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 Academy Award for Best Picture.
World War II and the German occupation of France led Gabin to emigrate to America. His brief career in Hollywood ended up a disappointment, so he decided to make better use of his time by joining the Free French Forces in North Africa. He fought on the Western front in the second half of 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 the gangster film 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.
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, mostly during World War II. They appeared in a movie together in 1946, Martin Roumagnac, then broke up.
- La Bandera (Escape from Yesterday, 1935) as Pierre Gilleth
- Pépé le Moko (1937) as Pépé le Moko note
- The Grand Illusion (1937) as Lieutenant Maréchal
- Port of Shadows (Le quai des brumes, 1938) as Jean
- La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast, 1938) as Jacques Lantier
- Le jour se lève (1939) as Francois
- Moontide (1942) as Bobo - his American film debut.
- Martin Roumagnac (1946) as Martin Roumagnac
- The Walls of Malapaga (1949) as Pierre
- Le Plaisir (1952) as Joseph
- 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"
- Napoléon (1955) as Marshal Jean Lannes
- The Trip Across Paris (1956) as Grandgil
- Love Is My Profession (1958) as André Gobillot
- The Maigret trilogy as Commissioner Jules Maigret
- Maigret tend un piège (Maigret Sets a Trap, 1958)
- Maigret et l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre (Maigret and the Saint-Fiacre Afair, 1959)
- Maigret voit rouge (Maigret Sees Red, 1963)
- Le Président (The President, 1961) as Émile Beaufort
- A Monkey in Winter (1962) as Albert Quentin
- Le Gentleman d'Epsom (1962) as Richard-Briand Chamery
- Any Number Can Win (1963) as Mister Charles
- The Tattoo (1968) as Comte Enguerand-Louis Marie de Montignac a.k.a. Legrain
- Pasha (1968) as Commissioner Joss a.k.a. "the Pasha"
- La Horse (1970) as Auguste Maroilleur
- Le Chat (1971) as Julien Bouin
Tropes features in his works:
- The Big Damn Kiss: The scene in Port of Shadows in which his character says the iconic line "T'as d'beaux yeux tu sais" ("Y'got beautiful eyes, you know") to Nelly (Michèle Morgan), who answers "Embrasse-moi!" ("Kiss me!"). What is perhaps the most famous kiss of French cinema ensues.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat:
- In a famous 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 comedy 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 Funès 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.
- Those Two Actors: Appeared alongside Louis de Funès in prominent roles in The Trip Across Paris, Le Gentleman d'Epsom and The Tattoo.