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Jean Gabin
Jean Gabin as Jules Maigret in 1958
Jean-Alexis Moncorgé

(1904-05-17)17 May 1904
Paris, France
Died15 November 1976(1976-11-15) (aged 72)
Years active1928–1976
Spouse(s)Gaby Basset (1925–30)
Suzanne Marguerite Jeanne Mauchain (1933–39)
Dominique Fournier (1949–76)

Jean-Alexis Moncorgé, known as Jean Gabin (French: [ʒɑ̃ gabɛ̃]; 17 May 1904 – 15 November 1976), was a French actor and singer. Considered a key figure in French cinema, he starred in several classic films, including Pépé le Moko (1937), La grande illusion (1937), Le Quai des brumes (1938), La bête humaine (1938), Le jour se lève (1939), and Le plaisir (1952). During his career, he twice won the Silver Bear for Best Actor from the Berlin International Film Festival and the Volpi Cup for Best Actor from the Venice Film Festival, respectively. Gabin was made a member of the Légion d'honneur in recognition of the important role he played in French cinema.


Gabin in Le jour se lève (1939)

Early life

Gabin was born Jean-Alexis Moncorgé in Paris, the son of Madeleine Petit and Ferdinand Moncorgé, a cafe owner and cabaret entertainer whose stage name was Gabin,[1][2] which is a first name in French. He grew up in the village of Mériel in the Seine-et-Oise (now Val-d'Oise) département, about 22 mi (35 km) north of Paris. He attended the Lycée Janson de Sailly. Gabin left school early, and worked as a laborer until the age of 19 when he entered show business with a bit part in a Folies Bergères production. He continued performing in a variety of minor roles before going into the military.


Early days

After completing his military service in the Fusiliers marins, he returned to the entertainment business, working under the stage name of Jean Gabin at whatever was offered in the Parisian music halls and operettas, imitating the singing style of Maurice Chevalier, which was the rage at the time. He was part of a troupe that toured South America, and upon returning to France found work at the Moulin Rouge. His performances started getting noticed, and better stage roles came along that led to parts in two silent films in 1928.

Two years later Gabin made the transition to sound films in a 1930 Pathé Frères production, Chacun sa chance. Playing secondary roles, he made more than a dozen films over the next four years, including films directed by Maurice and Jacques Tourneur. But he only gained real recognition for his performance in Maria Chapdelaine, a 1934 production directed by Julien Duvivier. He was then cast as a romantic hero in the 1936 war drama La Bandera; this second Duvivier-directed film established him as a major star. The next year he teamed up with Duvivier again in the highly successful Pépé le Moko. Its popularity brought Gabin international recognition. That same year he starred in Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion, an antiwar film that ran at a New York City theatre for an unprecedented six months. This was followed by another of Renoir's major works, La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast), a film noir tragedy based on the novel by Émile Zola and starring Gabin and Simone Simon, as well as Le Quai Des Brumes (Port of Shadows), one of director Marcel Carné's classics of poetic realism. His rugged charisma could be compared with Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. But he was the king of ‘cinematic cool’ even before the rise of those Hollywood stars.[3]

He divorced his second wife in 1939.


Gabin in The Walls of Malapaga (1949)

In the late 1930s Gabin was flooded with offers from Hollywood, but turned them all down until the outbreak of World War II. After the German occupation of France in 1940, he joined Renoir and Duvivier in the United States. During his time in Hollywood, Gabin began a romance with actress Marlene Dietrich that lasted until 1948.[4] His films in America—Moontide (1942) and The Impostor (1944), the latter with Duvivier—were not successful.

World War II action

Undaunted, Gabin joined General Charles de Gaulle's Free French Forces and earned the Médaille militaire and a Croix de Guerre for his wartime valor fighting with the Allies in North Africa. Following D-Day, Gabin served with the 2nd armored division that liberated Paris.

Career slump

In 1945 Carné chose Gabin to star in the film Gates of the Night with Dietrich as his co-star. She disliked the screenplay and feared her German accent would not go over well with postwar French audiences. When she withdrew from the project, Gabin followed suit, leading to a falling out with Carné. He found a French producer and director willing to cast him and Dietrich together, but the film, Martin Roumagnac, was not a success and their personal relationship soon ended. In 1948 Gabin starred in René Clément's poetic realist film The Walls of Malapaga (Au-delà des grilles), which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture but garnered little recognition for Gabin. In 1949 he starred in his only role in legitimate theatre in Henri Bernstein's La Soif. It ran in Paris for six months, with Gabin critically praised as "a first-rate stage actor." Despite this recognition, his subsequent films did not do well at the French box office, and the next five years brought repeated failures.

