Cannes, 4 December 1922.
Attended Collège Stanislas; Institution Montaigne, Vence; School
of Law, Nice; studied acting with Jean Wall.
Stage debut in
Une Grande Fille toute simple
, Nice; 1944—film debut in
La Boîte aux rêves
; 1945—in Camus's play
in Paris; followed by a series of successful stage roles in
, 1953, and
On ne badine pas avec l'amour
, 1959; 1956—co-director of the film
Les Aventures de Till L'Espiègle
French Etoile de Cristal for Best Actor, for
25 November 1959.
Films as Actor:
La Boîte aux rêves (Yves Allégret); Les Petites du Quai aux Fleurs (Marc Allégret)
Schéma d'une identification (Resnais—short)
Le Pays sans étoiles (Lacombe) (as Simon Frédéric); L'Idiot (Lampin) (as Prince Mychkin)
Le Diable au corps ( Devil in the Flesh ) (Autant-Lara) (as François Jaubert)
La Chartreuse de Parme (Christian-Jaque) (as Fabrice Del Dongo)
Une si jolie petite plage (Yves Allégret) (as Pierre); Tous les chemins mènent à Rome (Boyer) (as M. Pégase)
La Beauté du Diable (Clair) (as Henri, Faust, and Mephisto); La Ronde (Ophüls) (as Count); Souvenirs perdus (Christian-Jaque); Saint-Louis ou l'ange de la paix (Darène—short) (as narrator); Avec André Gide (Marc Allégret—doc)(as narrator); Forêt sacrée (Gaisseau—doc) (as narrator)
Juliette ou la clef des songes (Carné) (as Michel); Avignon, bastion de la provence (Guenet—short)
Fanfan-la-tulipe (Christian-Jaque) (title role); Les Sept Péchés capitaux (Lancombe); Les Belles de nuit (Clair) (as Claude)
Les Orgueilleux (Yves Allégret) (as Georges)
Si Versailles m'était conté (Guitry) (as D'Artagnan); Monsieur Ripois (Clément) (title role); Les Amants de la Villa Borghese (Franciolini); Le Rouge et le noir (Autant-Lara)(as Julien Sorel)
Les Grandes Manoeuvres (Clair) (as Armand); Si Paris m'était conté (Guitry); La Meilleure part (Yves Allégret)(as Perrin)
Le Théâtre national populaire (Franju—short)
Montparnasse 19 (Becker) (as Amedeo Modigliani); PotBouille (Duvivier) (as Octave Mouret)
La Vie à deux (Duhour) (as Désiré); Le Joueur (Autant-Lara)(as Alexei de Dostoievsky)
Les Liaisons dangereuses 1960 (Vadim) (as Valmont)
La Fièvre monte à El Pao (Buñuel)
Film as Co-Director:
Les Aventures de Till L'Espiègle (+ title role)
By PHILIPE: articles—
Interviews in L'Ecran Français (Paris), 16 December 1947, 12 April 1949, 16 May 1951, and 27 June 1951.
"In the Margin," in Sequence (London), Spring 1949.
Les Lettres Françaises (Paris), December 1953, 29 March 1956, and 1 November 1956.
Les Nouvelles Littéraires (Paris), 30 May 1957.
On PHILIPE: books—
Le Bolzer, Guy, and Michel Mardore, Gérard Philipe , Lyons, 1960.
Giannoli, Paul, La Vie inspirée de Gérard Philipe , Paris, 1960.
Gérard Philipe: souvenirs et témoignages , edited by Anne Philipe and Claude Roy, Paris, 1960, rev. ed. 1977.
Chapelle, Monique, Gérard Philipe, notre éternelle jeunesse , Paris, 1965.
Sadoul, Georges, Gérard Philipe , Paris, 1967; rev. ed., 1979.
Urbain, Jacques, Il y a dix ans, Gérard Philipe , Yverdon, 1969.
Périsset, Maurice, Gérard Philipe , Paris, 1975.
Périsset, Maurice, Gérard Philipe, ou la jeunesse du monde , Nice, 1979.
Durant, Philippe, Gérard Philipe , Paris, 1983.
Cadars, Pierre, Gérard Philipe , Paris, 1984.
Nores, Dominique, Gérard: Qui êtes-vous? , Lyons, 1988.
Bonal, Gérard, Gérard Philipe: Biographie , Paris, 1994.
On PHILIPE: articles—
Billard, Ginette, "Gérard Philipe, the Actor, May End His Career," in Films and Filming (London), October 1955.
"Philipe Issue," of Les Lettres Françaises (Paris), 3 December 1959.
Leprohon, Pierre, "Gérard Philipe," in Anthologie du cinéma , vol.6, Paris, 1971.
