Ivo Livi in Monsummano Alto, Tuscany, Italy, 13 October 1921; raised in
Marseilles, France, from age two.
Married the actress Simone Signoret, 1951 (died 1985), stepdaughter
(adopted following Signoret's death): the actress Catherine
Allégret; son with Carole Amiel: Valentin.
Left school at age 11, and worked at a variety of jobs before becoming a
singer in Marseilles and Paris; 1945—performed at Moulin Rouge;
Edith Piaf helped him in his career; 1946—feature film debut in
Étoile sans lumière
with Piaf; 1950–51—six-month musical tour of Europe and
North Africa; 1953—breakthrough role in
Le Salaire de la peur
; 1954—appeared with Signoret in stage play
, and in film version, 1957; 1958—highly publicized and criticized
tour of Soviet Union and Eastern-bloc countries, with Signoret;
1959—one-man show on Broadway; 1965—co-starred with Signoret
, first of several films by Costa-Gavras; 1968—acclaimed oneman
show in Paris; late 1970s—released enormously popular album of
Montand d'hier à aujourd'hui
Montand, from Yesterday to Today
); 1982—became first popular singer to perform solo at New
York's Metropolitan Opera House, followed by U.S. caberet tour,
then tour of Brazil and Japan; 1986—acclaimed performance in pair
of international hits,
Jean de Florette
Manon des sources
; produced and starred in one-man TV special,
Montand à la une
; 1987—named president, Cannes Film Festival; 1988—long
politically active, received serious mention as a possible French
presidential candidate, but he declined to pursue; 1991—at time of
death, was preparing a singing tour.
Best Actor awards, French Étoile de cristal and New York Film
Critics Circle, for
La Guerre est finie
, 1966; special tribute, Film Society of Lincoln Center, 1988.
Of a heart attack, in Senlis, France, 9 November 1991.
Films as Actor:
Silence . . . antenne (Lucot—short) (as singer)
Étoile sans lumière ( Star without Light ) (Blistène) (as Pierre); Les Portes de la nuit ( Gates of the Night ) (Carné—released in U.S. in 1950) (as Jean Diego)
L'Idole ( The Idol ) (Esway) (as Luc Fenton)
Souvenirs perdus (Christian-Jaque) (as singer); Paris chante toujours (Montazel) (as singer); Parigi e sempre Parigi (Emmer) (as singer)
Le Salaire de la peur ( The Wages of Fear ) (Clouzot) (as Mario); "Mara" ep. of Tempi nostri ( Our Time ; The Anatomy of Love ) (Blasetti)
Napoléon (Guitry) (as Marshal Lefebvre)
Les Heros sont fatigués ( Heroes and Sinners ) (Ciampi) (as Michel Rivière)
Marguerite de la nuit (Autant-Lara) (as Mephistopheles); Uomini e lupi (De Santis) (as Ricuccio)
Les Sorcières de Salem ( The Witches of Salem ; The Crucible ) (Rouleau) (as John Proctor); Poet Iv Montan ( Yves Montand chante en U.S.S.R. ) (Sloutky and Yutkevitch)
La lunga strada azzura ( La Grande Strada Azzura ; The Wide Blue Road ) (Pontecorvo) (as Squarcio)
Le Père et l'enfant ( Premier Mai ) (Saslavsky) (as Jean); La Loi ( Where the Hot Wind Blows ; Le legge ; The Law ) (Dassin) (as Matteo Brigante)
Let's Make Love ( The Billionaire ; The Millionaire ) (Cukor) (as Jean-Marc Clément); Yves Montand Chante (filmed concert/doc)
Sanctuary (Richardson) (as Candy Man); Aimez-vous Brahms? ( Goodbye Again ) (Litvak) (as Roger Desmarest)
My Geisha (Cardiff) (as Paul Robaix)
Le Joli Mai (Marker—doc) (as narrator)
Compartiment tueurs ( The Sleeping Car Murder ) (Costa-Gavras) (as Insp. Grazzi)
