7 French Actors Who Made It Big In Hollywood's Golden Age #1
With France on our minds, let us celebrate some wonderful French actors, actresses, singers, and dancers, who came to Hollywood during the Golden Age (1934 - 1960) and shared their talent, beauty, style, and charisma with adoring audiences. (NOTE: to be included in this list, the actor/actress must have had English speaking roles in a Hollywood studio film BEFORE 1960. Many famous French actors made films during the French 'New Wave' and then came to Hollywood after success in France.)
1. Maurice Chevalier
Maurice Chevalier (12 Sep 1888 - 1 Jan 1972) was born in Paris and started in show business in 1901 making his name as a mimic and singer. In WWI, Chevalier was wounded in the back by shrapnel and became a prisoner of war in Germany. Two years later, in 1916, Chevalier was released by King Alfonso XIII of Spain. Back in France, he entertained British and American soldiers. In the 1920s his hit songs enabled his move to Hollywood, where he would become known for 'Louise,' 'Mimi,' 'Valentine,' and 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls.' In 1930, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his roles in 'The Love Parade' (1929) and 'The Big Pond' (1930). During WWII, he again performed for soldiers, and refused to perform for the Nazis, but he did perform for prisoners of war in Germany at the same camp where he was interned in World War I. He succeeded in liberating ten people in exchange. Maurice Chevalier died in Paris, on New Year's Day 1972, aged 83.
2. Leslie Caron
Leslie Caron (1 Jul 1931) was born Leslie Claire Margaret Caron in Boulogne-sur-Seine, and became a ballerina at an early age. She was discovered by Gene Kelly in the Roland Petit company "Ballet des Champs Elysées" and he cast her to appear opposite him in the musical 'An American in Paris' (1951). This led to an MGM contract and several films, including 'Lili' (1953), 'Daddy Long Legs' (1955), and 'Gigi' (1958). Caron also appeared in several non-musical films in the 1960s. She was twice nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Caron moved on to roles in TV and in film, including in 'Chocolat' (2000) and in 2007, her guest appearance on 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' earned her a 2007 Primetime Emmy Award. She is 83.
3. Louis Jourdan
Louis Jourdan (19 Jun 1921 - 14 Feb 2015) was born Louis Robert Gendre in Marseille. He is best known for his suave roles, including 'The Paradine Case' (1947), 'Letter from an Unknown Woman' (1948), 'Gigi' (1958), and 'The Best of Everything' (1959). Jourdan's career spanned into the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and included starring roles in 'The V.I.P.s' (1963), 'Octopussy' (1983), and 'Count Dracula' (1977). In July 2010, he was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. Louis Jourdan died at his home in Beverly Hills at the age of 93.
4. Michèle Morgan
Michèle Morgan (29 Feb 1920) was born Simone Renée Roussel in Neuilly-sur-Seine. At the age of 15 she left home for Paris determined to become an actress. By the late 1930s she had secured important roles in French films. In 1942 she made 'Joan of Paris' starring opposite Paul Henreid, and 'Higher and Higher' the following year, playing opposite Frank Sinatra. Morgan was considered for the female lead in Casablanca but RKO would not release her for the amount of money that Warner Bros. offered. Morgan did work for Warners in 'Passage to Marseille' opposite Humphrey Bogart in 1944. After WWII she returned to France and made numerous films. She published her autobiography 'Avec ces yeux-là' in 1977. Morgan had a son, Mike Marshall, from her marriage to William Marshall. She has six grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
5. Marcel Dalio
Marcel Dalio (23 Nov 1899 - 18 Nov 1983) was born Israel Moshe Blauschild in Paris. He appeared in roughly 150 films. Dalio's first movie in the US was the 1941 Fred MacMurray comedy 'One Night in Lisbon', playing a hotel concierge. Later that year, he also appeared in 'Unholy Nights', and 'The Shanghai Gesture'. Dalio played a French policeman in 'The Song of Bernadette' (1943). One of his best known roles was in the 1944 film adaptation of 'To Have and Have Not', opposite Humphrey Bogart. Dalio also appeared in numerous television shows, both in the US (1954 to 1963) and in France (1968 to 1981). In the 1955 US TV series of 'Casablanca', which was not well received, he took on the role of Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Rains in the original film. He died age 83 in Paris.
6. Georges Guétary
Georges Guétary (8 Feb 1915 - 13 Sep 1997) was born Lambros Vorlow (Worloou) in Alexandria, Egypt. He studied music in Egypt and in Paris, and made his stage debut in 1937. He performed as a singer and dancer with the famed chanteuse Mistinguett at the Casino de Paris. Guétary was best known in the US for his performance as Henri Baurel in 'An American in Paris', in which he plays a friend and unknowing romantic rival to the part played by Gene Kelly. In the film, Guétary plays an aging cabaret performer who is in love with a young girl played by French actress Leslie Caron. Following this appearance, he returned to the stage and to French films. He died at age 82.
7. Micheline Presle
Micheline Presle (22 Aug 1922) was born Micheline Nicole Julia Émilienne Chassagne in Paris. She wanted to be an actress from a very early age, and by 15 she was acting in French films. In 1938 she was awarded the Prix Suzanne Bianchetti as the most promising young actress in French cinema. Her rise to European stardom led to offers from Hollywood. In 1950 she was signed by 20th Century Fox. She secured a starring role opposite John Garfield in the film 'Under My Skin' (1950). In that same year, director Fritz Lang cast her opposite Tyrone Power in the war drama 'American Guerrilla in the Philippines'. By the middle 1950s she was making films in France again. Over her career Micheline Presle has made more than one hundred and fifty films. She is 93.