Vintage Hunk: Louis Jourdan

By: Mike McCrann

Best remembered for the classic Oscar winning film Gigi, Louis Jourdan was one of the more gorgeous imports from the 1940s.

Born Louis Gendre in Marseilles, France, Louis started acting in 1939. Following the German occupation of France, he made a few films but then joined the French resistance after refusing to participate in Nazi propaganda films.

In 1947, producer David O. Selznick (Gone With The Wind, Rebecca) brought him to Hollywood to star in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case. This 1947 film was a costly flop and Hithcock's last film under his Selznick contract. Starring a miserably miscast Gregory Peck as middle aged British barrister, Jourdan played mysterious valet Andre Latour, for whom the evil Mrs. Paradine (Alida Valli) kills.

Louie_jourdan_3 Jourdan does not appear in the film until midway but the first sight of this ravishingly gorgeous young man is a stunner. Female audiences responded in a big way.

Louis Jourdan's best film of the decade was Letter From An Unknown Woman. This classic Max Ophuls story of a selfish pianist at the turn of the century starred Joan Fontaine in probably her greatest performance. While initially a commercial flop, this film is now considered one of the finest of the era.

Jourdan made a number of American films, including the hits Madame Bovary opposite Jennifer Jones, The Swan with Grace Kelly, and Three Coins In The Fountain. But his biggest success came in 1958 when he was given the leading role opposite Leslie Caron in the Lerner Lowe smash hit Gigi. Brilliantly directed by Vincente Minnelli, the musical won every Academy Award it was up for, including Best Picture and Director.

Jourdan revealed an unexpected singing voice, and his rendition of the title song--filmed among the monuments and fountains of nighttime Paris--is one of the film's highlights.

Louie_jourdan_2 Louis Jourdan worked until the early '90s and then retired. He and his wife, Quique, are both alive and well and live in the south of France. Their only child, Louis, died of a drug overdoes in 1981. He is buried in the Westwood Village Cemetary, where Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood rest and the tombstone has both parents and their birth dates listed. Let's hope neither moves there soon.

In 2010 Louis Jourdan was awarded the Legion d'Honneur in Los Angeles. He was surrounded by friends Sidney Poitier and Kirk Douglas. Louis Jourdan is a great survivor and he was also one of the true beauties of the cinema.