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Jean Marais
photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1947
Jean-Alfred Villain-Marais

(1913-12-11)11 December 1913
Cherbourg, France
Died8 November 1998(1998-11-08) (aged 84)
Cannes, France
Occupation(s)Actor, director
Years active1933–1996
(m. 1942; div. 1944)
Partner(s)Jean Cocteau
(1937–1963; his death)
ChildrenSerge Villain-Marais

Jean-Alfred Villain-Marais (French: [ʒɑ̃ maʁɛ]; 11 December 1913 – 8 November 1998), known professionally as Jean Marais, was a French actor, writer, director and sculptor. He performed in over 100 films and was the muse of acclaimed director Jean Cocteau.[1] In 1996, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his contributions to French Cinema.[2]

Early life

A native of Cherbourg, France, Marais was a son of Alfred Emmanuel Victor Paul Villain-Marais and his wife, the former Aline Marie Louise Vassord.[3]


Early Films

Marais' first role was an uncredited bit in Song of the Streets (1933) and he was in Etienne (1933). Filmmaker Marcel L'Herbier put him in The Sparrowhawk (1933) with Charles Boyer; The Scandal (1934), with Gaby Morlay; Happiness (1934) again with Boyer, The Venturer (1934) with Victor Francen; The New Men (1934) with Harry Baur; and Nights of Fire (1937) with Morlay and Francen.

Marcel Carne gave Marais a small role in Bizarre, Bizarre (1937) and the actor was in Abused Confidence (1937) by Henri Decoin; The Patriot (1938), a biopic of Paul I of Russia with Baur, directed by Maurice Tourneur; and Remontons les Champs-Élysées (1938) directed by Sacha Guitry.

Most of these were small roles. Marais had bigger parts in The Pavilion Burns (1941) directed by Jacques de Baroncelli, and The Four Poster (1942) directed by Roland Tual.

Leading Man

Marais' first film as leading man was Love Eternal (1943), a re-telling of Tristan and Isolde set in 1940s France, written by Jean Cocteau. It was directed by Jean Delannoy and co-starred Madeleine Sologne.

Marais was the male lead in Voyage Without Hope (1943) with Simone Renant directed by Christian-Jaque.

Christian-Jaque also directed Marais in Carmen (1944) with Viviane Romance. This was one of the most popular films in France when it was released.[4][5]

Beauty and the Beast and Jean Cocteau

Marais became a star in Beauty and the Beast (1946), written and directed by Cocteau.[6]

He peformed in a popular revival of Cocteau's 1938 play Les Parents terribles on stage.

Marais' next films were The Royalists (1947), a historical adventure film directed by Henri Calef from a novel by Balzac; and Ruy Blas (1948) with Danielle Darrieux, from a play by Victor Hugo and script by Cocetau, directed by Pierre Billon.

Marais' second film with Cocteau as director was The Eagle with Two Heads (1948) with Edwige Feuillère. He did To the Eyes of Memory (1948) with Michele Morgan for director Jean Delannoy, a big commercial success, then Les Parents Terribles (1949) for Cocteau again.[5]

Marais was reunited with Delannoy for The Secret of Mayerling (1949), about the Mayerling incident. He did Orpheus (1950) with Cocteau, which was soon regarded as a classic.

Post-Cocteau Stardom

Marais and Morgan were in The Glass Castle (1950) directed by Rene Clement. Marais did two films for Yves Allegret: Miracles Only Happen Once (1951) with Alida Valli and Leathernose (1952).

Marais was in L'appel du destin (1953) for Georges Lacombe; The Lovers of Midnight (1953) for Roger Richebé; Voice of Silence (1953), an Italian film from G. W. Pabst; Inside a Girls' Dormitory (1953); Julietta (1953) for Marc Allegret with Dany Robin and Jeanne Moreau; the all-star Boum sur Paris (1953); and The Faith Healer (1954).

Marais starred in a version of The Count of Monte Cristo (1954) that was hugely popularCite error: The <ref> tag has too many names (see the help page).

In 1963, he was a member of the jury at the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival.[7]

Marais did Ivory Coast Adventure (1965) directed by Christian-Jacque; Killer Spy (1965), directed by Georges Lampin; a sequel to The Reluctant Spy; and Operation Double Cross (1965), a spy film; then a Fantomas sequel, Fantomas Unleashed (1965).

He played Simon Templar in The Saint Lies in Wait (1966), for Christian-Jacquqes, and a French general in Seven Guys and a Gal (1967). Fantomas vs. Scotland Yard (1967) was the third and final Fantomas, with Hunebelle.

