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, primary performer 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 '50s and The '60s (especially in swashbuckler films), and performed in over 100 films in his career. He devoted his time to sculpture in the last years of his life, influenced by a friend of his and Cocteau's, German sculptor Arno Breker, who protected both Cocteau and Marais from German occupation authorities during World War II. In 1996, Marais 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.
His roles included:
- 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
- School for Love (1955) as Eric Walter
- Napoléon (1955) as Charles-Tristan de Montholon
- La Tour, prends garde! (1958) as Henri la Tour
- The Testament of Orpheus (1959) as Œdipus (cameo)
- Le Bossu (1959) as Henri de Lagardère
- Austerlitz (1960) as Lazare Carnot
- Le Capitan (1960) as François de Capestang
- The Miracle of the Wolves (1961) as Robert de Neuville
- Le Capitaine Fracasse (1961) as Baron Philippe de Sigognac
- The Mysteries of Paris (1962) as Rodolphe de Sambreuil
- The Iron Mask (1962) as Charles D'Artagnan
- Fantômas film series (1964-1967) as Fandor and Fantômas
- The Saint Lies in Wait (1966) as Simon Templar
- Parking (1985) as Hades
- Les Misérables (1995) as Bishop Bienvenu Myriel and the 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 (Fantômas was voiced by the much deeper-sounding Raymond Pellegrin in the latter films). There's also his double role as Bishop Bienvenu Myriel and a French bishop during World War II in the 1995 Claude Lelouch film Les Misérables.
- Banned in China: His staging of Racine's Andromaque only happened one evening on May 22, 1944 while it was supposed to be a full season. The reason? The amount of homoerotic subtext between Marais and actor Alain Cuny were too much for the taste of Vichy French authorities.
- 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 and Marais' stage acting purely out of Nazi-compatible ideological bias. This event inspired a similar scene in The Last Metro.
- Blue Blood: He played a lot of nobility characters (though not always wealthy).
- 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, and he gets to spank a lady (Claudine Auger) as punishment in it.
- May–December Romance: In the 1960s, he was often romantically paired on film with actresses who were 20 years younger than him or more.
- Production Posse: Outside Jean Cocteau, he regularly worked with director André Hunebelle on swashbuckler and action films, with Guy Delorme as either The Dragon or a mook, and Gil Delamare then Rémy Julienne for the car stunts. Jean Marion often composed the soundtracks.
- Romance on the Set: He had an affair with actress Mila Parély on the set of Lit à colonnes in 1941. It was the only straight relationship of his life, and he even planned to marry her (which his lover Jean Cocteau reluctantly consented to) but it didn't go through.
- Swashbuckler: Starting in the late 1950s, he played quite a few dashing swashbuckling heroes in The Cavalier Years, in films such as La Tour prends garde!, Le Bossu, Le Capitan, Le Capitaine Fracasse (which introduced his younger stage successor in Cocteau's plays Gérard Barray to the genre) and The Iron Mask.