Louis Jourdan Profile
1920s through 1930s
A classic French intellectual, character actor in a leading man's body, and potentially one of the best directors Hollywood never had, Louis Jourdan's life has been the antithesis of the frivolous playboy roles in which he was so often cast.
While his legions of fans may have valued him for marketable attributes the motion picture industry wished to exploit - the famous looks, magnetism and flair - those close to the actor have been exposed to something more substantial, best expressed by his wife of over six-and-a-half decades who forthrightly states that she married Louis Jourdan for his mind and his soul.
Not that she missed the aesthetic qualities, pointing out that her husband looked both handsomer and younger in real life than in films - a fact that's struck many who met him at every stage of his life.
For his own part, Louis Jourdan's personal verdict on the subject was that the outer shell only generated unease. In the motion picture industry, being so attractive can open a main door while frustratingly keeping the most interesting rooms locked - an irony of life which became evident all too quickly.
An established French star when he came to Hollywood, the first decade of his career in America consisted of the dismal process of becoming resigned to playing “French cliché” parts in the image that was prescribed for him. By the time Louis Jourdan became an independent actor, the die was cast for decades until the last one of his career when he successfully began to play malevolent characters.
For one who sought out a cerebral challenge in everything he did, the circumstances were most unsatisfactory. But there are ways of making the best of a negative situation, and immersing himself into the film was a form of refuge which enabled Louis Jourdan to always give the maximum to his parts.
Taking these not in isolation, but as mosaic pieces in the screenplay as an entity, he closely examined how every scene (not only his own) interlocked to develop the story, each character's psyche and relationships receiving the same careful scrutiny.
This concentrated approach to a vehicle gave him unique insights which were valued by many film makers, but regrettably, Louis Jourdan never added directing to his resume.
Wearied by years of hopeless rebellion against Latin Lover parts, he didn't develop the customary Hollywood zeal for self promotion in order to obtain new work, and roles which could have made moviemaking more stimulating didn't materialize.
But if Louis Jourdan might not speak enthusiastically about his filmography, just try him on any number of other subjects which are dear to his heart, and watch him light up with animation. The sparks illuminate the real man.
Gracious to his fingertips, the general consensus depicts someone of integrity, seriousness and intellect - a thinker-philosopher who is strong-willed, yet one amenable to compromise when logical argument is presented. However, when it comes to putting forth a convincing point of view, few would deny that Louis Jourdan is the master.
Celebrating 66 years of wedded life together, Quique and Louis Jourdan have forged a marriage which he states has grown deeper by the day, home and family being at the core of his life. Branching off this center point, his other interests are many and passionate.
Greatest among these is music, which has always been an indispensable companion, a virtual soul mate, his tastes ranging from Wagner to Debussy, and Bach to Shostokovich. Whether discovering new pieces or finding more and more in compositions which are like old friends, he states, “there is pure joy in music!”
Admitting to being obsessive about it, this doesn't mean just playing music and listening to it, but also singing. While the world knows how his persuasive voice can project so much feeling into a popular song, no less an expert than diva Martina Arroyo has extolled his singing of Schubert and Brahms.
His other fervent pursuits cover an encyclopedia of subjects, most overwhelmingly, philosophy, followed closely by literature and poetry, the theatre and cinema from every aspect, and particularly, psychology and sociology.
Any stranger coming away from a discussion on these or other topics with the actor never failed to remark on his intelligence, but even those of the slightest acquaintance were already aware of the great brain that resided in the stylish head. (On his dedication to studying the great classics of western civilization, he explains that for him, entertainment is a matter of self-development and the quest for a greater understanding of life, culture and relationships.)
And when one has finished with the encyclopedias, bring out the cookbooks, as the preparing of fine cuisine (and growing some of the ingredients) can also be found on Louis Jourdan's agenda of favorite things. Though disclosing a taste for risk and adventure, such pastimes exemplify a genuine love of life revolving around music, study and serenity.
Enjoying swimming and tennis, his sports have inevitably included a private and playful agenda to amuse himself - and opponents - with something dazzling, the most celebrated exploits being on the croquet lawn, not just the idol of his fellow players, but a member of the US Croquet Hall of Fame. A devotee of chess, he is also known for a myriad of brain games which he devised himself, taken up by others who loved their challenge.
But if all these random things assemble to make up the man, Louis Jourdan believes that, at the heart of his being, an attachment to southern France (Le Midi) has formed him in the deepest possible way.
It is all part of a syndrome that has left him feeling like an uprooted tree whenever he is not there. Eventually, when one resides so long abroad, “home” is everywhere and nowhere (the tree lives comfortably in a tub, but never connects with its native earth). With encouragement from his wife, California and France have pulled him back and forth for long periods, but for a home of the heart, the Mediterranean always wins out.
Stressing the value of tranquility and a simple, healthy lifestyle, he equally believes in the importance of ever engaging in stimulating activities.
One of these for over 60 years being acting. And whatever he thought of a part, it never showed; all that appeared on the screen was a kind of effervescence that endeared him to audiences as subliminally as the obvious charm did on a more overt level.
Louis Jourdan Biography:
1920s through 1930s
Louis Jourdan at age 80