Marais went on to appear in Diamond Rush (1969); Renaud et Armide (1969), based on a play by Cocteau; and Le jouet criminel (1969), a short.


After 1970, Marais's on-screen performances became few and far between, as he preferred concentrating on his stage work.

His film credits included La provocation (1970); Donkey Skin (1970) with Catherine Deneuve, directed by Jacques Demy; and Robert Macaire (1971) for French TV.

He was in a mini series, Karatekas and co (1973), and Joseph Balsamo (1973), and did the TV movies Vaincre à Olympie (1977) and Les parents terribles (1980), based on a play by Cocteau.

He directed stage productions of Le bel indifférent (1975) and Les parents terribles.

Later Career

His later work included Emmenez-moi au théâtre; Parking (1985) directed by Demy; Lien de parenté (1986); Les enfants du naufrageur (1992); Dis Papa, raconte-moi là-bas (1993); Les Misérables (1995 film), directed by Claude Lelouch; and Stealing Beauty (1996), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

He performed on stage until his eighties, also working as a sculptor. His sculpture Le passe muraille (The Walker Through Walls) can be seen in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris.[8]

In 1985, he was the head of the jury at the 35th Berlin International Film Festival. He was featured in the 1995 documentary Screening at the Majestic, which is included on the 2003 DVD release of the restored print of Beauty and the Beast.[9] Marais appears on the cover sleeve of The Smiths single "This Charming Man".[citation needed]

Personal life

He was married for two years to the actress Mila Parély, with whom he later performed in Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast.[10]

Marais, who was bisexual, was the muse and lover of Jean Cocteau until Cocteau's death.[11] After Cocteau's death, Marais wrote a memoir of Cocteau, L'Inconcevable Jean Cocteau, attributing authorship to "Cocteau-Marais". He also wrote an autobiography, L'Histoire de ma vie, published in 1975. From 1953 until 1959, his companion was the American dancer George Reich.[3]

In the early 1960s, Marais adopted a young man, Serge Ayala, who eventually took the name Serge Villain-Marais. This adopted son, who became a singer and an actor, committed suicide in 2012 at age 69.[12]


Marais died from cardiovascular disease in Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes, in 1998. He is interred in the Village cemetery at Vallauris, near Antibes.[13]

In popular culture

His life story became the inspiration for the 1980 François Truffaut film The Last Metro.[14]


