Au soir de sa vie

French actor Louis Jourdan (né Gendre) was born on June 20, 1921, so this is his ninetieth birthday.  He took his mother’s maiden name as his professional identity. He started his acting career in 1939, after having studied at the École Dramatique in Paris. When the German occupation started the following year, Jourdan refused to participate in Nazi propaganda films. Instead, he joined the Resistance. After the war, he married Berthe Frédérique and they have now been together for 67 years. They had one child who died in 1981 of a drug overdose, so not all of his life has been rosy.

Cover of "Three Coins In the Fountain"

Cover of Three Coins In the Fountain

Jourdan had a career in both France and the United States, where he was typically cast as the soigné French man.  His first American appearance was in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case (1947) where he was a newcomer alongside top-billed Gregory Peck. The romance Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) saw Jourdan much higher in the credits. In 1958, he starred as the worldly playboy in Gigi, winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture. (Gigi is basically Pretty Woman with a French accent and musical score. As an aside, I find the glamorizing of prostitution highly disturbing.) By the 70s, Jourdan was mostly doing occasional TV appearances. His last big role was Kamal Khan in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy (such a subtle and classy title). He has made almost 70 appearances in TV and films.  Since 1992, Jourdan has lived in the south of France. He received the Légion d’honneur in 2010. Here is a clip of the ceremony. Jourdan looks frail, but he’s still a charmer.

Today’s expression, au soir de sa vie (oh swar de sa vee) means “in the evening of his life.” By any measure, a 90 year old man is nearing the end of his life, but it’s a much gentler idea to think of it as an evening instead.


About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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4 Responses to Au soir de sa vie

  1. KARON says:

    Where in the South of France does Mr. Jourdan live?
    Thank you …

    • He’s lived in LA for the past several years apparently.

      • KARON says:

        Hi Patrica,
        Do you know that for sure?
        I am under the impression that he retired in 1994 to the South of France (?).
        I know he was in LA in 2010 to accept an award. Perhaps they do live in LA ? It would seem a rather lengthy trip for an elderly man to travel to to have a French Ambassador give him an award?
        I know they have been friends with the Douglas’ for many years. And they still live in Beverly Hills in the same house … The Jourdan’s house was on North Crescent Drive & it has been re done & looks very tacky, not their taste at all …
        So, do you know where they live or how I can find out for sure? Or how I can get in touch woth him. I am writing a book & would love the chance to see him & talk with him again after so many years …
        Thank you & kind regards,


      • I’m relying on published sources. I have no personal knowledge of where he lives. I agree with you, however, that if he he lived in France, he wouldn’t have traveled to LA to receive the Legion d’Honneur. Good luck with your book!

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