of Paris Conservatoire; 1936—worked on Comédie
Française productions; 1940–45—self-imposed exile
from German-occupied France; 1945—returned to Paris with production
La Folle de Chaillot
16 August 1951.
Topaze (Gasnier) (title role)
La Kermesse héroïque (Feyder) (as the Chaplain)
Mister Flow (Siodmak) (title role); Les Bas-Fonds (Renoir) (as the baron)
Mademoiselle Docteu ( Salonique, nid d'espions ) (Pabst) (as Simonis); Un Carnet de bal (Duvivier) (as the lawyer); Drôle de drame (Carné) (as the bishop); Forfaiture (L'Herbier) (as Wolfar); Alibi (Chenal) (as the commissioner); La Marseillaise (Renoir) (as Roederer)
Ramuntcho (Barberis) (as the leader of the smugglers); La Maison du Maltais (Chenal) (as Rossignol); Entrée des artistes (Allégret) (as Lambertin); Education de prince (Rim) (as Cercleux); Le Drame de Shanghaî (Pabst) (as Ivan); Hôtel du Nord (Carné) (as M. Edmond)
La Fin du jour (Duvivier) (as Saint-Clair); La Charrette fantôme (Duvivier) (as Le Charretier de la Mort); Volpone (Tourneur) (as le parasite cynique)
Untel Père et fils (Duvivier) (as the colonial); Sérénade (Boyer) (as the Viennese chief of police)
Un Revenant (Christian-Jaque) (as Jean-Pierre); Copie conforme ( Monsieur Alibi ) (Dréville) (as Gabriel Dupont and Isamora)
Quai des Orfèvres (Clouzot) (as Inspector Antoine)
Les Amoureux sont seuls au monde (Decoin) (as Favier); Entre onze heures et minuit (Decoin) (as Inspecteur Carrel); "Le Retour de Jean" ep. of Retour à la vie (Clouzot) (as Gérard)
Miquette et sa mère (Clouzot) (as Monchablon); Lady Paname (Jeanson) (as Bagnolet)
Knock ou Le Triomphe de la médecine (Lefranc) (as Dr. Knock, + artistic direction); Une Histoire d'amour (Lefranc) (as inspector); Comédiens ambulants (Canolle—short)
Prestiges et perspectives du théâtre français , Paris, 1945.
Quatre ans de tournée en Amérique Latine, 1941–45 , Paris, 1945.
Ecoute, mon ami , Paris, 1952.
Le Comédien désincarné , Paris, 1954.
Reflexions du comédien , Paris, 1978.
"Le cinéma? Que voulez-vous que j'en sache! Je débute . . . j'apprends," interview with Nino Frank in Pour Vous (Paris), 9 June 1932.
"L'Acteur à l'écran," in Festival International (Cannes), May 1965.
Canaille, Caro, Etoiles en pantoufles , Paris, 1954.
Knapp, Bettina, Louis Jouvet: Man of the Theatre , New York, 1957.
Kerien, Wanda, Louis Jouvet, notre patron , Paris, 1963.
Capara, Leo, Dix ans avec Jouvet , Paris, 1975.
Loubier, Jean-Marc, Louis Jouvet: Biographie , Paris, 1986.
Ozeray, Madeleine, A Toujours Monsieur Jouvet , Paris, 1987.
Mignon, Paul Louis, Louis Jouvet: Qui êtes-vous? , Paris, 1988.
Cathala, Josée, Louis Jouvet , Paris, 1989.
Cournot, Christine, "Vie d'un grand comédien: Louis Jouvet," in Cinémonde (Paris), 24 September 1946.
Lemoine, A., "Jouvet le magnifique," in Ciné-Digest (Paris), October 1949.
Lefranc, Guy, "Louis Jouvet n'aimait pas le cinéma: une légende," and "La Prodigieuse Carriére de Louis Jouvet," by Bob Bergut in L'Ecran Français (Paris), 29 August 1951.
Aguettand, Lucien, "La Grande Probité de Louis Jouvet," in Technicien du Film (Paris), 15 September 1956.
Sadoul, Georges, "Jouvet et le cinéma," and "Notre revanche de cinéastes: lui donner la survie," by Julien Duvivier in Les Lettres Françaises (Paris), 25 August 1961.
Peyraud, Marcel, "Les Immortels du cinéma français," in Ciné Revue (Paris), 26 October 1967.
Régent, Roger, "Louis Jouvet, 1887–1951," in Anthologie du Cinéma vol. 5, Paris, 1969.
"Louis Jouvet," in Film Dope (London), December 1983.
Virmaux, A., and O. Virmaux, "Max Ophüls, Madeleine Ozeray, Louis Jouvet: Le Toboggan," in Cinématographe (Paris), April 1986.
Philippe, C.-J., and others, "Le comédien exemplaire," in Cinématographe (Paris), January 1987.
Chirat, R., "Télé-Jouvet," in Cinéma (Paris), 28 October 1987.
Jeanson, Henri, "Jouvet comédien de l'écran," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), January 1991.
Stars (Mariembourg), March 1992; additions in Summer 1996.
Aslan, Odette, "Jouvet et le cinéma," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), January 1996.
* * *
Louis Jouvet was already established as a giant of the French theater before he made his first film at the age of 46. Theater always remained his priority; he sometimes claimed, provocatively, that he acted in movies only for the money. True or not, there was nothing casual about his screen performances. Memorable even in mediocre films, he brought to good material a subtlety and complexity of characterisation that set him among the finest of cinema actors.
Lean, saturnine, faintly reptilian in appearance, Jouvet regarded the world sardonically through narrowed eyes, evidently expecting the worst of humankind. In La Kermesse héroïque , his Spanish chaplain, lecherous and mercenary, openly revels in his own hypocrisy, certain of finding it echoed in all those he meets. He was richly sanctimonious as another clergyman, the Anglican bishop of Carné's Drôle de drame , set in a wildly improbable Edwardian London; at one point, wishing to avoid the conspicuousness of clerical garb, he appears deliriously camouflaged in kilt and dark glasses.
Under weak direction, Jouvet could edge towards self-plagiarism, as he himself recognized: "If I'm being too Jouvet, stop me," he warned the director of his last film. His disenchanted air suited him to the failures and parasites of society: Arletty's unsavoury pimp in Hôtel du Nord , the shifty lawyer of Duvivier's Carnet de bal , or, in a more sympathetic vein, the proud, ruined count in Renoir's masterly treatment of Gorky, Les Bas-Fonds .
Almost all Jouvet's finest screen roles came during the five years from 1935 to 1940. His postwar films were unremarkable, with one exception: Clouzot's misanthropic policier , Quai des Orfèvres . Jouvet was the police detective, shabby and stubborn, retaining through his weary disillusionment a cold thin edge of compassion for the denizens of his seedy underworld. The hard-won humanity of his portrayal redeemed the film from facile cynicism.