Gabin in The Little Rebels (1955)


Gabin's career seemed headed for oblivion until the 1954 film Touchez pas au grisbi (Don't Touch the Loot), directed by Jacques Becker, earned him critical acclaim. The film was very profitable internationally. He then worked once again with Renoir in French Cancan, with María Félix and Françoise Arnoul. Gabin played Georges Simenon's detective Jules Maigret in three films in 1958, 1959 and 1963. Over the next 20 years, he made almost 50 more films, most of them very successful commercially and critically, including many for Gafer Films, his production partnership with fellow actor Fernandel. His co-stars included such leading figures of postwar cinema as Brigitte Bardot (En cas de malheur), Alain Delon (Le Clan des Siciliens, Mélodie en sous-sol and Deux hommes dans la ville), Jean-Paul Belmondo (Un singe en hiver) and Louis de Funès (Le Tatoué).


Gabin died of leukemia at the American Hospital of Paris, in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. His body was cremated, and—with full military honours—his ashes were scattered at sea from a military ship.


The Musée Jean Gabin


Year Title Role Director Notes
1930 Everybody Wins Marcel Grivot Hans Steinhoff,
René Pujol
French-language version of Headfirst into Happiness
L'Héritage de Lilette [fr] Michel Du Lac Short
With Raymond Dandy Alternative title Ohé les valises
On demande un dompteur [fr] Short
With Raymond Dandy Alternative title Les Lions
1931 Méphisto Inspector Jacques Miral Henri Debain
Georges Vinter [fr]
Serial film with four episodes
With René Navarre Based on a novel by Arthur Bernède
The Darling of Paris Bob Augusto Genina
All That's Not Worth Love Jean Cordier Jacques Tourneur
Gloria Robert Nourry Hans Behrendt,
Yvan Noé
French-language version of Gloria
For an Evening Jean Jean Godard
1932 Lilac Martousse Anatole Litvak Based on a play by Tristan Bernard and Charles-Henry Hirsch
Fun in the Barracks Fricot Maurice Tourneur With Fernandel and Raimu
Based on a play by Georges Courteline
La foule hurle [fr] Joe Greer Jean Daumery,
(uncredited: Howard Hawks)
French-language version of The Crowd Roars
The Beautiful Sailor The Captain Harry Lachman With Madeleine Renaud and Pierre Blanchar
Based on a play by Marcel Achard
Happy Hearts Charles Hanns Schwarz,
Max de Vaucorbeil
French-language version of Gypsies of the Night
1933 Pour un soir Jean Jean Godard Shot 1931
The Star of Valencia Pedro Savedra Serge de Poligny With Brigitte Helm
French-language version of The Star of Valencia
Goodbye, Beautiful Days Pierre Lavernay Johannes Meyer,
André Beucler
With Brigitte Helm
French-language version of Happy Days in Aranjuez
High and Low Charles Boulla G. W. Pabst With Michel Simon and Peter Lorre
The Tunnel Allan Mac Allan Curtis Bernhardt With Madeleine Renaud and Gustaf Gründgens
French-language version of The Tunnel
1934 Maria Chapdelaine François Paradis Julien Duvivier With Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Pierre Aumont
Adaptation of Louis Hémon's novel Maria Chapdelaine
NBR Award 1935
Zouzou Jean Marc Allégret With Josephine Baker
1935 Golgotha Pontius Pilate Julien Duvivier With Harry Baur and Edwige Feuillère
La Bandera (Escape from Yesterday) Pierre Gilleth Julien Duvivier With Annabella
Adaptation of Pierre Mac Orlan's novel La Bandera
Variétés [fr] Georges Nicolas Farkas With Annabella and Fernand Gravey French-language version of Variety
1936 They Were Five Jeannot Julien Duvivier With Charles Vanel and Viviane Romance
The Lower Depths Pepel Wasska Jean Renoir With Louis Jouvet
Adaptation of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths
Louis Delluc Prize 1937
1937 Pépé le Moko Pépé le Moko Julien Duvivier Remade twice in the US: Algiers (1938) and Casbah (1948)
La Grande Illusion Lieutenant Maréchal Jean Renoir With Erich von Stroheim, Pierre Fresnay and Marcel Dalio
NBR Award 1938
The Messenger Nick Dange Raymond Rouleau With Jean-Pierre Aumont Based on a play by Henri Bernstein
Lady Killer Lucien Bourrache Jean Grémillon Adaptation of a novel by André Beucler
1938 Port of Shadows Jean Marcel Carné With Michèle Morgan, Michel Simon and Pierre Brasseur
Based on a novel by Pierre Mac Orlan
Louis Delluc Prize 1939
La Bête humaine (The Human Beast) Jacques Lantier Jean Renoir With Simone Simon
Adaptation of Émile Zola's novel La Bête humaine
1939 Coral Reefs Trott Lennart Maurice Gleize With Michèle Morgan
Adaptation of a novel by Jean Martet
