Louis Jourdan, best known for his roles in Gigi and Octopussy, has passed away at age 93.
Born Louis Gendre in Marseille, France, Jourdan grew up in France and was educated there as well as Britain and Turkey. He received his training as an actor at the Ecole Dramatique. Jourdan’s film debut came in 1939’s Le Corsaire, and he appeared in several movies made by director Marc Allegret as war was raging in Europe, including Les petites du quai aux fleurs (1944) and Twilight (1944).
During World War II, after his father was arrested by the Gestapo, Louis and his two brothers joined the French underground, where his work for the French Resistance was to help publish and distribute newspapers for the Underground. His film career came to a halt when he refused to act in Nazi propaganda films.
“He was the last French figure of the Hollywood golden age. And he worked with so many of the greatest actors and directors,” said friend and biographer Olivier Minne, who is working on a documentary and a book about Jourdan.
Perhaps his best-known role was in Gigi, in which he played Gaston Lachaille, a young playboy bored with Parisian society who ends up spending time with courtesan-in-training Gigi (Leslie Caron). And while they enjoy a platonic friendship, the roles they play end up being more than just roles. Some have compared Gigi, which won a Best Picture Oscar in 1958, to My Fair Lady, and there are certainly similarities. In fact, the costume designer for Lerner & Lowe’s stage production of My Fair Lady also handled costumes for the film version of Gigi.
Jourdan hit the genre radar with Swamp Thing (1982), playing the villain Dr. Anton Arcane, a scientist working on genetic engineering and Dr. Alec Holland’s rival for the affections of Alice Cable. He reprised his role in The Return of Swamp Thing in 1989.
1983 brought Octopussy, one of Roger Moore’s last outings as James Bond. Jourdan played Kamal Kahn, who’s involved in a jewel smuggling operation led by Octopussy (Maud Adams).
Jourdan’s career is full of film and television appearances, including Charlie’s Angels, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, and the lead in Count Dracula (1977) for the PBS program Great Performances, for which he also played D’Artagnan in The Man in the Iron Mask (1977).
In 2010 the actor was awarded the Legion d’Honneur in Los Angeles.
He once said of his work: “I never see my movies. When they’re on television I click them away. Hollywood created an image and I long ago reconciled myself with it. I was the French cliché.”