Jean Alfred Villain-Marais, better known as Jean Marais (11 December 1913 8 November 1998), was a French stage and screen actor, writer, stage director and sculptor.
He was The Muse and longtime lover of multifaceted artist Jean Cocteau, who directed Beauty and the Beast, his big screen break at age 33 (he had been acting on stage since the age of 20), and Orpheus, Marais' other famous role at the time.
He became a prominent leading man in the 1950s and 1960s, and performed in over 100 films in his career. In 1996, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his contributions to French cinema.
In the 1960s, he adopted a young man, Serge Ayala, who eventually took the name Serge Villain-Marais. Serge became a singer and an actor, and committed suicide in 2012 at age 69.
Some of his roles:
- Beauty and the Beast (1946) as The Beast and Avenant
- Les Chouans (1947) as the marquis of Montauran
- Ruy Blas (1948) as Ruy Blas and Don César de Bazan
- Orpheus (1950) as Orpheus
- The Count of Monte Cristo (1954) as Edmond Dantès/Count of Monte Cristo
- The Testament of Orpheus (1959) as dipus (cameo)
- Le Bossu (1959) as Henri de Lagardère
- Austerlitz (1960) as Carnot
- Le Capitan (1960) as François de Capestang
- Le Capitaine Fracasse (1961) as Baron Philippe de Sigognac
- The Mysteries of Paris (1962) as Rodolphe de Sambreuil
- The Iron Mask (1962) as D'Artagnan
- Fantômas film series (1964-1967) as Fandor and Fantômas
- The Saint Lies in Wait (1966) as Simon Templar
- Les Misérables (1995) as Bishop Bienvenu Myriel and 1942 bishop
Tropes and Trivia about him:
- Acting for Two: He played two different roles in the same film in Beauty and the Beast, in Ruy Blas and in the Fantômas trilogy. There's also his double role as Bishop Bienvenu Myriel and a French bishop during World War II in the loose 1995 version of Les Misérables by Claude Lelouch.
- Based on a True Story: On June 22, 1941, Jean Marais inflicted a beatdown on critic Alain Laubreaux at a Parisian restaurant. Laubreaux was a homophobic and antisemitic collaborationist who lambasted the plays of Marais' lover Jean Cocteau purely out of Nazi-friendly ideological bias. This event inspired a similar scene in The Last Metro.
- Knight in Shining Armor: His Typecasting in 1950s/1960s French swashbucking films in a nutshell. A man of honor who fights for justice and stops at nothing to protect his friends and loved ones. The Iron Mask stands out among these with his humorous and Large Ham take on the character of D'Artagnan.
- MayDecember Romance: In the 1960s, he was often romantically paired on film with actresses who were 20 years younger than him or more.
- Swashbuckler: Starting in the late 1950s, he played quite a few dashing swashbuckling heroes, in films such as La Tour prends garde!, Le Bossu, Le Capitan, Le Capitaine Fracasse and The Iron Mask.