Louis Germain David de Funès de Galarza (July 31, 1914 – January 27, 1983) was a hugely popular French comedy actor of Spanish descent. He played in more than 150 movies, and he is still well remembered and very beloved in the francophone world and Continental Europe in general.
He was the third child of a Castillan bourgeoisie couple that moved to France to marry away from their disapproving families. Once he started getting successful past the age of fifty — after a lengthy career of minor and mostly ungrateful roles and jobs such as pianist in a cabaret —, de Funès always played the same character: a hyperactive, greedy, self-important, stubborn and unsympathetic little man who often threw himself into temper tantrums with amusing facial expressions and nervous tics. He had Pantalone and Donald Duck as his main inspirations.
To be sure, the characters he played were textbook typecasting and put him into something akin to a Comedy Ghetto with critics (especially during the rise of the French New Wave), but that's what he felt he did best, and audiences never failed to massively show up in theaters and ask for more. Whenever his most famous films are broadcast on prime time on French television, they still attract millions of viewers even over four decades after his passing.
One of his most iconic roles was Gendarmerie officer Ludovic Cruchot in Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez (1964), about policemen in the South of France who hunt down nudists and live all sorts of wacky adventures. It spawned five sequels in total until 1982.
- The Trip Across Paris (La Traversée de Paris, 1956)
- Ni vu, ni connu (1958)
- Le Capitaine Fracasse (1961)
- Le Gentleman d'Epsom (1962)
- Pouic-Pouic (1963)
- Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez (1964)
- Le Gendarme à New York (1965)
- Le Gendarme se marie (1968)
- Le Gendarme en balade (1970)
- Le Gendarme et les extra-terrestres (1979)
- Le Gendarme et les Gendarmettes (1982)
- Fantômas (1964)
- Fantômas Unleashed (Fantômas se déchaîne, 1965)
- Fantômas against Scotland Yard (Fantômas contre Scotland Yard, 1967)
- Let's Rob the Bank (Faites sautez la banque!, 1964)
- The Sucker (Le Corniaud, 1965)
- The Big Restaurant (Le Grand Restaurant, 1966)
- La Grande Vadrouille (Don't Look Now! We're Being Shot At, 1966)
- Oscar (1967)
- Les Grandes Vacances (1967)
- The Little Bather (Le Petit Baigneur, 1968)
- The Tattoo (Le Tatoué, 1968)
- Hibernatus (1969)
- L'Homme orchestre (1970)
- Jo (1971)
- Delusions of Grandeur (La Folie des grandeurs, 1971)
- The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob, 1973)
- The Wing or the Thigh (L'Aile ou la cuisse, 1976)
- La Zizanie (1978)
- The Miser (L'Avare, 1980)
- La Soupe aux choux (1981)
Tropes featured in his works:
- Adolf Hitlarious: In The Big Restaurant, he does an hilarious routine while explaining a recipe to a German patron. "Muskatnuss, Herr Müller!" With some shadows "coincidentally" adding a pencil mustache and black hair just in the right spot.
- Angrish: A common gag for his characters when stressed out is to speak gibberish.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In Germany, he is often attributed to having the catchphrase "Nein? Doch. Ohh!" ("No? Yes. Ohh!"), representing the quick jump from being confused to understanding to being shocked by an observation in the time of a few seconds. However he never says all three words himself, but it's actually part of an exchange and it only ever appeared in the movie Jo. Nevertheless, in Germany it's often refereed by a single person saying all three words and often thought to appear in many of his movies.
- Butt-Monkey: The jerkassery of his characters is usually tempered with them often being a target of Laser-Guided Karma.
- « Saligaud ! » ("Jackass!")
- « La barbe ! » (which simply translates to: "Shut up!")
- « Foutez-moi l'camp ! Foutez-moi l'camp ! » ("Get Out!")
- « Ma biche... » (could translate as "Honey")
- Character Tics: Grimaces were the bread and butter of his comedic acting. Although he claimed, "I don't grimace, I'm doing expressions."
