Fernand Gravey

Active - 1914 - 1970  |   Born - Dec 25, 1904   |   Died - Nov 2, 1970   |   Genres - Comedy, Comedy Drama, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of Belgian actors Georges Mertens and Fernande Depernay, Fernand Gravet was a stage performer at age 5, appearing under his father's direction. Thanks to his British education and his service in His Majesty's merchant marine, Gravet was able to thrive as a stage actor in several different countries, the usual language barriers posing no problem to him. Billed as Fernand Gravey, he made his first film, L'Amour Chante, in France in 1930. He was brought to Hollywood in 1937 amidst an elaborate publicity campaign which instructed filmgoers in the proper pronunciation of his name: "Rhymes with 'Gravy'." Curiously, Hollywood insisted upon billing him as "Gravet" rather than "Gravey," possibly in anticipation of film-critic wisecracks. He starred in standard urbane-continental roles in The King and the Chorus Girl (1937) and Fools for Scandal (1938) and was cast as Johann Strauss in MGM's expensive biopic The Great Waltz. He returned to France just before the Nazi occupation. Though he agreed to star in German-approved French films, he did his utmost to undermine the invaders as a member of the French Secret Army and the Foreign Legion. Gravet returned to films a war hero, continuing to star in such productions as La Ronde (1950) and Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954). Among Fernand Gravet's last English-language performances were How to Steal a Million (1966), Guns for San Sebastian (1968) and The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969), in which he played the Police Inspector.

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