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.
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.