Vintage Hunk: Gerard Philipe

By: Mike McCrann

In the 1950s, at the height of his fame, a gorgeous actor died at the early age of 36. However, his star continued to shine brightly after he passed. Even today he is still revered as an icon of the silver screen. No we are not talking about James Dean, but superstar Gerard Philipe.

Gerard Philipe was a French actor who never made a film in the United States. Almost all his 34 films were made in France. Gerard Philipe became a sensation with his first starring role in The Devil and The Flesh in 1947. This period story of a young man having a torrid affair with an older woman was a smash hit in France and Philipe became a star.

Years later critic Pauline Kael wrote of this performance: "The young Gerard Philipe was so extraordinary a camera subject that despite the dozens of roles which followed he is best known for his incarnation of the passionate egocentric school boy."

Gerard Philipe made a number of classic French films including the sexy romp Fanfan la Tulipe, but he was at his most stunning opposite legendary French actress Michele Morgan in Les Orgueilleux and Les Grandes Manoeuvres. Philipe was also starred in Max Ophuls La Ronde and the great film of Stendahlls The Red and The Black.

Gerard Philipe was every bit as famous as James Dean in the United States, but Philipe proved his abilities for over a decade. Philipe also appeared on the French stage to great acclaim.

Married with two children, Gerard Philipe died from liver cancer in 1959, shortly after he had completed the great modern version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses with Jeanne Moreau.

France went into national mourning with the passing of their film idol, but since his death, Gerard Philipe has become an even greater legend. There is a street in Paris named after him and his face has even been on French stamps and coins.

Anyone wishing to know the face of Frech film history need look no further than Gerard Philpe. (A number of his films are currently available on DVD.)

Gerard Philipe was a true beauty with soulful eyes and a unique talent rarely bestowed on such a striking man.