Le jour se lève (Daybreak) François Marcel Carné With Arletty and Jules Berry
Remade in the US as The Long Night (1947) starring Henry Fonda
1941 Stormy Waters Captain André Laurent Jean Grémillon With Michèle Morgan and Madeleine Renaud
Adaptation of a novel by Roger Vercel
1942 Moontide Bobo Archie Mayo American film
With Ida Lupino and Claude Rains
Adaptation of a novel by Willard Robertson
1944 The Impostor Clement / Maurice Lafarge Julien Duvivier American film
1946 Martin Roumagnac (The Room Upstairs) Martin Roumagnac Georges Lacombe With Marlene Dietrich
Adaptation of a novel by Pierre-René Wolf
1947 Mirror Pierre Lussac / Miroir Raymond Lamy
1949 The Walls of Malapaga Pierre Arrignon René Clément With Isa Miranda
Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
1950 La Marie du port Henri Chatelard Marcel Carné Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
His Last Twelve Hours Carlo Bacchi Luigi Zampa
1951 Victor Victor Claude Heymann Based on a play by Henri Bernstein
The Night Is My Kingdom Raymond Pinsard Georges Lacombe Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 12th Venice International Film Festival
1952 La Vérité sur Bébé Donge (The Truth About Bebe Donge) François Donge Henri Decoin (segment "La Maison Tellier")
With Danielle Darrieux
Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
Le Plaisir (House of Pleasure) Joseph Rivet Max Ophüls With Danielle Darrieux, Madeleine Renaud and Pierre Brasseur
An anthology film based on three stories by Guy de Maupassant
La Minute de vérité (The Moment of Truth) Dr. Pierre Richard Jean Delannoy With Michèle Morgan and Daniel Gélin
1953 Storms Antonio Sanna Guido Brignone With Silvana Pampanini and Serge Reggiani
Their Last Night Pierre Fernand Ruffin Georges Lacombe With Madeleine Robinson
La Vierge du Rhin [fr] Jacques Ledru / Martin Schmidt Gilles Grangier With Nadia Gray Adaptation of a novel by Pierre Nord
1954 Touchez pas au grisbi (Don't Touch the Loot) Max Jacques Becker With Jeanne Moreau and Lino Ventura
Adaptation of a novel by Albert Simonin
Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 15th Venice International Film Festival
The Air of Paris Victor Le Garrec Marcel Carné With Arletty and Folco Lulli
Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 15th Venice International Film Festival
1955 Napoléon Marshal Jean Lannes Sacha Guitry Cameo
Razzia sur la chnouf (Raid on the Drug Ring) Henri Ferré Henri Decoin With Magali Noël, Marcel Dalio and Lino Ventura
Based on a novel by Auguste Le Breton
French Cancan Henri Danglard Jean Renoir With María Félix and Françoise Arnoul
House on the Waterfront Captain Lequévic Edmond T. Gréville With Henri Vidal
The Little Rebels Judge Julien Lamy Jean Delannoy Adaptation of a novel by Gilbert Cesbron
Gas-Oil Jean Chape Gilles Grangier With Jeanne Moreau
Based on a novel by Georges Bayle
1956 People of No Importance Jean Viard Henri Verneuil With Françoise Arnoul
Based on a novel by Serge Groussard
Deadlier Than the Male André Chatelin Julien Duvivier Produced by Raymond Borderie (and others)
Blood to the Head François Cardinaud Gilles Grangier Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
La Traversée de Paris (The Trip Across Paris) Grandgil Claude Autant-Lara With Bourvil and Louis de Funès
Crime and Punishment Commissaire Gallet Georges Lampin With Robert Hossein, Marina Vlady, Bernard Blier, Ulla Jacobsson and Lino Ventura
Adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel
1957 The Case of Doctor Laurent Dr. Laurent Jean-Paul Le Chanois
Speaking of Murder Louis Bertain Gilles Grangier With Annie Girardot and Lino Ventura
/ Adaptation of a novel by Auguste Le Breton
1958 Maigret Sets a Trap Jules Maigret Jean Delannoy With Annie Girardot and Lino Ventura
Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
Les Misérables Jean Valjean Jean-Paul Le Chanois With Bernard Blier, Bourvil and Serge Reggiani
Adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel
Le désordre et la nuit (Night Affair) Inspector Georges Vallois Gilles Grangier With Danielle Darrieux and Nadja Tiller
Love Is My Profession Maître André Gobillot Claude Autant-Lara With Brigitte Bardot
Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
The Possessors Noël Schoudler Denys de La Patellière With Pierre Brasseur and Bernard Blier
Adaptation of a novel by Maurice Druon
1959 Archimède le clochard (The Magnificent Tramp) Archimède Gilles Grangier With Bernard Blier
Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 9th Berlin International Film Festival[8]
Maigret et l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre Jules Maigret Jean Delannoy Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
Rue des prairies Henri Neveux Denys de La Patellière Adaptation of a novel by René Lefèvre
1960 Le Baron de l'écluse (The Baron of the Locks) Baron Jérôme Napoléon Anthoine Jean Delannoy With Micheline Presle
Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
The Old Guard Baptiste Talon Gilles Grangier With Pierre Fresnay
Adaptation of a novel by René Fallet
1961 The President Émile Beaufort Henri Verneuil With Bernard Blier
Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
Le cave se rebiffe (The Counterfeiters of Paris) Ferdinand Maréchal Gilles Grangier With Martine Carol, Bernard Blier and Françoise Rosay
Adaptation of a novel by Albert Simonin
1962 A Monkey in Winter Albert Quentin Henri Verneuil With Jean-Paul Belmondo
Adaptation of Antoine Blondin's novel A Monkey in Winter
The Gentleman from Epsom Richard Briand-Charmery Gilles Grangier With Louis de Funès
Raymond Oliver as himself
1963 Any Number Can Win Mister Charles Henri Verneuil With Alain Delon
Adaptation of a novel by Zekial Marko
Maigret Sees Red Jules Maigret Gilles Grangier Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
1964 Monsieur René Duchêne / Georges Baudin Jean-Paul Le Chanois With Liselotte Pulver, Mireille Darc and Philippe Noiret
That Tender Age Émile Malhouin Gilles Grangier With Fernandel
1965 God's Thunder Léandre Brassac Denys de La Patellière With Lilli Palmer, Michèle Mercier and Robert Hossein
Adaptation of a novel by Bernard Clavel
1966 The Upper Hand Paul Berger Denys de La Patellière With George Raft, Gert Fröbe, Mireille Darc and Nadja Tiller
Adaptation of a novel by Auguste Le Breton
The Gardener of Argenteuil Joseph Martin alias 'Tulipe' Jean-Paul Le Chanois With Liselotte Pulver and Curd Jürgens
1967 Action Man Denis Ferrand Jean Delannoy With Robert Stack, Margaret Lee and Walter Giller
1968 Pasha Comissaire Louis Joss Georges Lautner
Le tatoué (The Million Dollar Tattoo) Count Enguerand Denys de La Patellière With Louis de Funès
1969 Under the Sign of the Bull Albert Raynal Gilles Grangier Adaptation of a novel by Roger Vrigny
The Sicilian Clan Vittorio Manalese Henri Verneuil With Alain Delon and Lino Ventura Score by Ennio Morricone Adaptation of a novel by Auguste Le Breton
1970 La Horse Auguste Maroilleur Pierre Granier-Deferre
1971 Le Chat Julien Bouin Pierre Granier-Deferre With Simone Signoret Adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon
Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 21st Berlin International Film Festival[9]
Le drapeau noir flotte sur la marmite [fr] Victor Ploubaz Michel Audiard Adaptation of a novel by René Fallet
1972 Le Tueur [fr] Commissaire Le Guen Denys de La Patellière With Bernard Blier, Fabio Testi and Uschi Glas
1973 The Dominici Affair Gaston Dominici Claude Bernard-Aubert [fr] Based on the Dominici affair
Two Men in Town Germain Cazeneuve José Giovanni With Alain Delon, Michel Bouquet and Mimsy Farmer
Remade in the USA as Two Men in Town (2014) starring Forest Whitaker
1974 Verdict Judge Leguen André Cayatte With Sophia Loren
Produced by Carlo Ponti
1976 L'Année sainte (Holy Year) Max Lambert Jean Girault with Jean-Claude Brialy and Danielle Darrieux


  1. ^ Lafitte, Jacques; Taylor, Stephen (1969). Qui est qui en France. J. Lafitte.
  2. ^ "Jean Gabin – Actors and Actresses – Films as Actor:, Publications". Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  3. ^ D.S, Shreyas (19 February 2022). "25 Greatest Actors Of All Time". Flickside. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  4. ^ Marlene Dietrich und Jean Gabin – Ein ungleiches Liebespaar Archived 27 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine 21 January 2013, 50 Jahre deutsch-französische Freundschaft, Deutsch-französische Paare. Arte TV (German)
  5. ^ Jean Gabin reçoit la Légion d'Honneur | INA (in French), retrieved 29 August 2022
  6. ^ "Gabin, une légende au coeur du Perche en Normandie – France Bleu". ici, par France Bleu et France 3.
  7. ^ "Jean Gabin".
  8. ^ "Berlinale 1959: Prize Winners". Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  9. ^ "Berlinale 1971: Prize Winners". Retrieved 14 March 2010.

Further reading

Joseph Harriss: "Jean Gabin: The Actor Who Was France." McFarland, Jefferson, NC 2018 ISBN 978-1-4766-7627-2