- Da Chief: Police commissioner Paul Juve in the Fantômas films. While still as bumbling as usual, he becomes pretty damn badass with his gadgets (including a peg-leg gun, fake arm and cigar gun) and disguises (although they are pretty poor, they are still decent Wig, Dress, Accent In-Universe).
- Combat Pragmatist: His characters rarely have to tussle at all except in the most comical way, and are generally portrayed as physically inept, but also big fans of dirty moves like the foot-stomp or the eye-poke.
- Comical Overreacting: Another of his trademarks.
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: The Lucky Luke album Le Bandit Manchot has a Card Sharp character based on Louis as main villain, including all his iconic Character Tics.
- Contractual Purity: He rejected every movie project where his character would cheat on his wife.
- Considering how much he considered humor Serious Business, it was extremely rare for de Funès to crack up at his own jokes. However, there's an infamous instance during the filming of The Sucker: the Citroën 2CV driven by Bourvil's character is hit by Mr. Saroyan's Rolls Royce, which causes it to fall into pieces à la Blues Brothers. Both drivers then proceed to have an argument over the wreckage, during which Bourvil threw the famous ad-libbed line « Maintenant, elle va marcher beaucoup moins bien, forcément ! » ("Now, it will run a lot less well, naturally!") De Funès had to lower his head to hide his snicker at the unexpected reply in order to not ruin the shot (which they couldn't afford, as they had only one self-destructing car available...).
- His co-stars, now on the other hand... they found it very hard to resist cracking up to his frequent grimaces (sorry, expressions). Especially since he loved having an audience, a habit he got from theater.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: His most recurring roles were leaning rather on the Mean Boss side, but two of his characters were outright crooked:
- Oscar: Bertrand Barnier, real-estate owner who committed fraud.
- The Sucker: Léopold Saroyan, mob boss who use an international trading company as a front.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: For all their buffoonery, some of his characters can prove dangerous when pushed.
- In Fantômas Unleashed, Commissioner Juves guns down several Mooks and gets to save all the protagonists from captivity thanks to his gadgets.
- Mr. Saroyan in The Sucker is a mob boss, and not shy about getting into a gun fight with rival gangsters. When he feels someone pressing a gun to his back, he swirls around for a karate-chop to disarm him (too bad it was a statue).
- Victor Pivert, a middle-aged businessman in The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob, manages to outwit a gang of Secret Police agents by using his surroundings in a bubblegum factory after falling into a vat of green goo. Despite being Covered in Gunge, he cunningly use barrels and bubblegum beads to sent Farès and his goons into the same vat. Not to mention the famous Hassidic street dance scene, in which he manages to keep up like an Instant Expert despite not being familiar with (and being somewhat hostile to) Jewish culture.
- Ludovic Cruchot is a trained Gendarme and no slouch at self-defense, as a mook trying to drop him while he's disguised as a gendarmette painfully finds out in Le Gendarme et les Gendarmettes.
- In La Soupe aux choux, after Le Glaude learns that Le Bombé cuckolded him during the war, he grabs a hunting rifle and makes his old friend confess at gunpoint.
- Dean Bitterman: Charles Bosquier, Director of a French school for boys (Les Grandes Vacances) is uptight and strict with his teachers, students and even his own son Phillipe. He also sucks up to the rich families of his students.
- Descended Creator: Louis de Funès both directed and starred in a screen adaptation of L'Avare.
- Determined Homesteader: Claude "Le Glaude" Ratinier (La Soupe aux choux) is an old peasant and shoemaker who is spending time drinking wine, growing cabbages for his soup and doing farting contests. Then, a alien comes in...
- Disguised in Drag: A few times, notably at the start of The Wing or the Thigh, as a Spanish Grande Dame in Delusions of Grandeur, as a nun in Le Gendarme et les extra-terrestres or as a policewoman in Le Gendarme et les Gendarmettes.
- French Cuisine Is Haughty: Word of God says that French Gastronomy was a subject de Funès was passionate about.