La Guerre est finie ( The War Is Over ) (Resnais) (as Diego); Paris-brûle-t-il? ( Is Paris Burning? ) (Clément) (as Marcel Bizien); Grand Prix (Frankenheimer) (as Jean-Pierre Sarti)
Vivre pour vivre ( Live for Life ) (Lelouch) (as Robert Colomb)
Un soir, un train ( One Night, a Train ) (Delvaux) (as Mathias); Le Diable par la queue ( The Devil by the Tail ) (de Broca) (as Cesar Maricorne)
Mister Freedom (Klein) (cameo as Capt. Formidable); Z (Costa-Gavras) (as Deputy Z); Le Deuxième Procès d'Artur London (Marker—doc); Jour de tournage (Marker and Depouey—doc)
L'Aveu ( The Confession ) (Costa-Gavras) (as Gerard); On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Minnelli) (as Dr. Marc Chabot); Le Cercle rouge ( The Red Circle ) (Melville) (as Jansen)
La Folie des grandeurs ( Delusions of Grandeur ) (Oury) (as Blaze)
César et Rosalie ( César and Rosalie ) (Sautet) (as César); Le Fils (Granier-Deferre) (as Ange Orahona)
Tout va bien ( Just Great ) (Godard and Gorin) (as He); Etat de siège ( State of Siege ) (Costa-Gavras) (as Philip Michael Santore)
Le Hasard et la violence (Labro) (as Laurent Berman); Vincent, Francois, Paul, et les autres ( Vincent, Francois, Paul and the Others ) (Sautet) (as Vincent); La Solitude du chanteur de fond ( The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Singer ) (Marker—doc) (as himself); T'es fou, Marcel (Rochefort—doc)
Le Sauvage ( The Savage ; Lovers Like Us ) (Rappeneau) (as Martin Coutances); Section spéciale ( Special Section ) (Costa-Gavras) (cameo)
Police Python 357 (Corneau) (as Marc Ferrot); La Grand Escogriffe (Pinoteau) (as Emile Morland)
Le Menace ( The Threat ) (Corneau) (as Henri Savin)
Les Routes du sud ( The Roads to the South ) (Losey)
Clair de femme ( Womanlight ) (Costa-Gavras) (as Michel); I comme Icarus ( I as in Icarus ) (Verneuil)
The Case against Ferro (Corneau) (title role)
Le Choix des armes ( Choice of Arms ) (Corneau) (as Noel Durieux)
Tout feu tout flamme ( All Fired Up ) (Rappeneau) (as Victor Valance)
Garçon! ( Waiter! ) (Sautet) (as Alex)
Jean de Florette (Berri) (as César "Le Papet" Soubeyran); Manon des sources ( Jean de Florette 2 ; Manon of the Spring ) (Berri) (as César "Le Papet" Soubeyran)
Trois places pour le 26 ( Three Seats for the 26th ) (Jacques Demy) (as himself)
Netchaïev est de retour ( Netchaïev Is Back ) (Deray) (as Pierre Marroux)
IP5: L'île aux Pachydermes ( IP5: The Island of Pachyderms ) (Beineix) (as Leon Marcel)
By MONTAND: books—
Du soleil plein la tête , with Jean Denys, Paris, 1955.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublie , with Herve Hamon and Patrick Rotman, France, 1990; published as You See, I Haven't Forgotten , New York, 1992.
By MONTAND: articles—
Interview with R. Predal, in Cinéma (Paris), March 1974.
Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1980.
Interview with Harlan Jacobson, in Film Comment (New York), vol. 23, no. 5, 1987.
Interview in Film und Fernsehen (Potsdam), no. 5, 1990.
Interview in Talking Films: The Best of the Guardian Lectures , edited by Andrew Britton, London, 1991.
Interview with Y. Poncelet, in Grand Angle (Mariembourg, Belgium), February 1991.
On MONTAND: books—
Megret, Christian, Yves Montand , Paris, 1953.
Remond, Alain, Yves Montand , Paris, 1977.
Rouchy, Marie-Elisabeth, Yves Montand , Paris, 1980.
Cannavo, Richard, and Henri Quiquere, Yves Montand: Le Chant d'un homme , Paris, 1981.
Laneque, M., and R. Gallot, Montand: De Chansons et images , Paris, 1981.
Remond, Alain, Montand , Paris, 1981.
