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Jacques Tourneur
Tourneur on set of Canyon Passage, 1946[1]
Born(1904-11-12)November 12, 1904
Paris, France
DiedDecember 19, 1977(1977-12-19) (aged 73)
Bergerac, France
Other namesJack Turner
Occupation(s)Director, producer, editor
Years active1929–1965

Jacques Tourneur (French: [tuʁnœʁ]; November 12, 1904 – December 19, 1977) was a French-American filmmaker, active during the Golden Age of Hollywood. He was known as an auteur of stylish and atmospheric genre films, many of them for RKO Pictures, including the horror films Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Leopard Man, and the classic film noir Out of the Past. He is also known for directing Night of the Demon, which was released by Columbia Pictures.


Born in Paris, France, Tourneur was the son of Fernande Petit and film director Maurice Tourneur.[2] At age 10, Jacques moved to the United States with his father.[2] He started a career in cinema while still attending high school as an extra and later as a script clerk in various silent films. Both Maurice and Jacques returned to France after his father worked on the film The Mysterious Island in 1925.[2] Tourneur died in 1977, aged 73, in Bergerac, Dordogne, France.


Tourneur began work as an editor and assistant director. He made his debut as a director on the French film Tout ça ne vaut pas l'amour [fr] in 1931.[2] In 1934, Tourneur went to Hollywood, where he had a contract with MGM Studios. While working as the second unit director on the film A Tale of Two Cities he met film producer Val Lewton.[2]

Tourneur made his feature debut as director in the 1939 film They All Come Out. After Tourneur was dropped by MGM in 1941, he was picked up by Lewton to film several acclaimed low-budget horror films for RKO Studios including Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie.[2]

Cat People, although considered a B movie and made on a limited budget, was distinguished by a style of lighting and cinematography that has been imitated countless times. Tourneur was promoted to the A-list at RKO, directing films including Out of the Past and Berlin Express.[2] In the 1950s, Tourneur became a freelance director, filming various genre films including Wichita, Anne of the Indies, Way of a Gaucho, Nightfall, The Flame and the Arrow, Stars In My Crown and Night of the Demon.[2] His last two films, made for American International Pictures and starring Vincent Price, were The Comedy of Terrors (1963) and War-Gods of the Deep (1965).[2]

After his final days working for film, Tourneur began directing television episodes. Tourneur filmed episodes of The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, and The Alaskans. Tourneur's final director credit was for an episode of T.H.E. Cat in 1966. Tourneur then retired and returned to France.[2]



Feature films

Short films


Assistant director or editor


La Mort en direct, a 1980 film by Bertrand Tavernier, is dedicated to the deceased film director Jacques Tourneur.

"There are films that watch us grow old." Statement by Serge Daney quoted by Serge Le Péron in Jacques Tourneur Le Médium, a film by Alain Mazars, 2015.

By naming the main character Jessica Holland in his film Memoria (2021), Apichatpong Weerasethakul pays tribute to Jacques Tourneur's film I Walked with a Zombie.[3]


  1. ^ Tourneur 2016, 00:14:10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Earnshaw 2004, p. 102.
  3. ^ Uzal, Marcos (2021-07-16). "Memoria de Apichatpong Weerasethakul Des trous dan la tête". Cahiers du cinéma. Retrieved 2021-07-16.


Further reading