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Creator / Jean Gabin

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Jean-Alexis Moncorgé, better known as Jean Gabin (17 May 1904 – 15 November 1976), was a French actor and singer.

He made his debut at the tail end of the silent era, and by 1934 and La Bandera he was a major star in French cinema. 1937's The Grand Illusion got him attention worldwide, and the movie became the first picture in a non-English language to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture.

World War II and the German occupation of France led Gabin to emigrate to America. His brief career in Hollywood led to disappointment, so Gabin decided to make better use of his time by joining the Free French Forces in North Africa. He fought on the Western front in 1944 and was there for the liberation of Paris.

His exile from French cinema led to a career slump that persisted for some time after the war, until he eventually made a triumphant comeback with Touchez pas au grisbi in 1954. He was reunited with Grand Illusion director Jean Renoir in French Cancan, another big hit. His career reinvigorated, Gabin kept acting until the mid-1970s.

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One of the very few leading men of French cinema to be equally successful before and after World War II, he went from romantic lead roles (mostly pre-war) to various commanding figures in his 95 movies-long career, with occasional ventures in comedic territory.

He was also famously in a love affair with Marlene Dietrich.


Selected filmography:

  • La Bandera (Escape from Yesterday, 1935) as Pierre Gilleth
  • Pepe Le Moko (1937) as Pépé le Moko note 
  • The Grand Illusion (1937) as Lieutenant Maréchal
  • Le Quai des brumes (Port of Shadows, 1938) as Jean
  • La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast, 1938) as Jacques Lantier
  • The Walls of Malapaga (1949) as Pierre
  • Touchez pas au grisbi (Don't Touch the Loot, 1954) as Max
  • French Cancan (1954) as Henri Danglard
  • Razzia sur la chnouf (Razzia, 1955) as Henri "Le Nantais"
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  • The Trip Across Paris (1956) as Grandgil
  • The Maigret trilogy as Commissioner Jules Maigret
    • Maigret tend un piège (Maigret Sets a Trap, 1958)
    • Maigret et l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre (1959)
    • Maigret voit rouge (1963)
  • Le Président (The President, 1961) as Émile Beaufort
  • Pasha (1968) as Commissioner Joss a.k.a. "the Pasha"
  • La Horse (1970) as Auguste Maroilleur

His roles provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Badass Baritone: His authoritative voice played a huge part in his characters' personas, his gangster/police roles especially.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat:
    • In a cult scene from The Trip Across Paris, the dispute between Gabin's character Grandgil and Jambier (Louis de Funès). The script required for Gabin's character to be as loud as possible; Gabin was a living legend and de Funès was not the King of French Large Ham yet. Nevertheless (and despite being visibly intimidated), de Funès held his own, and was noticed by a lot of people. Bonus point for the argument involving literal ham.
    • De Funés and Gabin were reunited in the movie Le Tatoué, and most of their interactions there are Ham-to-Ham Combat, again.
  • Lead Police Detective: Played Georges Simenon's literary hero Commissioner Jules Maigret three times.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: As Émile Beaufort in The President (1961), he plays a president of the French Republic who's very much in the "President Personable" category, feeling deeply concerned by the national good and opposing corrupt politicians.
  • Perpetual Frowner: The characters he played in his post-World War II career never or rarely smiled.
  • Silver Fox: Played these late in his career, when his hair were graying.

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