Monserrat, Joëlle, Yves Montand , Paris, 1983.
Semprun, Joseph, Montand: La vie continué , Paris, 1983.
Desneux, Richard, Yves Montand: L'artiste engagé , Lausanne, 1989.
Pascuito, Bernard, Montand: le livre du souvenir , Paris, 1992.
Ginies, Michel, Yves Montand , Paris, 1995.
On MONTAND: articles—
Hamill, Pete, "Yves Montand," in New York , 6 September 1982.
Andriotakis, Pamela, "Paris Isn't Burning, Just Marking Time as Yves Montand Tours America," in People Weekly (New York), 20 September 1982.
Schupp, P., "Yves Montand: Le Rebelle au grand coeur," in Séquences (Montreal), August 1987.
Current Biography 1988 , New York 1988.
Darrach, Brad, "Yves Montand: Amid Memories of Old Wars and Lost Loves, the Most Seductive of Frenchmen Looks Ahead to New Conquests," in People Weekly (New York), 16 May 1988.
"Yves Montand," in Film Dope (Nottingham, England), March 1990.
"Yves Montand," in Stars (Mariembourgh, Belgium), December 1990.
Obituary in New York Times , 10 November 1991.
Obituary in Times (London), 11 November 1991.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 18 November 1991.
Taboulay, C., obituary in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1991.
Sineux, M., "Yves Montand: Eloge de l'intercesseur," in Positif (Paris), January 1992.
Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), November 1991.
Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), October 1994.
On MONTAND: film—
Montand , documentary directed by Jean Labib, 1994.
* * *
After a brilliant beginning as a cabaret singer, helped along the way by Edith Piaf, Yves Montand made a number of films that were disappointing. In fact, just at the time when he was about to abandon his film career, he accepted a role in Clouzot's Le Salaire de la peur that made him famous as a film star. The film, full of dramatic tension, depicts the desperately courageous trip of four drivers with a dangerous load on a treacherous road, and is now reckoned to be—because of its subject, its technical qualities, and its performances—one of the finest films of its time. Yet for the next decade Montand's films were not successful. Only in the late 1960s did he manage to move in a natural way before the camera, and from the time of his making Compartiment tueurs onwards, his acting took on an authority it lacked before. La Guerre est finie , Vivre pour vivre , and Un soir, un train show this, especially the last, about the complicated relations of a couple seemingly on the boundary of dream and reality.
With his association with the director Costa-Gavras, which began in 1965 with Compartiment tueurs , his acting reached a mid-career peak. His participation in Costa-Gavras's politically oriented works reflected his own political convictions, about which he was never silent. Z and Etat de siège deal with the restriction of civil rights in Greece and Chile, respectively. In L'Aveu , based on a book by Arthur London, one of the accused in Slansky's trial in Czechoslovakia, he created with a shocking persuasiveness the character of a man who suffers the monstrous power of a state determined to make good its charges of conspiracy, betrayal, and class and racial hatred.
Montand also made comedies and love stories as well as crime stories. In Le Fils he created the character of a mafioso who returns to Corsica from America and is involved in a vendetta, and in La Choix des armes he played a man in whose house two escaped convicts take shelter. He acted with Cathérine Deneuve in Le Sauvage , with Romy Schneider in César et Rosalie and Clair de femme , and with Isabelle Adjani in Tout feu, tout flamme .
Although he had a notable late-career comedic role in 1983's highly praised light comedy Garçon! playing the waiter, Montand's film career had hit a valley in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A final climax would come in 1986, however, with his scheming village elder in the wonderful two-part multicontinent smash hit Jean de Florette and Manon des sources . Based on novels by Maurice Pagnol, the films were made back-to-back by director Claude Berri in the costliest production in France up to that time. For his part, Montand drew on his rural Italian roots in perfectly capturing a proud old peasant whose greed leads ultimately to an ending reminiscent of Greek tragedy. In one of his best performances ever, Montand held the central role through both films, even next to Gérard Depardieu's strong portrayal of Montand's nemesis in Jean de Florette —a fitting culmination to the career of an actor beloved by his fellow French and unusually popular outside France as well.
—Karel Tabery, updated by David E. Salamie