Ecran (Paris), December 1978.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 20 November 1980.
Cousins, R. F., "Recasting Zola: Gérard Philipe's Influence on Duvivier's Adaptation of Pot-Bouille," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), July 1989.
Alion, Yves, "Gérard Philipe ou L'innocence du monde," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), April 1991.
Pascaud, Fabienne, "Le diable au coeur," in Télérama (Paris), 18 January 1995.
Stars (Mariembourg), no. 27, 1996.
Le Coz, Martine, "Gérard Philipe, héros stendhalien," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), March-April 1997.
* * *
In a brilliant but sadly brief career, Gérard Philipe was celebrated as the most talented and most loved screen and stage actor of his generation. An enormously gifted, intelligent, and committed professional, he possessed a fine voice, a handsome, youthful appearance, and a charming freshness which suggested both residual innocence and emotional intensity. Encouraged by Marc Allégret, he trained under Jean Huret and later Jean Wall before making a promising stage debut at Cannes.
Philipe's film career was launched by Marc and Yves Allégret in their romantic comedies La Boîte aux rêves and Les Petites du Quai aux Fleurs , but his first leading role came in Le Pays sans étoiles as a dreaming clerk uncannily acting out a crime of passion. A more demanding part, executed with discerning subtlety, followed as the reforming, idealistic, and deranged Prince Myshkin in L'Idiot . However, in Le Diable au corps , as the adolescent passionately and perhaps irresponsibly involved with a nurse who, although engaged to a soldier, bears his child, he triumphed with a public deeply conscious of the personal moral dilemmas posed by wartime separations. The successful partnership with Micheline Presle led to a laborious romantic farce, Tous les chemins mènent à Rome and a later lesser variation on the adulterous couple relationship in Les Amants de la Villa Borghese .
Though Hollywood beckoned, Philipe preferred to remain within the European film tradition, working in France or Italy, and in co-productions. He resisted typecasting but invariably, though with considerable versatility, he played the romantic hero. He could epitomize the tragic hero as in Une si jolie petite plage , sensitively depicting the corrosive self-absorption of the spurned, suicidal adolescent, or in the later Montparnasse 19 powerfully rendering the suffering and despair of the doomed alcoholic artist Modigliani. But he could also be the ebullient, swashbuckling romantic hero of Fanfan-la-Tulipe or in Les Aventures de Till L'Espiègle (co-directed with Joris Ivens) the sharp-witted, high-spirited Flemish folk hero.
The postwar tendency to film literary classics brought Philipe roles in adaptations of Stendhal and Zola, where his star presence determined the focus of the screen version. As Fabrice Del Dongo in La Chartreuse de Parme and Julien Sorel in Le Rouge et le noir he gave perceptive performances as the insecure, self-absorbed, yet immensely appealing and energetic Stendhalian heroes, while in Duvivier's reworking of Zola's Pot-Bouille he effortlessly portrayed the seducer Octave Mouret. Sacha Guitry exploited his image in period dramas as D'Artagnan in Si Versailles m'était conté and in Si Paris m'était conté as a troubadour linking the historical tableaux. Films by René Clair in this period reveal his typical range. In La Beauté du Diable he was the pleasure-seeking young Faust; in Les Belles de nuit a dreamer privileged with amorous partners across the centuries; and in Les Grandes Manoeuvres with Michèle Morgan, he excelled as the cavalry officer frivolously bent on conquering a sophisticated divorcée, but falling deeply in love. He was again the unrequited, dreaming lover in Carné's Juliette ou la clef des songes , the rejected suitor turning to gambling in Le Joueur , but in La Vie à deux his love triumphs over social disparity.
Although predominantly the disarming screen lover, Philipe also appeared as less attractive characters: as a foolish, cynical count in La Ronde ; a callous, calculating Valmont in Les Liaisons dangereuses , 1960; the master of ceremonies and eventual participant in Les Sept Péchés capitaux ; the homicidal maniac in Souvenirs perdus ; and in Monsieur Ripois as an impressively ruthless Don Juan of London society tragically blind to genuinely felt emotion. More serious dramatic roles for Yves Allégret revealed him as a disillusioned hard-drinking doctor rediscovering his purpose in Les Orgueilleux , and as the dedicated engineer heroically rescuing trapped workers in La Meilleure Part , while for Buñuel in La Fièvre monte à El Pao he was a reforming prison governor opposed to the fascist dictatorship.
In a remarkable career, Gérard Philipe worked with the leading directors and actresses of his day and was never less than accomplished. With his handsome looks, seductive voice, and engaging personality he endeared himself to audiences as the noble but often humble romantic hero. Through his dedicated craftmanship, he won the respect of his fellow professionals to become one of the legendary figures of French cinema.
—R. F. Cousins