- Monsieur Septime, Restaurant manager and owner of Chez Septime (The Big Restaurant) is an obnoxious Control Freak who mistreats his maître d', waiters, sommelier and even cooks (except the imposing head chef).
- Charles Duchemin, food critic and director of the restaurant guide "Guide Duchemin" (The Wing or the Thigh) is an ardent defender of the traditional Haute Cuisine against the more modern industrial food and possesses a borderline supernatural sense of taste.
- Greed: A common trait of his characters — including, of course, Harpagon himself in the 1980 film adaptation of Molière's The Miser — to better mock it.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat:
- In a mythic scene for French cinema, the dispute between de Funès's character Jambier and Grandgil (Jean Gabin) in The Trip Across Paris. 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.
- Not to forget many of his scenes alongside Michel Galabru, such as in The Miser, Jo, The Little Bather, or especially the Gendarme series, where Cruchot and Gerber often compete with each other on who can ham it up the most (particularly in the last films).
- Height Angst: De Funès was rather short (1.64m / 5'4½"), and thus a common gag for his characters is to be annoyed by taller people.
- Notably in Delusions of Grandeur, where Don Salluste forces his valet Blaze (Yves Montant, who was 1.85m [close to 6'1"] tall) to kneel next to him while serving breakfast. Also, the other Spanish noblemen all tower above Salluste — the actors were deliberately chosen by the director to be as tall as possible, to make de Funès look even shorter in comparison.
- In The Tattoo, an angered Legrain calls him a "Horrible Gnome". While Mézeray has cowered in fear during the scene, he briefly goes ballistic and stand up to Legrain.
- In Jo, Antoine Brisebard has a special spot on his sofa that makes him look taller than people sitting next.
- Hurt Foot Hop: A favorite slapstick move of his is to cause hopping following a foot-stomp, either as part of dirty fighting or as a "Be Quiet!" Nudge.
- In Memoriam: Gramps Is in the Resistance starts with a dedication to Louis de Funès, as he was supposed to play in that film.
- In-Series Nickname: His character (in Le Gendarme series and other movies) always nicknames his wife « Ma biche » (literally: "My doe", another word for "Honey").
- Jerkass: Most of his characters are pretty obnoxious individuals.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In La Grande Vadrouille and The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob. And approximately half of his roles.
- Large Ham: The Patron Saint of this trope for French comedy.
- Lovable Coward: In most of his roles, despite his grandstanding, he's prompt to cower when confronted with someone outranking or physically dominating him.
- Mean Boss: Any of his characters in a position of power is invariably odious toward his subordinates. In his defense, several of the jobs he holds are in a very cutthroat environment like restauration, police, corporate business or ballet.
- Meddlesome Patrolman: Ludovic Cruchot from the National Gendarmerie as a Sergeant (Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez). He is extremely passionate about his job and often tries to arrest people at the wrong place (nudist) or at the wrong time (higher-ups).
- Milking the Giant Cow: His characters chew the scenery with moves too.
- Minion Maracas: As part of his Nervous Wreck persona, it is not rare for de Funès' characters to indulge in shaking hapless people.
- Les Grandes Vacances: When Stéphane Michonnet reads the message to Mr. Bosquier saying his son Gérard and Shirley Mac Farrel eloped, Bosquier grabs Michonnet by the lapels and shakes him, taking out his rage on the messenger.
- Hibernatus: At the height of his epic breakdown where he reveals everything to Paul Fournier, Hubert de Tartas grabs the formerly hibernated man and shakes him vigorously.
- Pouic-Pouic: Léonard Monestier to his Servile Snarker butler, Charles, after The Con comes to a crashing end.Léonard: My concession... [angrier] MY CONCESSION [grabs Charles and starts shaking him]
Charles: Well, actually it has been sold...
Charles: To Mister Antoine Brévin [with a big smile]
- The Napoleon: Small, bossy and short-tempered: about all his characters.