Year Title Role Director
1933 On the Streets uncredited Victor Trivas
L'Épervier uncredited Marcel L'Herbier
Étienne uncredited Jean Tarride
1934 The Scandal the liftboy Marcel L'Herbier
L'Aventurier the young worker
Le Bonheur uncredited
1936 Les Hommes nouveaux the office clerk
Nuits de feu uncredited
1937 Abus de confiance Marais Henri Decoin
Bizarre, Bizarre uncredited Marcel Carné
1941 The Pavilion Burns Daniel Jacques de Baroncelli
1942 Le Lit à colonnes Rémi Bonvent Roland Tual
1942 Carmen Christian-Jaque
1943 L'Éternel retour Patrice Jean Delannoy
Voyage sans espoir Alain Ginestier Christian-Jaque
1945 Carmen Don José
1946 Beauty and the Beast The Beast / The Prince / Avenant Jean Cocteau
1947 The Royalists the Marquis de Montauran Henri Calef
Ruy Blas Ruy Blas Pierre Billon
L'Aigle à deux têtes Stanislas Jean Cocteau
1948 Aux yeux du souvenir Jacques Forester Jean Delannoy
Le Secret de Mayerling Archduke Rodolphe
Les Parents terribles Michel Jean Cocteau
1949 Orphée Orphée
1950 The Glass Castle Rémy Marsay René Clément
Les Miracles n'ont lieu qu'une fois Jérôme Yves Allégret
1951 Leathernose Roger de Tainchebraye
1952 L'Amour, Madame cameo appearance Gilles Grangier
La Maison du silence the former maquis Georg Wilhelm Pabst
1953 L'Appel du destin Lorenzo Lombardi Georges Lacombe
The Lovers of Midnight Marcel Dulac Roger Richebé
Dortoir des grandes Désiré Marco Henri Decoin
Julietta André Landrecourt Marc Allégret
1954 The Count of Monte Cristo Edmond Dantès / Comte de Monte-Cristo Robert Vernay
Le Guérisseur Dr. Jean Scheffer Yves Ciampi
Royal Affairs in Versailles Louis XV of France Sacha Guitry
1955 Futures vedettes Éric Walter Marc Allégret
Napoléon Montholon Sacha Guitry
1956 Goubbiah, mon amour Goubbiah Robert Darène
Toute la ville accuse François Nérac Claude Boissol
Elena et les hommes Général François Rollan Jean Renoir
Si Paris nous était conté Francis I of France Sacha Guitry
1957 Typhon sur Nagasaki Pierre Marsac Yves Ciampi
S.O.S. Noronha Frédéric Coulibaud Georges Rouquier
Amour de poche Jérôme Nordman Pierre Kast
La Vie à deux Teddy Brooks Clément Duhour
Le Notti bianche the tenant Luchino Visconti
La Tour, prends garde ! Henri La Tour Georges Lampin
1958 Chaque jour a son secret Xavier Lezcano Claude Boissol
1959 Le Bossu Henri de Lagardère André Hunebelle
Le Testament d'Orphée Oedipe (uncredited) Jean Cocteau
1960 Austerlitz Lazare Carnot Abel Gance
Le Capitan François de Capestan André Hunebelle
1961 La Princesse de Clèves Le Prince de Clèves Jean Delannoy
Captain Fracasse Capitaine Fracasse Pierre Gaspard-Huit
Le Miracle des loups Robert de Neuville André Hunebelle
Napoléon II l'Aiglon Montholon Claude Boissol
L'Enlèvement des Sabines Mars Richard Pottier
1962 Ponce Pilate Pontius Pilate Gian Paolo Callegari
Le Masque de fer d'Artagnan Henri Decoin
The Mysteries of Paris Rodolphe de Sambreuil André Hunebelle
1963 L'honorable Stanislas, agent secret Stanislas Evariste Dubois Jean-Charles Dudrumet
1964 Patate Noël Carradine Robert Thomas
Fantômas Fantômas/Fandor André Hunebelle
Thomas l'imposteur Narrator (voice) Georges Franju
1965 Le gentleman de Cocody Jean-Luc Hervé de la Tommeraye Christian-Jaque
Pleins feux sur Stanislas Stanislas Evariste Dubois Jean-Charles Dudrumet
Train d'enfer Antoine Donadieu Gilles Grangier
Fantômas se déchaîne Fantômas/Fandor André Hunebelle
Le Saint prend l'affût Simon Templar Christian-Jaque
1966 Sept hommes et une garce Dorgeval Bernard Borderie
Fantômas contre Scotland Yard Fantômas/Fandor André Hunebelle
1969 Le Paria Manu Claude Carliez
1970 La Provocation Christian André Charpak
Le Jouet criminel the nameless protagonist Adolfo Arrieta
Peau d'âne "The first King" Jacques Demy
1973 Joseph Balsamo [fr] (TV miniseries) Alessandro Cagliostro André Hunebelle
1976 Vaincre à Olympie (TV) Menesthée Michel Subiela
Chantons sous l'Occupation as himself André Halimi
1980 Les Parents terribles Georges Yves-André Hubert
1982 Cher menteur (TV) George Bernard Shaw Alexandre Tarta
1985 Parking Hades Jacques Demy
1986 Lien de parenté Victor Blaise Willy Rameau
1992 Les Enfants du naufrageur Marc-Antoine Jérôme Foulon
1995 Les Misérables Monseigneur Myriel Claude Lelouch
1996 Stealing Beauty Monsieur Guillaume Bernardo Bertolucci
1997 Milice, film noir as himself Alain Ferrari
1999 Luchino Visconti as himself Carlo Lizzani

See also


  1. ^ Shelokhonov, Steve. "Mini-Biography". IMDb. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Trambouze, Claude. Jean Marais : Un Homme aux milles. PORTRAIT (in French). Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  4. ^ French box office of 1945 at Box Office Story
  5. ^ a b "Box Office Figures for Jean Marais films". Box Office Story.
  6. ^ "Jean Cocteau's Acclaimed Films". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They. 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  7. ^ "3rd Moscow International Film Festival (1963)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2012. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  8. ^ "Berlinale: Juries". Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  9. ^ The Criterion Collection: Beauty and the Beast by Jean Cocteau
  10. ^ Shelokhonov, Steve. "Mini-Biography". IMDb. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  11. ^ Légendes d'Écran Noir: Jean Marais
  12. ^ name="Jean Marais, Histoires de ma vie", German Edition 1975 "Spiegel meiner Erinnerung" page 262 ff"
  13. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 29906). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  14. ^ L'Epervier and L'Aventurier in 1933