- Nervous Wreck: Again, most of his roles. He toned it down after his heart attack in 1975.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: About any time his characters are disguised in a movie, it ends up being this trope. There's just no way his highly recognizable face, not to mention his Character Tics, could go unnoticed (especially when in drag), and yet other people are fooled. Rule of Funny in application, of course.
- The Perfectionist:
- Humor was, paradoxically, quite the Serious Business for de Funès. He couldn't stand that the timing for his gags was anything but perfect. It was in fact well-known, when he felt a shot was sub-par but about to be accepted by the director, that he would deliberately ruin it to force a re-shoot, to try again and give his best.
- As mentionned in the Mean Boss entry, his characters are very controlling about their subordinates for an optimal performance.
- Playing Against Type:
- La Soupe aux choux in a way. While still a comedy and keeping most of his Large Ham style, here de Funès plays not a tyrannical boss but an old, modest and down-to-earth farmer (the closest to this role he previously played was a poacher in Ni vu, ni connu 23 years earlier). He also has more emotional moments (mainly with his wife Francine) than in his previous comedies.
- In fact, two of his less well-known main roles were a likable poacher, Léon Blaireau (Ni vu, ni connu) and a struggling father and merchant of Hunting and Fishing goods who has been scammed (Faites sauter la banque !).
- Prima Donna Director: Two of his most well-known characters are tyrannical perfectionists who direct theirs groups with an iron fist.
- Stanislas Lefort, orchestral conductor (La Grande Vadrouille), who praise his musicians before berating them because one of them wasn't looking invested.
- Evan Evans, ballet dance manager (L'Homme orchestre). He forbids his dancers to have boyfriends and excessive weight: he also personally controls the choreography and music of his company.
- Production Posse: He frequently worked with directors such as Gérard Oury (4 movies) or Jean Girault (12 movies in total, including the six Gendarmes) and composers such as Vladimir Cosma and Raymond Lefebvre.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Many of his characters (especially Cruchot in Le Gendarme series) are prone to this with their superiors — while being odious to their underlings.
- Real-Life Relative: He shared the screen with his son, Olivier de Funès, in six movies, either as father and son in-story (Les Grandes Vacances, Hibernatus), uncle and nephew (L'Homme orchestre), or unrelated (Fantômas Unleashed, The Big Restaurant, Sur un arbre perché).
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Another part of his comedic routine, he often used it to hilarious effect.
- The Scrooge: Every rich character he played was comedically stingy. The apex were Harpagon in The Miser (of course) and Don Salluste in Delusions of Grandeur. As a matter of fact, he was quite interested by "Pantaloon" characters from the Commedia dell'Arte who are powerful and wealthy but stingy, greedy, lecherous and petty.
- Serious Business: Anytime he is cast as a Mean Boss in a artistic field (ranging from restauration and gastronomy to ballet and philharmonic orchestra), he will invariably have a perfectionist iron fist on his performers or subordinates.
- Sleazy Politician:
- Don Salluste, Marquess of Montalegre-Baron Del Pisco, Minister of Finances and Police under Charles II of Spain and tax collector (Delusions of Grandeur). Disgraced by the queen for allegedly fathering an illegitimate child, he plots his revenge by sending his handsome nephew and then his own valet in order to regain his wealth and power.
- Guillaume Daubray-Lacaze, Mayor of a small town in France (La Zizanie). He coerces newlyweds into voting for him, abuse his authority and gloats about being unchallenged for his reelection.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Inevitable when he is cast in a supporting role. The most blatant case has to be his role as Commissioner Juve in the Fantômas trilogy, where Jean Marais (as Fandor and Fantômas) was supposed to be the lead.
- Star-Making Role: De Funès's small role in The Trip Across Paris, facing big-stars Bourvil and Jean Gabin, is considered to be the beginning of his rise to stardom.
- Straight Man:
- The role mostly befell on Claude Gensac whenever she played his wife. Although she can have her own goofier moments, she spent most of the movies trying to rein in her Nervous Wreck of a husband, and to serve as counterpoint for the madcap comedy by doing her best to stay serious.
- Jean Marais and Mylène Demongeot filled this role in the Fantômas films, with Fandor and Hélène being overall serious spy thriller characters while Commissioner Juve (de Funès) is a buffoon and Nervous Wreck they have to contend with.
- Claude Giraud as Mohammed Larbi Slimane in The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob. The character is played completely straight, as if in a serious action movie, perfectly balancing de Funès' comedy as Victor Pivert.
- In both Jo and The Big Restaurant, de Funès is facing Bernard Blier as a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist.
- There Are No Good Executives: Although they are not his most famous roles, they are his most recurring ones: a wealthy and powerful but short-tempered, snobbish and greedy businessman.
- Pouic-Pouic: Léonard Monestier, rich speculator.
- The Little Bather: Louis-Phillipe Fourchaume, manager of the Fourchaume's shipyard.
- Hibernatus: Hubert de Tartas, CEO of a packaging company.
- The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob: Victor Pivert, CEO of a nondescript company.
- La Zizanie: Guillaume Daubray-Lacaze, CEO of a manufacturing company specialized in air-cleaning products.
- Those Two Actors: De Funès was frequently paired with the same actors, even in unrelated films:
- Notably, Robert Dhéry, Michel Galabru, Paul Préboist, Jean Lefebvre and Maurice Risch as a Foil, Bumbling Sidekick or Ham-to-Ham Combat adversary. Sometimes, de Funès felt the need to have someone to comedically dialogue with in pictures where it wasn't in the script, phoned his good friend Galabru, and the latter came on set without even having been originally cast.
- Claude Gensac played his wife in seven movies, including three times in the Gendarme series. And she still had minor roles in three others (The Wing or the Thigh, The Miser and La Soupe aux choux), not counting theater plays (where they first met). Sometimes you'll find people who think they were married in Real Life (it wasn't the case).
- His two highest-grossing movies (The Sucker and La Grande Vadrouille) were with another French comedy superstar, André Raimbourg, better known as Bourvil. They also played together in La Traversée de Paris (1956) and Poisson d'avril (1954), where de Funès had smaller roles. La Folie des grandeurs (Delusions of Grandeur) was planned to be their fifth together, but it was derailed by Bourvil's death. Yves Montand took his place after his wife Simone Signoret told Gérard Oury about him, and the whole story was rewritten to match differences between Montand and Bourvil.
- After his memorable scene with Jean Gabin in La Traversée de Paris (1956), they were reunited in Le Gentleman d'Epson (1962) and Le Tatoué (1968), where they're an Odd Couple for the whole last movie.
- In both Jo and The Big Restaurant, he's facing Bernard Blier as a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist (and Straight Man).
- Throw It In: De Funès was well-known for ad-libbing, especially when it came to physical comedy. On theater especially, he could make a mere walk-in role last longer and longer with every play by adding new gags. This often happened with movies too, naturally; just watch these 20 famous improvised scenes.
- Typecasting: De Funès starred in dozens of comedy films and always played the same kind of role, or close to it. He never felt at ease in dramatic roles, and never sought to play one.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Each time he was paired with Claude Gensac in a movie.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Many of his roles were this; he kept the sympathy of the public by the amount of catastrophes befalling on him — and sometimes also learning An Aesop by the end of the movie. The best example has to be Victor Pivert in The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob. (Delusions of Grandeur is one exception where he is an outright Villain Protagonist.)
- What Could Have Been:
- De Funès was supposed to play a South American dictator in The Crocodile, directed once more by Gérard Oury. Two consecutive heart attacks prevented the filming.
- He was planned to take the role of Grand Vizier Iznogoud in a movie before his untimely death.
- He was also about to play in Gramps Is in the Resistance when he died. One of his co-stars from La Soupe aux choux, Jacques Villeret, inherited one of his planned roles, Reichsminister Ludwig von Apfelstrudel, while his longtime friend Michel Galabru took the role of Papy. The film was dedicated to him.